One thing became clear through two days of the 2014 NFL draft: Vikings coach Mike Zimmer really wants to beat up Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford this fall.
And for the second consecutive day, Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman handed his new coach a versatile, pure Pac-12 pass rusher to help offset the loss of Jared Allen and add more weapons for a more aggressive defensive scheme than the Vikings have played the past eight years.
One day after the Vikings took UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr ninth overall, they waited through the second round without a pick before taking Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton in the third round with the 72nd overall pick. Twenty-four picks later, they selected Georgia Southern multipurpose athlete Jerick McKinnon as a third-down, change-of-pace running back behind Adrian Peterson.
But, first, just like Thursday night, the Vikings addressed their pass rush because, well, look at who they have to face at quarterback six times a year.
“Me and Anthony will try to create havoc and do what we do,” said Crichton, who finished his three-year college career with 22 ½ sacks, 51 tackles for loss and a school-record 10 forced fumbles.
“He’s not very nice on the field, which is nice to see,” Spielman said. “I can watch tape of this guy all day. His motor runs nonstop.”
Spielman also found the 5-9, 209-pound McKinnon riveting.
“From an athletic standpoint, he was too good an athlete to pass up,” Spielman said. “He’s too explosive as a player.”
McKinnon was recruited to Georgia Southern, a FCS (formerly Division I-AA school) as a cornerback. He switched to a triple-option quarterback and played there primarily through his career. But he also played tailback, cornerback, fullback and receiver. As a senior, he ran for 1,050 yards, 12 touchdowns and a 6.5-yard average.
“He had maybe the most interesting workout I’ve ever seen,” Spielman said. “Teams worked him out as a running back, a punt returner and a cornerback. It must have been the longest pro day I’ve ever seen.”
Spielman made it clear the Vikings are looking at McKinnon as a running back exclusively to give offensive coordinator Norv Turner the third-down, change-of-pace burst that he likes in the backfield.
Although McKinnon didn’t pass protect in college, he showed he was willing at the Senior Bowl, Spielman said. Plus, the guy did 32 reps on the 225-pound bench press, the most by a running back at the scouting combine.
“Norv’s eyes and [running backs coach] Kirby Wilson’s eyes light up with the different things they can do with this guy,” Spielman said.
Crichton sounds like a guy who will be hungry for a successful career. One of the 102 underclassmen to declare for the draft, he didn’t even request a round grade from the advisory board.
“I love my family,” he said before the draft. “I’ve taken this responsibility to take care of them. My mom works two jobs, and my dad is disabled and still works a job, too. They are getting old and I want them to retire and just stop working.”
Crichton’s parents both are from Western Samoa. His father, Lucky, lost a leg because of health issues, but has continued to work a warehouse job that pays him $10 an hour. His mother, Malama, works as a nurse at a retirement home.
“My mom and dad, there was a lot of crying after I was picked,” he said. “And I’m a little teary-eyed myself.”
The Vikings head into Day 3 still looking to fill needs, particularly in the secondary.
“That will come,” Spielman said. “Plus, you are not done when the draft is done. We don’t play until September.”