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Wiederer: Inside scoop on a frenzied night at Winter Park

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  • April 27, 2012 - 8:59 AM

The first night of the 2012 draft is in the books with the Vikings adding a pair of players: left tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith. Yet given the inevitable blur that the first round of the draft always is, you may not have received the volume of poignant information you desired as the picks were unfolding. Not to fear. We’ve got you covered with eight nuggets of valuable information to provide depth and context on everything that’s happened.

HOW IT WENT DOWN …

Wondering how Matt Kalil received the official confirmation that he was now a Minnesota Viking? The call came from general manager Rick Spielman. According to Kalil, it unfolded like this.

Spielman: “You ready to get this over with?”

Kalil: “Hell yeah.”

Yep, that’s the behind-the-scenes moment the Vikings hope marks the beginning of a long and healthy relationship.

Spielman’s assessment of Kalil’s strengths and weaknesses was just as honest. He lauded the young left tackle’s athleticism and said he had “the foot quickness to be an island out there when matched up against the premier pass rushers in this league.”

Kalil may need to get bigger to truly flourish in the NFL. He weighed in at the combine in February at 306 pounds after playing most of last season close to 290. But the Vikings believe Kalil has the frame to add the necessary weight without diminishing his quickness. Kalil’s 34.5-inch arm length was another attribute Spielman gushed about.

The Vikings fell in love with Kalil watching him on tape, admired even more of what they saw and heard from him at the combine, then got a persuasive endorsement from offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, who went to USC’s pro day and had additional time to visit with the standout tackle.

THE SCOOP

Southern Cal offensive line coach James Cregg gave the Star Tribune his rundown of Kalil’s promise. Cregg points first to Kalil’s passion and competitive nature.

“It’s important to him,” Cregg said. “And the one thing I admire is if something does happen to him as far as him getting beat or somebody getting after him in a game or practice, he finds a way to come back and get his steam hot to come back and get another rep in and get after it. He has that fierce nature to him that you want in a guy. He always had an edge about him.”

Cregg acknowledges that there are little things Kalil needs to clean up with his run blocking and footwork but believes those are easy corrections. He also knows Kalil’s hunger to win one-on-one battles on the edge will make him an NFL standout for years.

“That’s the most important thing as a left tackle in the NFL. You have to be a stallion there,” Cregg said. “You cannot be a guy who’s going to lose one-on-one pass rushes. You have to be a guy who makes a stand and competes to win. That’s what Matt does. He struggles when he loses. It bothers him. And he’ll immediately do everything within his power to fix it and get it right.”

SECOND THOUGHTS?

In addition to landing Kalil, the Vikings pulled off a steal of a trade at the outset of the draft, moving back from No. 3 to No. 4 while also gaining fourth-, fifth- and seventh-round picks from Cleveland. Spielman would not acknowledge whether or not he tried to get the Browns’ second-round selection at any point in the negotiations.

“We only had to move back one spot and we knew we were still going to get our guy,” Spielman said. “So what we got, we felt very comfortable with.”

ON THE RADAR

We had received a bit of intelligence in the last week to 10 days that the Vikings had grown quite fond of Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith and had him as the guy they wanted to land with their second pick. We tried to alert you.

The Vikings possibly could have waited with their breath held with hopes that Smith would have lasted until they were on the clock again at No. 35. But they took no chances and moved up six spots late Thursday night to get their man.

I had alluded to the possibility of Smith becoming a Viking first on Twitter and again during my Wednesday afternoon chat. Here was some of what we addressed.

Comment From Snapit : Do the Vikings pull the trigger on Rueben Randle or Kendall Wright if either falls to the top of round 2? You gotta think yes.

Dan Wiederer: If either of those WRs were to fall into Round 2, you'd have to give them a long, hard look. I like Randle's speed and think he could be an asset. But I still contend that safety is the team's biggest need right now and have heard that the Vikings love Notre Dame's Harrison Smith and would love to pull the trigger if he's around at 35. Again this is a very deep WR crop. And it's going to allow the Vikings to have some good options at both 35 and 66.

...


Comment From Kevin: you mentioned earlier about the Vikings really liking Notre Dame's safety. which round would the vikings have to take him?

Dan Wiederer: Harrison Smith. You take him at the top of Round 2 if available. Wouldn't be stunned if they tried to move back into the end of Round 1 to get him there.

I asked Spielman late Thursday night whether Kalil-Smith was the vision he had for the start of his draft.

“You can say that was a fair vision,” he said.

LONG-LASTING IMPRESSION

The Vikings’ interest in Smith elevated in January when their coaching staff spent a week in Mobile, Ala., coaching the Notre Dame safety with the North squad at the Senior Bowl. Before, during and after that event, Spielman and Frazier talked about the value of the week and how much insight it had provided them with so much hands on time with the draft prospects on the North team. Interestingly, the Vikings apparently liked Smith so much that they cut off contact with him after the Senior Bowl. Spielman acknowledged that nearly three-month gap in contact on Thursday night. But even with that disconnect, the Vikings never forgot Smith’s range, versatility and intelligence. They also liked the idea that Smith was a two-time captain at Notre Dame.

“We watched him play on the big stage,” Spielman said. “He has held up and made terrific plays against top competition. The big stage is not going to be too big for this kid.”

RECEIVERS NOW TOP PRIORITY

With an offensive tackle and a safety added Thursday night, you’d have to figure the Vikings will want to land a receiver with their next pick. Currently, they don’t figure to be back on the clock until late Friday night when the 66th overall pick comes up. But don’t discount Spielman scratching that trade itch once more if there is a player he really wants. With 10 picks left in the arsenal, the Vikings have the flexibility to move around again if so desired.

As for the top receivers left on the board? Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill and LSU’s Rueben Randle will likely be nabbed early in Round 2. The Vikings would love to see South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery fall into Round 3. Though if they are sold on him – and we’ve heard there’s serious interest – they could trade back into Round 2 and jockey into position like they did for Smith. Other receivers that might be worth a look at pick 66 include Appalachian State’s Brian Quick, Wake Forest’s Chris Given and Rutgers’ Mohamed Sanu.

PETERSON RUNNING SPRINTS

Big things must have happened Thursday night for an Adrian Peterson rehabilitation update to be this far down. But Frazier acknowledged once again that Peterson is doing great as he works back from the severe knee injury (ACL and MCL tears) he suffered on Christmas Eve. Peterson, under the watchful eye of head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman, took some time Tuesday to run in the Vikings’ field house as most of his teammates were partaking in the team’s offseason conditioning program.

Said Frazier: “Adrian looked out and saw the guys doing wind sprints and he says, ‘Ya know, I don’t think they’re running hard enough.’ And Eric allowed him to go out and run with them. And he passed them four different times. He finished first four different times. I remember Joe Webb saying, ‘I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it.’”

Frazier said the next step for Peterson is getting to a point where he can do some cutting.

NOW WHAT?

With Smith drafted Thursday night, one has to wonder whether the offer the Vikings put out to Husain Abdullah last month will be revised in any way or taken off the table. The team will probably see how the rest of this draft pans out before revisiting Abdullah’s future. Abdullah was put on the shelf in November last season after suffering his second concussion of the year. He has since gotten medical clearance to return to football and the Vikings say they offered him a deal to come back.

Abdullah has yet to decide whether he will act on that deal. You wonder if the Vikings will cool some this weekend if they add another body or two to their secondary during the draft.

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