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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Vikings drafts by the numbers in the Spielman era

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 28th at 1:46pm 301575401

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.

History of the Vikings' pick: No. 45 overall

Posted by: Matt Vensel Updated April 28th at 10:57am 301553881

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.

Kyle Rudolph training to become durable

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated April 28th at 10:52am 301553871

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.”

Captain Munnerlyn seeking to prove his value again

Posted by: Master Tesfatsion Updated April 27th at 7:06pm 301457851

Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn wouldn’t stop tweeting about his offseason workouts on Twitter over the last few months. It was clearly on his mind to improve physically after a down season in his first year with the Vikings.

Munnerlyn said he started his workout program right before the Super Bowl, earlier than when he’d normally begin to train. He felt he lost a step last year and wasn’t in the best shape physically.

“I didn’t play my best football,” Munnerlyn said. “I pulled my hamstring early, started on the [Physically Unable to Perform] list. I just wasn’t myself. I’ve gone back to the drawing board, and I’m excited again. I’m ready to play.”

He said he’s dropped 10-12 pounds and regained his speed. He revamped his diet, calling it the “LeBron James Diet” where he cut out red meat another other food items he enjoyed eating.

Munnerlyn, a seventh-round pick out of South Carolina in 2009, inked a three-year deal worth just over $11 million with the Vikings last offseason. He felt the increase in salary changed him mentally last offseason.

“I’ve joked with the guys about last year saying, ‘I got a little new money last year and kind of got new to me,’” Munnerlyn said. “…It was a little different. I wasn’t used to that. I wasn’t use to it. But now I’m back to the drawing board, back to my roots.”

Munnerlyn said he’s out to prove he can once again be used as an outside cornerback and a nickel back. Among his doubters include Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who said at the Senior Bowl in January that Munnerlyn played out of position last season.  Listed at 5-9 and 195 pounds, Munnerlyn has been knocked as just a nickel cornerback throughout his career mainly due to his size.

“I just don’t see myself as a nickel back,” Munnerlyn said. “That’s just me. I see myself as an every-down corner. I want to be on the field every single down. But if the process work out and I’m just a nickel, I’m going to be the best nickel I can be. I’m going to be the best nickel in the NFL, that’s how I look at it.”

Now 32, Greenway is learning the art of training efficiently as an older player

Posted by: Mark Craig Updated April 27th at 7:10pm 301451221

At 32, Chad Greenway is a young man in every walk of life except the path he’s on. In NFL years, the Vikings outside linebacker and  his knees are old. But they’re smarter this time of year, which Greenway believes will translate into the three of them staying productive throughout another season.

Earlier today, Greenway and several teammates were at Winter Park starting the second week of the team’s offseason conditioning program. For Greenway, it’s the early stages of working his way toward the NFL benchmark of 10 seasons. And it comes after Greenway gave himself extra time to recover from rib, wrist, hand and knee injuries that cost him four games a year ago. The only four games he has missed since a torn ACL wiped out his entire rookie season in 2006.

“The longer you play, the longer it takes you to recover,” Greenway told reporters allowed to watch today’s workouts. “So you take that time to get your body to get back to as good as it’s going to be, I guess. You just have to take it at your own pace. But we’re working pretty hard here.

“I don’t run as much as I used to. I ride more bike this time of year. I run when I have to. Get in top shape the way I can do it without pounding the body, especially the knees. But that’s just part of the deal. It’s hard on you so eventually you’re going to break down.”

Greenway was asked what his plans are beyond 2015. He laughed.

“I knew that was coming,” Greenway said. “I don’t know how it’s going to go. I’ll tell you I’m enjoying everything with the idea of, ‘Who knows?’ We’ll see. Ten years is sort of that is sort of that unwritten … everyone wants to get there. We’ll see what happens.”

Ten years with the same team is even more unusual.

“I’m certainly proud of that,” he said. “It’s not something a lot of people can talk about, being at one place for 10 years. Not only having the staying power to play at that level, but also having an organization want to back you for that long. To immerse myself in the community more and more and knowing that we’re going to be staying here post-football is nice to know.”

Some other highlights from Greenway:

On Year 2 in coach Mike Zimmer’s program:
“It’s a lot better. First of all, one less mini-camp. Second of all, your head isn’t spinning as much now from this staff and what their expectations are and what’s in the playbook at how it’s going to come at you. I think we’ll be moving a lot faster as we get going.”

On whether he knows if his role will change:

“Not at all. I’m going out there obviously expecting to play every snap and help the team win. Whatever happens, happens. We just want to find a new way to win.”

On having to take a pay cut for the second straight offseason:

“It’s a non-issue. We were able to work through it and created a good environment for us.”

On talking to Adrian Peterson recently:

“I talked to him a little while ago and kind of shared some thoughts with him. I think everyone is in support of him and trying to come back and try to be a part of this group. We’ll see how it all shakes out.

“We had a good conversation. When you play with a guy going on nine years, you have a great relationship, and I do with him. He said his piece and I just heard him out. Obviously he brings a lot to our team and we’d love to have him back this offseason and start working with him.”

On whether the ACL he tore as a rookie has given him problems since 2006:

“Yes. Consistently. I’ve had it scoped a couple of different times since then. That’s been documented that I’ve missed time for that in the offseason. It’s ongoing and it’s always been my biggest issue is my knees. I had one in college and one in the pros. It’s just something you learn to deal with and that’s ultimately at the end of the day, after my 10th season, that will be the deciding factor for me [trying to play an 11th season]. Do I want to continue to punish my body? We’ll see how it goes.”

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Cleveland - T. Bauer
Toronto - D. Hutchison 5:10 PM
Boston - C. Buchholz
Chicago WSox - J. Samardzija 6:05 PM
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