A Sooner for the better

  • Article by: KEVIN SEIFERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 29, 2007 - 12:19 AM

Turning aside concerns about injuries and style, the Vikings make running back Adrian Peterson their top pick. The explosive Oklahoma star is envisioned as a playmaker for a team that has struggled to score touchdowns.

Sidney Rice, wide receiver, South Carolina

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Anticipation grew Saturday as the picks fell, one by one. The Vikings' No. 7 overall selection in the NFL draft was approaching, and barring a disaster -- no jokes, please -- it appeared they would have their choice from a pool of players that only an eternal optimist could have dreamed available.

Did they want Louisiana State safety LaRon Landry? Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson? How about Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn?

Ultimately, the Vikings turned down an offer to move into Washington's No. 6 spot and take Landry. They passed on Quinn, who plummeted to the No. 22 overall spot, and celebrated the arrival of Peterson -- one of the draft's top playmakers whose status was impacted by the continuing possibility he will need significant shoulder surgery.

The Vikings continued to upgrade their offensive personnel later in the day, taking South Carolina receiver Sidney Rice in the second round. Fresno State cornerback Marcus McCauley was their third-round pick. The Vikings have five choices remaining today, including an extra fourth-round selection after a minor trade Saturday.

Overall, they were pleased with their first draft day under Rick Spielman, their new vice president of player personnel.

"We were able to fill needs and at the same time get the best guys on our board," Spielman said. "We were very lucky to be able to stay true to our board."

The Vikings rated Peterson highly even though they will put him through additional tests this week to determine whether he needs surgery to repair a fractured right collarbone. Peterson said the fracture, which originally occurred in October but was re-injured Jan. 1, is "90 percent" and will not need surgery.

"It is fine," he said. "It will heal perfectly by itself."

Coach Brad Childress said Peterson is scheduled to participate in the team's rookie minicamp, which begins Friday. But Childress acknowledged Peterson will undergo "a pretty good physical" this week.

"I think he feels pretty good," Childress said. "You let your doctor determine that. You let the orthopedic guys get another look at him. [But] it's not like we haven't looked at him already. We're satisfied with him right now."

If surgery is required, doctors would insert a plate into the area. Typically, the procedure calls for three to four months of rehabilitation, a timetable that would call into question Peterson's availability for the start of the season. Speaking on KFAN-1130 AM last week, Spielman said he heard a "rumor" that Peterson needed surgery.

In either event, the Vikings drafted Peterson with longer-term goals in mind. His combination of 4.4 speed, 6-1 frame and 41 touchdowns in 31 college games give the Vikings a scoring threat they did not possess during their disappointing offensive showing in 2006.

"We knew we needed explosive players on the offensive side of the football," Childress said. "And we got one of the best today."

Peterson said he might have been the first overall pick of the draft had he avoided the collarbone injury. Cleveland considered him as high as No. 3 overall, and some believed Arizona would select him at No. 5. Peterson, however, said he was "excited" to be taken by the Vikings and looking forward to sharing carries with starter Chester Taylor.

"If [the decision] is to have a running back tandem," Peterson said, "then I am all for that. ... Whatever it is, I am down for that."

Injuries -- notably, a dislocated shoulder, high ankle sprain and the collarbone -- limited Peterson in each of his three seasons with the Sooners. In between, he rode his unique running style to 4,045 rushing yards.

That upright style, however, caused some teams to question his long-term durability. Peterson compared his size and style to Hall of Fame tailback Eric Dickerson, and Childress said: "He has a style that is good enough to be a runner-up in the Heisman Trophy [voting].

"Is he a tall runner?" Childress added. "Well, by nature he is in the 6-foot area. Can he get his pads down more? Yeah, he can do that. There are always some fundamental things that you are able to work on, and I think the big thing is he has a great bright eye and a willingness to work."

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