But then at No. 62, Green Bay grabbed Vanderbilt’s Casey Hayward. Three picks later, Montana’s Trumaine Johnson landed with St. Louis.
While securing Kalil and Smith on Day 1 had been ideal, the Friday board had not broken perfectly.
“But,” Spielman said, “that’s the other big part of the draft — the patience. And making sure you stay in ‘Don’t panic’ mode.”
Missing out on Hayward and Johnson stung some. But Studwell recalled draft advice from former coach Dennis Green: “You’ve got to like a lot of guys.”
In the big picture, the Vikings still really liked and valued a 21-year-old from Conference USA, a young playmaker with good size, elite speed and plenty of upside.
From New York, former Vikings star Anthony Carter made the official announcement: “With the 66th pick in the 2012 NFL draft, the Minnesota Vikings select Josh Robinson, defensive back, Central Florida.”
Day 3: The passion priority
When Saturday arrived, the Vikings still owned nine picks in the final four rounds. Eventually, they made trades with Detroit and Tennessee to accumulate selections for 2013 while also filling out their 2012 class.
The game plan for the middle-to-later rounds revolved around finding potential, guys who could be immediate special teams contributors while working their way up the depth chart.
With that in mind, Spielman zeroed in on players with obvious passion, which is why the selections of Wright, Blanton, Audie Cole and especially Ellison resonated.
Over the years, Spielman has scrutinized his draft mistakes far more than he has ever celebrated his victories. He says he has learned to place greater value on guys to whom football means the most.
And sure, shortly after being picked in Round 4, Ellison asserted on a conference call that he never expected to be drafted at all. But the Vikings believe he might very well go down as the most underrated selection of a potentially special draft.
In addition to his blocking ability and versatility, Ellison’s work ethic, selfless attitude and enthusiasm surfaced during his interview at the combine followed by a more intimate visit with the Vikings at Southern California when the team went to lock in on Kalil.
“You can see that passion on film. You can get that from talking to your sources,” Spielman said. “We get it from our psychological testing. But then you can really nail it down once you sit there and look the kid square in the eye. … You wait for that little bit that really resonates.”
The exclamation point: late-round luck
No pick from the Vikings’ 2012 draft created more immediate head scratching than the sixth-round selection of Blair Walsh.
Really? With so many holes, the Vikings were using a sixth-round pick on a kicker? And not just a kicker, but a guy who missed 14 field goals as a Georgia senior? At a position where 15-year veteran Ryan Longwell had been ultrareliable?