The Vikings will head into this weekend’s NFL Draft with 11 picks overall and confidence riding high after the front office assembled a terrific 2012 draft class. To get the inside story on how last year’s draft weekend unfolded, make sure to read today’s piece on the ins and outs, ups and downs of that experience. Here now is the quick look back at all 10 players the Vikings selected last year. In this installment, we look at the Vikings picks from Rounds 1-3.
MATT KALIL. Southern Cal left tackle
Selected: Round 1, fourth pick overall
Rookie year summary: Kalil was everything he was advertised to be, an incredible body guard for quarterback Christian Ponder and a fast-improving run blocker. He wound up playing in the Pro Bowl, selected to that game as an alternate.
Draft notable: The Vikings were rumored to have interest in Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne with their top overall pick but were convinced all along Kalil was their best option.
Front office thoughts: “Matt was a unique athlete for his position. And obviously, picking at the top of the draft where we were, it was a position of need for us. Charlie [Johnson] had done a good job for us the previous season at left tackle. But we felt that if we got Matt, we’d instantly be better at two positions. So we saw it as a two-for-one with that pick with the ability to kick Charlie into left guard. You look at it, and for that position, Matt was a rare athlete. Those guys don’t come around every year. The value was too good to pass up.” – Scott Studwell, Director of college scouting
HARRISON SMITH, Notre Dame safety
Selected: Round 1, 29th pick overall
Rookie year summary: Smith became an immediate starter and the top playmaker in a resurgent secondary. He had three interceptions as a rookie, two returned for touchdowns, both in games the Vikings won 21-14.
Draft notable: GM Rick Spielman fell in love with Smith watching his 2011 and 2010 film from Notre Dame. The Vikings coaching staff then had a week working with Smith while coaching the North squad at the 2012 Senior Bowl. Upon leaving that event, the Vikings loved the aggression and savvy of the young safety and ended up trading up six spots to make sure to land Smith in Round 1 last year. Smith’s dip in interceptions from his junior to senior year -- from seven to zero -- wasn’t disconcerting. His tenacity and instincts were just too strong.
Front office thoughts: “When I went back through the tape, it wasn’t like he didn’t have the same ballhawking skills. It was more him being in position but just not coming up with [the picks] for whatever reason. It was just finishing the play. And I know [defensive backs coach] Joe Woods and our coaches work extremely hard with those guys from a technical standpoint on finishing, catching the ball, things like that.” – General Manager Rick Spielman
“He doesn’t wow you when you watch him in shorts and running around. And I think most of our guys will tell you, at the Senior Bowl, he probably didn’t wow a lot of people. But when you watch the tape and you interview him, he’s so dialed in he has everything you want between the ears. And you watch him play and he plays better than he looks working out. We really needed to solidify that position with someone like that. We hadn’t had that for awhile. And we felt he brought that. Everyone fell in love just watching him play. Then, the more you’re around him, the more it clicks.” – Assistant GM George Paton
JOSH ROBINSON, Central Florida cornerback
Selected: Third round, 66th pick overall
Rookie year summary: Robinson’s highlight reel moment was a nifty interception and 44-yard return in a Week 14 home win over Chicago. He started six games and recorded two picks and 61 tackles. His rookie season was filled with inconsistency and he slid out of favor late in the season as the Vikings coaches looked for stability. But there is every expectation that Robinson will earn a starting spot for 2013.
Draft notable: Robinson was lumped together on the Vikings’ draft board with a cornerback group that included Vanderbilt’s Casey Hayward and Montana’s Trumaine Johnson. But both those players were drafted before the Vikings went on the clock for the first time on Day 2. In Robinson, they recognized a raw talent who might need time to develop.
Front office thoughts: “There are a lot of things that catch your eye with Josh. His size and his speed and his cover skills and agility. And he had some obvious holes, too. But we felt he had a lot of upside and a lot of skill for what we’re aiming to do defensively. We saw a very young talent who’s still a little ways away. But that’s OK too. Because he’s got a bright future. His initial holes were probably that he wasn’t as physical as you wanted him to be. But with evaluations, we tend to be a little more forgiving with corners than we are with some other positions. And Josh showed that he could be physical. And he could play on [special] teams for us. So he was able to do some of the dirty work we were looking for to offset some of those deficiencies we were maybe wondering about.” -- Studwell