There is little doubt that the Vikings had Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd rated as a top-10 prospect, but when you are drafting 23rd you don’t typically get a player of that caliber.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman described the process the team went through to get Floyd, a truly outstanding athlete projected by Sports Illustrated’s Peter King to be taken third in the draft.
“It was funny, as you sit there and try to be patient through this whole process and you watch the draft board coming off, you see all those offensive linemen going off early,” Spielman said. “I think this was a unique draft where there were so many talented players but they were all so close together.
“There wasn’t a significant drop-off between maybe the eighth player and where we were picking down below. So teams really try to step in and fill their needs, and it just happened to work out for us that most of the players that went in the first half of that round were offensive linemen, which significantly pushed some defensive linemen and some defensive backs down to us.”
Spielman added he had a feeling that after Floyd got past Chicago that Cincinnati wasn’t going to take him, and then when Atlanta traded up with St. Louis for the 22nd pick, he knew Atlanta was going after a cornerback.
At that point, the Vikings were feeling very good that they were going to get Floyd.
According to Spielman, part of the draft preparation is making sure the Vikings understood other teams’ needs and how they would fill those needs.
“You try to make an educated guess,” he said. “It’s something similar that we did a couple years ago [in 2007] when Adrian Peterson fell to us at seven. Once [Peterson] got by Arizona, we held there and didn’t trade up. It just happened to work out for us this year as well.”
Spielman said he had followed Floyd’s career for some time and that the Vikings really started to follow the Gators standout once he declared he was going pro after his junior year.
Asked when Floyd made an impression with him, Spielman said: “Probably the first time I put the tape on him and was watching him in the fall. He is a young defensive lineman. He played out of position as a defensive end and was not as productive in 2011. Then last year they moved him to his natural position, which is a defensive tackle.
“He had the ability to play over the nose, or in the 3-technique, in the under tackle, as we call them. He is very physical at the point against the run, he has natural instincts, and he has unique quickness to be a very effective pass rusher at this next level.”
Spielman said that Floyd will need to work on those pass-rushing skills — he had only three sacks last year at Florida — but that is going to be the job of the Vikings coaches, and Spielman said Floyd has so many natural athletic tools that he will keep developing.
Saunders to Timberwolves
Former Star Tribune staff writer Steve Aschburner of NBA.com reported what I speculated two months ago, that David Kahn won’t be back next year as the Timberwolves president of basketball operations and will be succeeded by ex-Wolves coach Flip Saunders.
Wolves owner Glen Taylor has admitted that he has been talking basketball to Saunders and asking for advice during this past season.
Saunders, who works for ESPN, denied the report while on the air on Friday by saying: “Glen Taylor and myself, we’ve had a great relationship for 20 years, since I’ve been there. We talk constantly about situations in the league, whether it be the league, whether it be players. Right now what develops we’ll have to wait and see. But right now there’s nothing developing down the road.”
Well, I’m convinced that the only factor that will prevent Saunders’ return is if coach Rick Adelman said he won’t come back if he has to work with him.
Buxton on fire
Twins 2012 first-round pick Byron Buxton, who is playing at Class A Cedar Rapids, entered Saturday at or near the top in most offensive statistical categories in the Midwest League: a .400 batting average, .524 on-base percentage and .662 slugging percentage. The 19-year-old from Georgia, who was selected No. 2 overall last summer, also led the league in runs scored (19) and was tied for third in RBI (16) and walks (16).
Meanwhile, as for some former Twins, shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka is back playing with the Hanshin Tigers in Japan, the team he played with for eight seasons before coming to the major leagues in 2011. He is playing well in his first year back in Japan. Through 22 games he was hitting .341 with 11 runs scored, 10 RBI and four stolen bases.
Delmon Young recently began a rehab assignment for Philadelphia following microfracture surgery on his ankle. The Phillies are concerned about his ability to play the outfield on a regular basis; he was mostly a designated hitter with Detroit in 2012. General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said: “If he can’t play defense, he can’t play in the National League. He’s going to have to be adequate out there.”
• Former Vikings coach Brad Childress has finally been announced as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs coaching staff with a title of “spread game analyst/special projects coach.” So Childress is reunited with Andy Reid, whom Childress worked under in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2005.
• Eric Hartzell, the former Quinnipiac goalie and White Bear Lake standout, suited up for his first professional game on Monday after signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Hartzell was the backup for Tomas Vokoun.
• Sports Illustrated compiled a list of outstanding NFL players drafted in the fourth round or later. Among the noted players who prospered, former Vikings center Matt Birk was a sixth-round pick and Vikings defensive end Jared Allen was a fourth-rounder.
• The Howard Pulley 73 basketball team that is touring the country has three players on its nine-man squad who have received offers from the Gophers: Tyus Jones of Apple Valley
and Reid Travis and Jarvis Johnson of DeLaSalle.
• Gophers tight end Maxx Williams, who was redshirted last season, is the son of Brian Williams, who played center for the Gophers and then with the New York Giants from 1989 to ’99. His mother, Rochele, is a former Gophers volleyball player. Maxx’s uncle Ron Goetz was a Gophers linebacker drafted by the Vikings in 1990, and his grandfather Robert was a quarterback at Notre Dame and was drafted by the Bears in 1959.
• Greg Jennings, the new Vikings wideout who the team hopes will be a mentor to first-round draft pick Cordarrelle Patterson, was selected by the Packers in 2006 after a draft-day trade with the Patriots, just like Patterson. New England gave its second- and third-round picks to Green Bay to move up 16 spots in the second round and take receiver Chad Jackson.