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.
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman’s stance on running back Adrian Peterson didn’t change on Tuesday. Two days before the NFL Draft, Spielman once again said the Vikings intend to bring Peterson back this year.
“Adrian Peterson is under contract, his suspension was lifted and we’re looking forward to having Adrian Peterson back here as a Minnesota Viking in 2015,” Spielman said. “And that’s the end of the story.”
The NFL reinstated Peterson on April 17, and he has been cleared to participate in all team activities. He’s been a no-show during the voluntary offseason workouts at Winter Park and likely won’t participate during organized team activities next month. The big question remains where Peterson will show up to the first mandatory team gathering, minicamp, in June or if the Vikings fulfill the wishes of Peterson’s agent, Ben Dogra, and trade the 2012 NFL MVP.
Spielman was asked if the Vikings would not trade Peterson. He responded with a stutter before ultimately downplaying the idea of trading Peterson.
“I think coach Zimmer stated it pretty clear that we have no interest in trading Adrian Peterson, and we don’t,” Spielman said. “Adrian made a mistake. He’s paid the price for that mistake. I think if our organization didn’t believe in Adrian Peterson, he probably wouldn’t be here today. And that’s from our ownership on down, we believe in Adrian Peterson. I also know we’re a pretty good football team with Adrian Peterson in our backfield as well.”
Peterson will receive $12.75 million this season with the Vikings. He played just one game last season after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of reckless assault on his son on Nov. 18.
We’ll find out on draft night whether Spielman remains true to his word.
General Manager Rick Spielman just wrapped up his annual pre-draft press conference, and no, he didn’t tell us whom the Vikings plan to select with the 11th overall pick Thursday night.
Spielman did say their options are “wide open” when it comes to their first-round selection.
“We’re sitting at the 11th spot right now,” Spielman said. “But I just went through five different scenarios this morning. What if a potential pass rusher falls down? What if a potential offensive lineman [does]? And there’s multiple offensive linemen that we’re looking at it. What if a [defensive back] falls down? What if the receivers fall down? … We are wide open on any direction that we’re going to go. There’s no way set [position], honed-in, we’re taking this position.”
Spielman said that the way the team’s draft board has been assembled, with a smaller first tier of prospects and a large cluster of similarly-rated prospects in a second tier, the Vikings might have an opportunity to address a need with their first pick without sacrificing much, if any, prospect value.
“After we developed our draft board, and you look at maybe those top five or six players and how we drafted this draft, I think when you go from the seventh or eighth player down to the 20th player, I don’t know if there’s that much difference,” Spielman said. “We think they’re all very talented but we think they’re all close in talent. So the benefit to that now is that you have an opportunity to fill a need. … If those [prospects] are that close, then what are we going to do to fill a need?”
Spielman said that a trade-up is unlikely this year, but the Vikings are receptive to trading down.
With the NFL draft (mercifully) just two days away, let’s take our annual look at recent Vikings drafts by the numbers. This year, we crunched the numbers from 2007 to 2014, which coincides with General Manager Rick Spielman’s tenure with the team. We will also pull out some specific stats from 2012 to 2014, the three years since Spielman was given final say in the draft room.
Some interesting trends emerged in this process, such as the Vikings showing a lot of love to Pac 10 and ACC players in recent years and Spielman using more seventh-rounders than first-rounders.
So keep these numbers in mind this weekend, when the Vikings pick another class of players.
— The Vikings drafted 65 players from 2007 to 2014. Of those picks, 32 were used for defensive players, 31 were used for offensive players, one was used for a kicker and one for a punter.
— Which positions have the Vikings targeted most? They selected 10 linebackers over that span. They drafted nine offensive linemen (though only two of them were taken in the first four rounds). They also drafted nine wide receivers and eight cornerbacks. On the flip side, they have only selected three running backs (the first, Adrian Peterson, is a pretty good one) and one fullback.
— They drafted players from 43 different schools. Spielman and the Vikings like their Golden Domers, selecting four from Notre Dame since 2007, including safety Harrison Smith and tight end Kyle Rudolph. That is tied for the most picks with Florida State and USC. They have taken three players apiece from Arkansas, Oklahoma, UCLA (all three in the past three years), and Penn State.
— They have drafted just one player, linebacker Nate Triplett, from the University of Minnesota.
— They have picked more players from the Pac 12 and ACC (a dozen apiece) than from any other conference. They have taken 11 from the SEC, six from the Big Ten and five from the Big 12.
— Since Spielman took over the draft room, they have really stocked up on players from the Pac 12 and ACC. The Vikings have taken eight Pac 12 players the past three years, including linebacker Anthony Barr. They drafted seven ACC players, one of them being quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.
— The Vikings have selected 10 players in the first round, including seven the past three years (only one was picked at their original draft slot). They have drafted six in the second (none in Spielman’s three years running the show), five in the third, seven in the fourth, 10 in the fifth and 12 in the sixth. They’ve taken a whopping 15 guys in the seventh, including eight under Spielman.
— Of their 10 first-round picks, only three were in the top 10 and just four were in the top 16. The Vikings hold the 11th pick in this year’s draft, though they could trade out of their slot (again).
— Their earliest pick was USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil at fourth overall in 2012. Their latest was the 237th pick in 2010, used on Ryan D’Imperio, a linebacker they drafted to play fullback.
— The most picks they had in one draft was 10 each in 2011, 2012 and 2014. The fewest was five, which they had in both 2008 and 2009. They will enter Thursday’s first round with seven picks, but it is worth noting that Spielman has drafted at least nine rookies in each of the past three years.
— The most valuable five picks, based on Pro Football Reference’s weighted career approximate value, in order were Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, John Sullivan, Phil Loadholt and Sidney Rice.
— Of their 65 draft picks from 2007 to 2014, 32 are still on the roster (Chad Greenway is the 33rd, but he was selected in 2006). Just seven Vikings drafted between 2007 and 2011 remain.
Heading into the draft, we will give the recent history at each of the Vikings’ seven draft slots.
As one would expect, the 45th pick of the NFL draft has yielded some pretty good players over the past decade. Three Pro Bowlers were selected with that pick near the middle of the second round. There have also been some disappointing picks, including one “next big thing” at wide receiver.
Before we look at the good, bad and ugly, here is a list of the last 10 players to go 45th overall:
2014: Paul Richardson, WR, Seahawks
2013: Kevin Minter, LB, Cardinals
2012: Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears
2011: Rahim Moore, S, Broncos
2010: Zane Beadles, G, Broncos
2009: Clint Sintim, LB, Giants
2008: Jordon Dizon, LB, Lions
2007: Dwayne Jarrett, WR, Panthers
2006: LenDale White, RB, Titans
2005: Lofa Tatupu, LB, Seahawks
The good… Jeffery, Beadles and Tatupu all made it to at least one Pro Bowl. Jeffery made it there most recently, in 2013, when he caught 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns. But we fought off recency bias to remember that Tatupu went to three Pro Bowls in his first three seasons and was a first-team All-Pro in 2007 before injuries took a toll. He’s the best of the bunch — for now.
The bad… I was tempted to put Moore here due to his costly gaffe in the 2012 playoffs, but he has become a good player. So instead, the bad distinction goes to Jarrett, whom some labeled as the next Keyshawn Johnson. He caught just 35 career passes for 428 yards and one touchdown.
The ugly… Dizon never cracked the starting lineup for the Lions in his first two seasons and then after suffering a knee injury during the 2010 preseason he never played another NFL game.
Having the Vikings ever picked 45th? Yes, three times. In 1962, they drafted linebacker Roy Winston, who started 158 career games. In 1981, they selected linebacker Robin Sendlein. In 1996, they took defensive tackle James Manley, who never played a game for the Vikings or anyone else.
Best 45th pick in NFL history? There have been many memorable players selected with the 45th pick, such as running back and 10,000-yard rusher Ricky Watters and former Pro Bowl linebacker Wayne Walker, who also happens to be the least accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history. But there is only one Hall of Fame in this group: former Raiders tight end Dave Casper. We’ll give him the nod.
Big thanks to Pro Football Reference and their invaluable Draft Finder for making our work easy.
Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph has played just 17 games over the last two seasons due to injuries. He’s hoping his luck will change this season.
Entering his fifth season, Rudolph said his goal this offseason is to play in all 16 regular season games this year. That’s only happened once during Rudolph’s second year in the league in 2012. He’s attempted to become more durable with an emphasis on stretching.
“I think this is the first time in my career I haven’t felt like I’ve come back in April in the best shape,” Rudolph said. “I’m in great shape. I can go out there and run, but at the same time, I’m not peaking in the middle of April or in June when we’re out there running around in shorts. You look great running around but then halfway through the year you’re on the decline.”
Rudolph hopes the offseason change will allow him to peak during the season rather than Phase 2 of the NFL offseason schedule. He was expected to become a big weapon in offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s offense last year, but Rudolph needed sports hernia surgery after Week 2. He missed seven games and never returned to form after the injury.
Fresh off a five-year contract extension worth $36.5 million during training camp last year, Rudolph had just 24 receptions for 231 yards and two touchdowns last year.
“We can say all we want right in April, but the only way I’m going to put this behind me is going out there in September and playing until January.”
|Kansas City - J. Guthrie||5:10 PM|
|Cleveland - T. Bauer|
|Toronto - D. Hutchison||5:10 PM|
|Boston - C. Buchholz|
|Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi||6:05 PM|
|NY Yankees - C. Whitley|
|Washington - A. Cole||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - J. Teheran|
|NY Mets - R. Montero||6:10 PM|
|Miami - D. Phelps|
|Milwaukee - K. Lohse||6:10 PM|
|Cincinnati - J. Cueto|
|Pittsburgh - J. Locke||7:05 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - T. Wood|
|Seattle - J. Happ||7:05 PM|
|Texas - R. Detwiler|
|Detroit - A. Sanchez||7:10 PM|
|Minnesota - M. Pelfrey|
|Philadelphia - S. Gonzalez||7:15 PM|
|St. Louis - M. Wacha|
|Colorado - K. Kendrick||8:40 PM|
|Arizona - A. Bradley|
|LA Angels - J. Weaver||9:05 PM|
|Oakland - S. Gray|
|Houston - R. Hernandez||9:10 PM|
|San Diego - T. Ross|
|San Francisco - M. Bumgarner||9:10 PM|
|Los Angeles - C. Kershaw|
|San Antonio||9:30 PM|