Access Vikings

Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

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Spielman puts a wrap on the 2015 NFL draft

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated May 2nd at 8:31pm 302320011

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman just met with the media to put a wrap on the 2015 NFL draft, which saw the Vikings select 10 players, five on each side of the ball.

“I know we’re going to add to and improve our football team coming out of this weekend,” Spielman said.

Here are some of the highlights:

On fourth-round pick T.J. Clemmings and how the team found out about the foot stress fracture that caused the Pitt offensive tackle to slide to the fourth round:

“Everybody is questioning the injury part. We found out about it at the combine. We did a lot of calling on him and double checking and triple checking on him today. We feel that it was an old injury that was there. It was discovered at the combine. He did not miss any practices during the year at Pitt. He did not miss any practices at the Senior Bowl. He worked out at the combine. We had our offensive line coaches at Pitt and he worked out there as well.”

On how they’ll use Clemmings, who does not project to play guard:

“He has the athletic skill set to play either side [at tackle].”

On Southern Illinois tight end MyCole Pruitt, the first of two fifth-round picks:

“From my alma mater, Southern Illinois, even though he didn’t know I was from there. He’s a very athletic H-back type fullback. They put him out in the slot. He played some on the line of scrimmage as a tight end. He ran very fast at the combine. He showed up at the all-star game. He has a lot of the unique traits we’re looking for, especially in Norv Turner’s offense, being able to do multiple things. He has very good hands and is aggressive as a blocker.”

On Maryland receiver Stefon Diggs, the second fifth-round pick:

“Another extremely talented athlete. I was at a game his freshman year when he played Virginia. He’s a kickoff returner. He has done some punt returns in the past. Very gifted athlete with the ball in his hands. He can do so many things. He’s played outside, he’s played in the slot, he’s done some return stuff.”

On Oklahoma offensive tackle Tyrus Thomson, the first of two sixth round picks:

“[Offensive line assistant coach] Hank Fraley went down and worked out all the Oklahoma kids. He was a left tackle at Oklahoma. We’re projecting him to be a swing tackle or also move inside to guard. Another guys who has great length, great size. Very mature. He’s married with two children.”

On Louisville defensive end B.J. Dubose, the second sixth round pick:

“He’s another guy who is a multi-position player. He can play end. He can rush the passer inside. We had him here on our top-30 visit. He pulled [a hamstring] at the combine and was unable to work out the rest of that time so that’s why we brought him in to sit down and get to know him a little bit. He has good tape all around.”

On Alabama offensive tackle Austin Shepherd, the first of two seventh round picks:

“Another multi-position guy. Played right tackle at Alabama. Can slide inside. We’ll probably start him out at guard. Played some guard at the Senior Bowl as well. Very tough, physical, aggressive kid.”

On Division II Newberry outside linebacker Edmond Robinson, the second of two seventh round picks:

“Another very talented athlete that’s a little raw. [Linebackers coach] Adam Zimmer worked him out after the South Carolina pro day. He went over to Newberry to work this kid out. He’s played outside. You don’t see him a lot in the film in the stacked position, but he has great length, speed and range. He’s going to be another guy who is going to have a lot of athletic tools to work with but is going to be a little bit of a learning curve. But you can’t teach his length, you can’t teach his speed and you can’t teach his athletic ability.”

On whether spending two draft picks on players who can play guard means the Vikings have changed their feelings on left guard David Yankey, last year’s fifth-round draft pick:

“Not at all. We’re very excited about how David came back [this year]. I think we’re going to have great competition up front on that offensive line.”

On whether he feels comfortable at strong safety after passing over safeties in the draft:

“The one thing I could tell you is definitely [Antone] Exum [a rookie last year] made the conversion from corner to safety and we’re excited about the progress he has made. Along with [Robert] Blanton and [Andrew] Sendejo, I think we know what those guys are.  But Exum is definitely a guy we’re going to be keeping a close eye on. A very talented athlete.”

On veteran offensive lineman Joe Berger, who projects as the starting left guard at this point:

“Since he’s been here, Joe has been very valuable for us because he can play center, he can play guard. He stepped in and played extremely well for us last year. He was one of the priorities that we definitely wanted to sign back because of his versatility, because of his experience. We’re going to have a very young group of guys coming up behind him. But the one guy that we really wanted to target to keep on our roster from our own UFAs was Joe Berger.”

Clemmings dismisses concerns of 'so-called injury'

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated May 2nd at 5:31pm 302312781

Offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings was hoping he would go in the first round of this year’s draft. And he certainly didn’t expect him to fall outside of the second day, too. But there he was this morning, still watching the draft on television and hoping a team would scoop him up in the fourth round.

That team ended up being the Vikings, who had Clemmings here at Winter Park for a pre-draft visit.

The main reason that Clemmings dropped into the fourth round was that some teams were scared off by a stress fracture in his foot. Clemmings, clearly a little frustrated, dismissed those concerns.

“I have no concerns with my so-called injury,” he told local media. “I’m ready to get to work.”

Clemmings said it was “an old injury and an old issue” and that it didn’t bother him at Pittsburgh.

While he was disappointed that he lasted until the fourth round, Clemmings, who played right tackle in college, feels he has landed in a good situation here with the Vikings.

“I knew it was going to work out in the long run. I knew that [the concerns about his foot were] a minor setback, for now,” Clemmings said. “And all it was going to do was place me with the right organization. After I knew that and believed that, I didn’t worry any further.”

Vikings take two more linemen before draft ends

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated May 2nd at 6:00pm 302309621

The Vikings took three offensive tackles in Day 3 of the NFL Draft. First it was Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings, and the Vikings followed that up with selecting Oklahoma’s Tyrus Thompson with the 185th pick in the sixth round and Alabama’s Austin Shepherd with the 228th pick in the seventh round.

Thompson is listed at 6-5 and 324 pounds. He appeared in 44 games, starting 29, and was a first-team All-Big 12 selection last year. Thompson is viewed as an athletic offensive tackle that dropped likely due to character concerns and laziness. ESPN graded Thompson as “below average” in terms of toughness.

Still, the size and talent is definitely noticeable with Thompson. It’s interesting to note while the Vikings have picked two offensive tackles, they have picked a guard yet. They still have three picks remaining in the draft.

Shepherd played 47 games at Alabama, making 27 starts at right tackle. He made the switch to guard during the Senior Bowl and likely projects to play that position in the NFL. Shepherd allowed just one sack in 14 starts last season and had just seven missed assignments in 940 snaps, per the school site.

After making three straight picks addressing offensive needs in Day 3, the Vikings made a defensive selection with their second sixth rounder. They selected Louisville defensive tackle B.J. DuBose with the 193rd pick. He’s listed at 6-4 and 284 pounds.

DuBose started all 13 games last year and record a career-high 41 tackles and 7.5 tackles for loss. He finished with four sacks last year and has the ability to play both defensive end and tackle.

With their final pick in the draft, the Vikings selected Newberry College linebacker Edmond Robinson with the 232nd overall pick. He’s listed at 6-3 and 245 pounds. He has room to fill out, but Robinson will be a work in progress. Zimmer likes linebackers that can move well, and Robinson has been evaluated as a prospect that can do just that.

Vikings draft T.J. Clemmings, two others on offense

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated May 2nd at 2:15pm 302303801

With the 110th pick in the fourth round, the Vikings took Pittsburgh offensive tackle T.J. Clemmings.

Clemmings, projected by some analysts as a potential first-round pick, dropped in the draft due to concerns about a stress fracture in his foot. If his foot is fine, the Vikings might find good value here.

He started 26 games at right tackle the past two seasons and was named first-team all-ACC as a senior. All this after the Panthers converted him from defensive end to offensive tackle in 2012.

Clemmings, who is 6-foot-5 and 308 pounds, was a highly-rated defensive end recruit and a NCAA hoops prospect coming out of high school, too. At the scouting combine in February, Clemmings ranked second among offensive linemen in the vertical jump and fourth in the 20-yard shuttle.

The Vikings reportedly had Clemmings in here at Winter Park for a pre-draft visit.

The Vikings do not have a clear starter at left guard right now, but Clemmings projects as a tackle in the NFL. Left tackle Matt Kalil is coming off a disappointing season and right tackle Phil Loadholt’s 2014 season was cut short by a torn pectoral. The Vikings as a team allowed 51 sacks last season.

At the start of the fifth round, General Manager Rick Spielman traded the 137th overall pick to the Falcons for the 146th pick and a sixth-rounder (No. 185 overall), giving him 10 selections overall.

With the 143rd pick in the fifth round, the Vikings selected Southern Illinois tight end MyCole Pruitt. Pruitt is a two-time first-team FCS All-American. He was a top performer among tight ends at the combine in a few drills, including the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump and the 20-yard shuttle.

Three picks later, with one of the picks they got from the Falcons, the Vikings selected Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Diggs was a highly-recruited prospect coming out of high school and stayed close to home at Maryland. He is a great athlete, but couldn’t meet the hype in college.

The Vikings have four more picks as of now, two in the sixth round and two in the seventh.

Highlights from Vikings GM Rick Spielman after Day 2 of the NFL Draft

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated May 2nd at 12:33am 302285371

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman spoke the media after Day 2 of the NFL Draft on Friday. The Vikings made two selections, UCLA linebacker Eric Kendricks in the second round and LSU defensive Danielle Hunter in the third round, while trading back in the third twice to collect a fifth-rounder from the Lions and a sixth-rounder from the Chiefs. They have six picks remaining heading into Day 3 on Saturday.

Here’s what Spielman had to say about Kendricks, Hunter and Day 3 of the draft

On drafting Kendricks with the 45th overall pick

We had a lot of activity on teams trying to trade up. We felt he was the most instinctive linebacker in this draft. As we talked through with our coaches, we feel he can play either Will or Mike [linebacker positions]. He’s very good in coverage. He’s very instinctive against the run. He’s not overly big as far as size, but he’s still over 6-feet and about 235 pounds. He ran well and plays very heavy handed to shed, get off blocks and really locate the ball. He has great range from sideline-to-sideline. He has the athletic skillset to be a three-down backer. We were kind of surprised that he fell to us where we were at.

On what separated Kendricks from the other linebackers in the draft

I think just watching how he played the game — his instincts, his ability to be a three-down linebacker, his ability to play multiple positions, his character and background that we felt comfortable with and his intelligence. And I know Zimmer stresses that we want to have smart, tough, passionate football players. He fit every one of those boxes.

On why the Vikings didn’t ask former UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr about Kendricks

He tweets too much. You know how I am about Twitter.

On selecting Hunter with the 88th overall pick

We met with him at the Combine, myself and [defensive coordinator] George Edwards went down and worked him out at LSU’s pro day. He’s a physical specimen. He’s 6-5 and change and weighed 252 [pounds]. We measured his arms at 35 ½ [inches], and I think he had a 10’10 broad jump, which is extremely unique for his size and his position. …He plays extremely hard. He’s raw. He’s a project that I know we’re going to have to work with.

On whether Hunter will project as a defensive end or linebacker

We look at him as a defensive end. When you watch his workout at the combine and you watch his workout at his pro day, he’s an incredible athlete when we put him through drops and coverage. He’s an Anthony Bar type athlete. Maybe not as fluid, but he has the ability to do a lot of things depending on how he develops and where our coaches see him.

On holding six picks in Day 3 of the draft

We’ve got a pretty good amount where we can move up and down now. We feel there’s some pretty good depth, especially on the offensive side of the ball. So we may look to address some of those needs, but we’re always going to stick to our board if we can continue to add good football players, regardless of position, we will definitely do that.

On whether the Vikings can address offensive needs in Day 3

We’re not going to force it if it’s not there, but I think there’s some depth there that we can add. But we do have some good, young talent on our offensive line and some guys I’m anxious to see how they’ve progressed. If there’s an offensive lineman or two that we can potentially add, there are some guys we’ve targeted at certain points in the draft, we’ll look to address it if it presents itself. But we’re not going to force the issue. We’re not going to reach. We’re going to continue to take the best football players.

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Chicago WSox - LP: H. Noesi 3 FINAL
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Pittsburgh - LP: J. Hughes 1 FINAL
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