Dan Wiederer began covering the Vikings in 2011, enthusiastically delivering insight on the team across the Star Tribune's print and digital products. Prior to joining the Access Vikings team, he spent seven seasons covering ACC basketball at The Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. He also covered the Chicago Bears in 2003 and 2004. Follow him on Twitter @StribDW.
Mark Craig has covered football and the NFL the past 20 years, including the Browns from 1991-95 and the Vikings and the NFL since 2003. Since 2008, Craig has served as one of the 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. He can be followed on Twitter at @markcraignfl.
There aren't many caller ID numbers one picks up for before 8 a.m. on a Sunday after the NFL draft. Cris Carter's is one of them.
The Vikings newest Pro Football Hall of Famer was overjoyed. His great year had just gotten a whole lot better. He said his former team would be signing his son, Duron, as an undrafted rookie free agent. It turns out it's actually an invitation to try out during the team's rookie minicamp this weekend.
"I'm just so happy for him that he'll get an opportunity to continue doing what he loves to do," Carter said. "For him to get that opportunity with the Minnesota Vikings, a team I played for and love, it's just a blessing."
Duron, a 6-4 receiver, caught 13 passes for his dad's alma mater, Ohio State, in 2009. But after becoming academically ineligible, he went to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. He then transferred to Alabama and then Florida Atlantic, but never played for either school.
"Very few have taken the route to the NFL that he's taken," Carter said. "Minnesota presents the best opportunity for him."
So, dad, what are the kid's strengths?
"He has really good size, 6-4," Carter said. "Good speed and his route running is probably his strength."
And the hands? They're attached to a family tree that's believed to contain some pretty good hands.
"Rumor has it," said Carter. "His hands are good."
If he's signed at the end of the tryout and makes it to Mankato for training camp, Duron might have to ask for a few days off in August. He'll be Cris' Hall of Fame presenter in Canton, Ohio.
"This is why I'm not bitter about it taking so long to get into the Hall of Fame," Carter said. "It's perfect timing. It's a big year in my life. But it's also a big year in Duron's life. He's getting an opportunity to make a name for himself."
As you might expect, the first question from the media to Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman at the conclusion of the third and final day of the draft today was whether the fifth-round selection of UCLA punter Jeff Locke had anything to do with all the attention that veteran punter Chris Kluwe draws as a social activist and strong supporter of gay marriage rights.
"It has nothing to do with anything Chris Kluwe is off the field," Spielman said. "When we're making decisions, we're purely making them based on trying to bring in the best competition possible, regardless of position. This was just another normal personnel move.
"It had nothing to do with Chris Kluwe off the field. I have no issues with [Kluwe]. If Chris Kluwe wants to express his opinion, that's his right. That's his freedom of speech. This is just a football decision to bring in a guy to compete."
A year ago, the Vikings drafted kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round. The Vikings said he was brought in to compete with veteran Ryan Longwell. But Longwell was cut a week later after the team's rookie mini-camp.
Spielman was asked if that could happen with Kluwe this year.
"I'm not going to comment on anything right now," Spielman said. "We just finished the draft and signing college free agents. We'll sit down with the coaches and analyze where we're at with everything. But right now, going forward, we expect that to be a competition."
As for Locke, the first punter or kicker drafted, Spielman listed five things that set him apart from the other punters in the draft.
"One was the character," Spielman said. "Two, he's a left-footed punter which helps [create an unusual spin]. Three, he's a great directional kicker. Four, he's excellent in getting the ball inside the 20. He's a very good holder, a good athlete."
Two of the Vikings' three seventh-round picks are in.
First, with the 213th overall pick, Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti. Mauti -- whose father and brother also played at Penn State -- was a very highly-touted player coming to Penn State. But a series of injuries derailed much of his college career. Among those injuries are three ACL tears. The first, sustained before the 2009 season, wiped out that year for him. He came back with a very strong 2010 season, with 67 tackles -- 5.5 for loss -- and two sacks. But another ACL tear four games into the 2011 season ended that year.
He came back to play in 2012. He had 96 tackles and three interceptions before yet another ACL tear, sustained against Indiana, ended the season with one game to go. After the final injury he sent a letter to every NFL team expressing his love for the game and determination to return from yet another surgery and play in the NFL.
Mauti, who played both strongside and middle linebacker at Penn State, said he hopes to be cleared for practice in time for training camp.
When healthy Mauti is considered a very instinctual player, stout at the point of attack. Lack of speed and his injury history will work against him.
With the 214th pick the Vikings took North Carolina guard Travis Bond, a huge (6-6, 329-pound) right guard.
Bond was the starter at right guard his final two seasons at North Carolina. His size and strength make him an intriguing prospect, but his tendency to play high and difficultly using his hands effectively made him last until the seventh round.
And, finally, with the 229th pick in the draft, the Vikings drafted Florida State defensive tackle Everett Dawkins.
The Vikings used the 28th pick in the sixth round (the 196th overall) on UCLA lineman Jeff Baca, who grew up in California going to Bruins games with his father, who is now deceased.
Baca made 45 career starts at UCLA, including eight at left tackle as a true freshman. Overall, he started 25 at guard and 20 at tackle. He also played some center at the Senior Bowl. He was a second-team all-Pac-12 by the coaches in 2012 and was named the team’s outstanding senior of the year on offense.
He was academically ineligible in 2010. In 2011 he hurt his ankle during spring practice and needed surgery. He returned in time for the second game of that season, starting at tackle the rest of the year.
Baca is considered to be one of the more tenacious blockers in this draft class, especially adept at pass protection. But, even at 6-3 and 302 pounds he is not overly large by today’s offensive line standards.
Baca said in a conference call that he was thrilled with the prospect of blocking for Adrian Peterson, was comfortable playing any position on the offensive line and said his versatility and athletic ability were his strongest points.
About that 2010 ineligibility? He said he was a pre-med major his first two years at UCLA. In the spring quarter of 2010 he took Spanish, biology and chemistry, failing two of the three. After that? "I changed my major to political science and ended up making the honor roll seven of the eight quarters after that," he said.
So, the moral of that story is that being a politician is easier than being a doctor? "Absolutely," he said.
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