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 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.
Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr thought it was a joke initially, but Eric Kendricks wasn’t kidding.
There will be a west coast reunion in the Vikings front seven this season with the Vikings selecting Kendricks, the inside linebacker out of UCLA, with the 45th overall selection in the second round. The two were not only best friends in Westwood but roommates during their tenure at UCLA.
“As soon as the pick came in, he called me on the phone and I couldn’t hear a word he said,” Kendricks said. “It was just kind of like a bunch of mumble jumble, laughter and excitement. He’s happy that I’m there too.”
The two talked about the possibility of playing together again, but Barr didn’t exactly think it would happen.
“There’s 32 NFL teams,” Barr said. “What are the odds that he’s our choice in the second round?”
Barr said he didn’t speak to general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer about Kendricks. The team only met with the inside linebacker for 15 minutes at the NFL Combine, but it was more than enough, however. The addition of Kendricks addressed a need at linebacker, and he has the capability to play either at middle or weakside.
“When I got the call and there were kind of going over it, it took at least a minute to really realize what was happening, where I was going and who I was playing with,” Kendricks said. “I really felt like it was kind of disrespectful because I wasn’t saying much. I was in complete shock. Once it finally clicked, I was so happy.”
Kendricks has the same sense of humor as Barr as well. He’s a leap year baby, meaning his birthday lands on Feb. 29. So technically, Kendricks is only 5 years old.
“Being 5 and in the pros is definitely an accomplishment,” Kendricks said. “I’ve dreamt about this since I was 3 years old.”
For a second straight year, the Vikings have used one of their top picks on a linebacker from UCLA.
With the 45th pick in the draft, the Vikings selected UCLA inside linebacker Eric Kendricks. He is a former teammate of outside linebacker Anthony Barr, the team’s first pick last year.
A three-year starter at UCLA, Kendricks led the Pac-12 with 150 tackles in 2012. He made 106 tackles in 2013 and made 149 in 2014, third in the nation. For that he just won the Butkus Award.
A little on the short side at 6-foot and tipping the scales at 232 pounds, Kendricks makes up for his smaller frame with speed — he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds in Indy — and the ability to cover in space. He could end up being the three-down middle linebacker the Vikings are looking for.
The Kendricks pick is the first time the Vikings have selected a player in the second round since General Manager Rick Spielman gained final say in the team’s draft room before the 2012 draft.
In the third round, Spielman finally got busy on the trade front. He added a sixth-round pick (No. 193 overall) from the Chiefs by trading down from the 76th pick to the 80th pick. He then traded the 80th pick to the Lions for the 88th overall pick in the third round and a fifth-rounder (No. 143).
When Spielman finally picked a player in the third, he went with LSU defensive end Danielle Hunter.
Hunter, a junior, had just 1.5 sacks this past season. But he led LSU with 13 tackles for a loss and recorded 73 tackles. He was a two-year starter at LSU. At 252 pounds, Hunter will probably need to put some weight on over time, but he is 6-foot-5 with arms longer than 34 inches. He is explosive, too, having run the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds at the combine, tops among all defensive linemen.
The Vikings will enter the final day of the draft with six picks. They have one fourth-rounder (No. 110 overall), two fifths (Nos. 137 and 143), one sixth (No. 193) and two sevenths (Nos. 228 and 232).
Despite showing great improvement defensively under head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have used their top three picks on defenders after selecting cornerback Trae Waynes in the first round.
Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes was introduced to the media on Friday a day after he was selected in with the 11th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.
And he was eager to start his journey as an NFL cornerback.
“I’m ready to get back to work and get over all this media stuff,” Waynes said.
He flew in this morning from Chicago, where the Michigan State product walked across the draft stage to shake NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand after his name was announced.
“It’s been hectic,” said Waynes of the last 24 hours. “I was anxious and ready to get this process over with but after I got that call, I was finally able to breathe a little bit. Then I realized I was able to start this new journey.”
Waynes said he’s looking forward to being coached by Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who considers himself an expert at coaching defensive backs. Waynes said Zimmer coached him during Michigan State’s pro day.
“He told me earlier him coaching me at pro day was nothing, and he coached me pretty hard,” Waynes said. “I’m really excited to see what type of player he can turn me into and hopefully I can help make an impact on this defense.”
Some other tidbits from Waynes’ presser:
On his aggressive style of play
“Just having that edge, I’ve always enjoyed tackling people and that just got brought out even more when I was at Michigan State but just by the coach. Coach [Harlon] Barnett always emphasized bringing that dog let that other guy out on the field. And we practiced tackling and we hitting drills more than anything else and that’s something they instilled in us.”
On if Waynes, a two-sport athlete in high school, ever consider picking baseball over football
“I thought about it. I never really thought about it seriously until I think my junior year. My baseball coach asked me if I was going to take it serious because he thought I had the potential to potentially get drafted. Football is my passion. This is what I love to do and I got ejected for two games because I ran over the catcher, just out of frustration. So obviously I had to stick with football. This is something I grew up watching and I love playing, so I just had to follow my dream.”
On what it means for the Kenosha, Wisconsin native to stay in the Midwest
“It means a lot. It’s really big just for a family standpoint. They’re going to be able to come to a lot of my games and not have to travel across the country just to see me play. My parents, they’re not really big on flying, so this is only a short drive away.”
On if he was a fan of the Packers growing up
The Vikings addressed a need at cornerback with the selection of Michigan State’s Trae Waynes on Thursday. They didn’t trade back into the first round this year, but there’s still some good talent on board for Day 2 of the NFL Draft on Friday.
The Vikings have the 13th pick in the second round (No. 45 overall) and the 12th pick in the third round (No. 76 overall) to try and address their needs at wide receiver, offensive line, linebacker and safety. In no particular order, here are 10 names the Vikings could target in the second and third rounds:
1. Nebraska DE/OLB Randy Gregory: He’s the best player available in the draft and should’ve been a first round pick, but Gregory has character concerns. He tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine, causing his stock to drop. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer were pretty adamant about finding high character players in the draft class on Thursday after selecting Waynes, so keep that in mind.
Gregory, who is one of the six players still left in the NFL Draft green room in Chicago, is listed at 6-5 and 235 pounds. He’s too light to play defensive end in the NFL at the start of his career and likely would project as an outside linebacker with the Vikings. He’s probably better suited in a 3-4 scheme though.
2. UCLA ILB Eric Kendricks: He’s an undersized middle linebacker at 6-feet and 232 pounds, but Kendricks has good instincts. He’s a three-down linebacker that could fill a need at middle linebacker in Week 1. The Vikings didn’t have that last year with Jasper Brinkley, who was a liability in coverage. There are questions about his durability, though Kendricks started all 13 games last year. He underwent surgery on his right ankle after the season, which was likely the reason why Kendricks dropped out of the first round.
3. Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong: He’s the best wide receiver available and, like Gregory and Kendricks, had the ability to be a first round pick. Strong won’t be a No. 1 option in the NFL, but he has the ceiling to become a No. 2 wide receiver. He needs to improve on creating separation and route running, but Strong has the size (listed at 6-2 and 217 pounds), strength and down field speed to become a solid offensive weapon.
4. Alabama S Landon Collins: He was considered the best safety in the draft but still remains on the board. Collins had shoulder surgery after the season after suffering the injury against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. He started all 14 games last season, however. Collins will likely be suited as a strong safety in the NFL because of how well he plays around the line of scrimmage. He’s good in run support and a good tackler. Collins will need to improve in coverage but could be a good fit with Vikings safety Harrison Smith given the versatility both safeties could bring to Zimmer’s defense.
5. Miami ILB Denzel Perryman: He’s another undersized middle linebacker, like Kendricks, that makes up for his lack of size with instincts. Perryman has a real thick body at 5-10 and 236 pounds. He’s not a quick, but Perryman has good range and recognition for his body build. He’s a thumper too and someone that can stop the run. The biggest concern with Perryman outside of his size is whether he can drop back in coverage and turn into a three-down linebacker.
6. Mississippi State ILB Benardrick McKinney: Oh, look, an inside linebacker with prototypical size! McKinney is listed at 6-4 and 246 pounds and made 36 career starts. He lacks the instincts that you’ll find in both Kendricks and Perryman, though. It’ll be interesting to see how the Vikings view some of the remaining inside linebackers given their limitations. The biggest concern for McKinney is he lacks consistency all around in both pass coverage and run support. But Zimmer loves size and speed at linebacker, as we saw from the first round selection last year in linebacker Anthony Barr.
7. South Carolina OG A.J. Cann: I really like Cann. Listed at 6-2 and 313 pounds, he’s a very physical left guard that can hold his own in both run and pass situations. Cann displays the physicality you want from an offensive lineman, and he handled blitz packages and stunts fairly well on the left side. That was an issue for the Vikings last year with left tackle Matt Kalil and left guard Charlie Johnson, who was released in the offseason. Cann finished with 51 career starts, the second most in school history, and looks like he could be a Week 1 starter in the NFL.
8. Oklahoma/Missouri WR Dorial Green-Beckham: I tried to avoid players with character concerns based on the comments made by Spielman and Zimmer on Thursday and almost added Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs to this list over Green-Beckham. He has huge off-the-field concerns with a domestic violence case in 2014 that got him kicked out of Missouri. There isn’t another wide receiver that has the capability of turning into a No. 1 option, however, as Green-Beckham is listed at 6-5 and 237 pounds. He’s still raw and needs to develop as a route runner, but Green-Beckham has the physical tools to turn into a dangerous offensive weapon. The question is whether the Vikings, who brought Green-Beckham to Winter Park for a visit, can trust him off the field.
9. Louisville S James Sample: It’s not exactly the Louisville prospect most Vikings fans wanted (Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker), but Sample could be a possible fit if the Vikings don’t snag Collins in the second round. He has good size for a safety at 6-2 and 209 pounds, but Sample didn’t have a productive college career. He left Washington to seek more playing time and eventually landed at Louisville for a season. Though he started all 14 games at Louisville, Sample will need time to develop because he didn’t get a chance to play much in college. He’s an all-around solid safety though that can be productive in both coverage and run support. Sample could be a third round target.
10. Hobart (NY) OL Ali Marpet: MAAAAAARPETTTTTTTTTT. I love this Division III product’s last name, but he’s also a good prospect. Marpet jumped on the scene at the Senior Bowl and performed exceptionally well against some good Division I talent. He’ll likely play guard in the NFL, listed at 6-3 and 307 pounds, due to Marpet’s ability as a run blocker. He’ll need to improve in pass protection, but Marpet should be someone to keep an eye on in the third round.
|Washington - WP: D. Fister||1||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: D. Gee||0|
|Philadelphia - WP: S. Gonzalez||6||FINAL|
|Miami - LP: J. Cosart||2|
|Toronto - LP: J. Francis||7||FINAL|
|Cleveland - WP: M. Rzepczynski||10|
|Cincinnati - LP: J. Cueto||0||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran||5|
|Tampa Bay - LP: S. Geltz||2||FINAL|
|Baltimore - WP: T. Hunter||4|
|Chicago WSox - LP: J. Danks||3||FINAL|
|Minnesota - WP: R. Pressly||13|
|Detroit - WP: A. Sanchez||6||FINAL|
|Kansas City - LP: J. Guthrie||4|
|Seattle - LP: C. Smith||6||FINAL|
|Houston - WP: P. Neshek||7|
|Pittsburgh - LP: R. Liz||2||FINAL|
|St. Louis - WP: M. Socolovich||3|
|Milwaukee - WP: W. Smith||5||FINAL|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: P. Strop||3|
|Oakland - WP: S. Gray||7||FINAL|
|Texas - LP: Y. Gallardo||1|
|LA Angels - LP: J. Weaver||0||FINAL|
|San Francisco - WP: T. Lincecum||5|
|Colorado - LP: K. Kendrick||6||FINAL|
|San Diego - WP: J. Shields||8|
|Arizona - LP: E. Marshall||0||FINAL|
|Los Angeles - WP: J. Howell||1|
|NY Yankees||5||Bottom 3rd Inning|
|Minnesota||0||1st Prd 5:54|
|Sporting Kansas City||1|
|New York City||1|