Former Gophers defensive lineman Esezi Otomewo said he figured he'd get taken in the NFL draft's fourth or fifth rounds on Saturday. So as the fifth round wound down and the Vikings were about to be on the clock with the 165th overall pick, he had no doubt who was on the other end of this local call.
"I looked down at the phone and saw it was a 612 number, I instantly knew Minnesota," Otomewo said. "Tears came down my face and I picked up and it was emotions flying from left and right. It hit me. I haven't cried like that in a minute, I was just ecstatic."
Otomewo, 23, became the first Gophers player drafted by the Vikings in over a decade when he was selected in Saturday's fifth round. The last was linebacker Nate Triplett in 2010. The Vikings' decision capped a busy weekend for Gophers prospects with four drafted: edge rusher Boye Mafe (Seahawks), offensive tackle Daniel Faalele (Ravens) and tight end Ko Kieft (Buccaneers).
Otomewo said it was particularly special for him and Mafe, as the former roommates and members of the 2017 recruiting class grew close in their time with the Gophers. Mafe was drafted in Friday's second round by Seattle.
"That's my brother for life," Otomewo said. "It's dreams come true. We talked about this. We prayed about this. We did everything together when we came to Minnesota, so I'd say this is a special moment for me and him."
They both left college eligibility on the table to declare for the NFL Draft. Otomewo said he felt he was coming off his best season to date, having been named All-Big Ten honorable mention with 4.5 tackles for losses and three sacks in 13 starts. Otomewo (6-foot-5, 282 pounds) is a long-limbed defender whom Vikings evaluators see as capable of playing multiple spots on the defensive line.
He didn't participate in pre-draft athletic testing due to a knee injury suffered in Minnesota's bowl game, but said he's since been working out with "100 percent" health.
"He's long and right now he's got some versatility that our coaches like," said Pat Roberts, the Vikings assistant director of college scouting. "The things that we see are his quickness and the ability for him to maybe play that [3-4] defensive end and then on pass-rushing downs maybe move inside."
Beyond the numbers
Besides being a massive human being with 52 career starts at Illinois, sixth-round offensive tackle Vederian Lowe (6-foot-5, 314 pounds) was considered a leader on and off the field. His maturity is part of what drew Vikings evaluators to him. Lowe, 23, is married with two children and gained legal guardianship of his 14-year-old brother Vydalis last year after the death of their mother.
"I definitely have had my ups and downs in life," Lowe said. "Been through the wringer in terms of facing adversity and whatnot. It's done nothing but help make me into the man I am today."
'Favorite player growing up'
Former Missouri cornerback Akayleb Evans, a fourth-round pick, was 11 years old when Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson was drafted in 2011's first round. Evans said Peterson was his "favorite player growing up" and was giddy at the prospect of learning from a former All-Pro pick whom Evans said he tried to mimic on the field.
"I saw myself in that, that was everything to me," Evans said. "If I could learn from Pat P that would be, like, amazing. So here we are today, and it's going to be a great opportunity."
Taking a late-round swing
With the sixth-round selection of Michigan State receiver Jalen Nailor, the Vikings have taken a late-round receiver in seven of the last eight drafts. Vikings director of college scouting Mike Sholiton said the team has had success with late-round picks or undrafted receivers.
"There are examples up and down the roster with K.J. [Osborn] and Bisi [Johnson] and Adam Thielen and even [Stefon] Diggs before them," Sholiton said. "Really at all positions is sort of the fortitude to either overcome where they were drafted or use it as motivation."
Eight undrafted players incoming
Following the draft, the Vikings agreed to terms with nine undrafted free agents on Saturday night: two edge rushers in Miami's Zach McCloud and Wake Forest's Luiji Vilain, Appalachian State receiver Thomas Hennigan, Tulane punter Ryan Wright, Toledo running back Bryant Koback, Tulsa defensive tackle Tyarise Stevenson, Sacred Heart center Josh Sokol and Miami (Ohio) safety Mike Brown.
The Vikings had announced an agreement with Virginia Tech receiver Tre Turner, but hours later Turner agreed to instead join the Las Vegas Raiders, according to a league source.
The Spielman line
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah began Saturday's final rounds with another flurry of trades, but he didn't quite reach the "Trader Rick" Spielman line. The final tally of draft-day trades during Adofo-Mensah's first NFL draft leading the Vikings was six – four times moving down to add assets and twice jumping up the board. The high mark during Spielman's 10 years as GM was seven draft-day trades in 2017.