Perhaps you thought the first 2½ hours of Thursday’s NFL draft felt a little peculiar, what with eight offensive linemen taken among the top 20 picks and only one quarterback and zero running backs selected all night.
But it was the final hour that really gathered steam, especially inside the walls of Winter Park.
After waiting patiently for their two first-round picks to come at Nos. 23 and 25, the Vikings quickly added a pair of potential defensive difference makers, drafting Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and following minutes later by scooping up Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
But then, after letting the draft come to him with those initial two selections, General Manager Rick Spielman again showed his aggressive side before night’s end, surrendering four picks to move back into the first round, where the Vikings landed a raw receiver with eye-opening potential in Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 29.
Just how surprising and unusual was the 1-2-3 punch the Vikings landed? Well, for starters, Spielman had come to a news conference in the Winter Park field house to express his excitement over the first two picks. And with Floyd, long touted as a probable top-10 pick, slipping and somehow winding up in the Vikings’ lap, Spielman already was already filled with giddiness.
“With Sharrif Floyd, I went through 1,000 scenarios with that 23rd and 25th pick,” he said, “and I can just tell you honestly that he was not [available] in one of those scenarios.”
Yet before Spielman had finished expressing his excitement over Floyd and Rhodes, he was summoned back upstairs, sprinting to the Vikings war room where a trade with New England was unfolded. It turned out to be a four-picks-for-one swap that produced Patterson while giving up picks in Rounds 2, 3, 4 and 7.
It was the first time since 2001 (St. Louis) that a team had three first-round picks.
That left the NFL stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York in a bizarre predicament with the league’s intent on honoring Boston at the time of the Patriots pick somehow upstaged by the Vikings’ bold move.
Retired Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi had a New England jersey with the 617 area code and “Boston Strong” on it. But Andruzzi didn’t have a new Patriot to present it to with the Vikings suddenly picking 29th. And moments later, Spielman returned to his podium to express further delight in the franchise’s first night haul.
In Floyd, the Vikings gain a quick and versatile lineman who is expected to immediately become the understudy and possible successor to Kevin Williams at under tackle. Floyd may need time to develop and should benefit from finding one position to zero in on after moving around the D-line through college. But Spielman raved about his natural quickness.
Rhodes? At 6-foot-2 and 217 pounds, he blends great size, strength and athleticism and has the kind of press coverage skills the Vikings seek as they look to match-up better in a division that includes stars like Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall, not to mention an array of established playmakers in Green Bay.
Finally, fair or not, Patterson will quickly be looked at as the heir apparent to Percy Harvin as a receiving-return dual threat. The Vikings seem to be realistic with the idea that the 22-year-old receiver who played only one season at Tennessee after a stop through Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College will need time to flourish. But ultimately, the organization saw a guy with major upside.
Said Spielman: “When you watch the tape on him, when they put him in the backfield and pitched him the ball, if you throw him a bubble screen, when you see him go downfield, you’re talking about a 6-1, 215-pound receiver who runs a 4.3 [second 40-yard dash]. He’s electric with the ball in his hands.”
Spielman also made sure to note that he believes Patterson is “magic” as a returner.
And that may also be the best adjective to describe the first night of the Vikings’ draft with no one anywhere having envisioned a scenario where they would land three highly-touted prospects so closely together.
Of course, the late-night trade came at a cost. And the Vikings will now be without a selection Friday night and won’t come on the clock again until the 120th overall pick in Round 4. There’s still a void at middle linebacker that needs filling.
But still with five more picks and a trio of marquee players secured so quickly, the Vikings feel great about a memorable start to the draft.