As Vikings know from last year, NFL draft has unexpected surprises

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 27, 2014 - 8:58 AM

Last year’s first round had the Vikings moving quickly.


Spielman and Zygi Wilf conferred during last year’s draft, when the Vikings got defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd of Florida and cornerback Xavier Rhodes of Florida State with their original first-round picks, then traded to nab Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in the first round before the night ended.

Vikings pro scout Steve Price ran through the hallway, down the steps, across the weight room and onto the indoor practice field.

“How long will he be?” asked Price, nodding toward General Manager Rick Spielman, who had just taken the first question from reporters on Day 1 of the 2013 NFL draft.

“Twelve, 15 minutes,” said Tom West, assistant director of public relations. “Can it wait?”

“Oh, no,” Price said. “We need him. Now.

“Last question for Rick,” West barked.

“He looked at me kind of funny,” West said earlier this week. “I think I pointed at a phone and said, ‘You need to take this.’ ”

For Cordarrelle Patterson to become the third piece of the Vikings’ first-round bounty and wow the NFL with record-setting feats, the Vikings needed to move. Fast. Faster than Patterson through Green Bay’s kick coverage.

“You try to take the surprise element out of the draft,” said Scott Studwell, Vikings director of college scouting. “But you can’t.”

Like Patterson’s reliance on the 10 blockers who would launch him 109 yards against the Packers, Spielman needed a team effort from the other 18 or so people who make up the Vikings’ draft day “War Room.” Also, at this particular moment, with time running out and Patriots coach Bill Belichick waiting as a trade partner, Spielman needed a Cordarrelleian burst up the stairs at Winter Park.

“He was huffing and puffing when he got back to the draft room,” Studwell said.

There was no official 40 time posted, but local television stations did capture Spielman’s quick departure from the podium and disappearance through the weight room doors.

“I’m pretty athletic,” said Spielman, looking back on it a year later. “Stay in shape. You never know when you may have to run away from a news conference.”

Expecting the unexpected

Last year’s draft board was the seventh one Spielman assembled since joining the Vikings. Each year, nine months of work by dozens of people is used to set the board over 10 long days of meetings involving the coaching, personnel and medical staffs. Prospects are stacked using a numbering system that grades each player to the thousandths of a percentage point.

“We have the board stacked and set five days before the draft,” said George Paton, Vikings assistant general manager. “Then you sit and stare at the board and go through every scenario known to man.”

After discussing 1,000 mock draft scenarios, the Vikings felt confident about landing the two players they were targeting: Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes at No. 23 and Patterson, the receiver from Tennessee, at No. 25.

The biggest uncertainty was whether Atlanta would take Rhodes at No. 22.

As always, Spielman had started his mock drafts with the “worst-possible situation you could ever imagine.” But the opposite unfolded on draft night. An unexpected run of eight offensive linemen in the top 20 was favoring the defensively starved Vikings.

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