A night of high drama in Minnesota
April, 26, 2013
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Ben LiebenbergThe Vikings were, GM Rick Spielman said, "very, very aggressive" in grabbing Cordarrelle Patterson.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- I stood late Thursday night in the Minnesota Vikings' practice facility, mildly surprised that "Crazy Rick" Spielman had used neither of his first-round picks on Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. Presently, an alarmed staffer cut into Spielman's news conference.
"Rick has to go," the staffer said. "He'll be back with you soon."
Anxious, Spielman jumped off a podium and sprinted upstairs to the Vikings' draft room.
Ah, I thought. Here we go. At the end of a long night, Crazy Rick would find a way to make the long-assumed decision to bring Te'o to Minnesota.
Reporters gathered around phones and a television.
ESPN's Adam Schefter announced partial terms of a deal the Vikings were considering: Surrendering four draft choices to move back into the first round to make a third selection.
Was it Te'o?
Was it a playmaking receiver the Vikings so desperately needed after trading Percy Harvin?
Drama played out in real time Thursday night for the Vikings, who made the biggest splash of the NFL's first round -- and they didn't even take Te'o. They benefitted from an unexpected drop by Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, scooping him up at No. 23, and two picks later grabbed a big cornerback in Florida State's Xavier Rhodes.
Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier then departed the draft room to begin conducting media interviews. On the way out of the door, Frazier asked Spielman if there was a chance to trade back into the first round for one of several players the team had targeted.
According to Frazier, the consensus was no. "Was looking like probably Friday," Frazier said afterward.
So as the draft moved on, Spielman walked downstairs to speak to beat reporters. Frazier popped on a local radio show. In that moment, a call arrived for those who remained in the draft room. The group included assistant general manager George Paton and director of college scouting Scott Studwell.
The New England Patriots were willing to give up the No. 29 overall pick, but it would be costly. If the Vikings wanted back in, they would have to give up choices in the second, third, fourth and seventh rounds of this draft.
Spielman and Frazier quickly reconvened. Even if they met the Patriots' demands, they would have five picks remaining (one in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, along with two in the seventh). The Vikings had Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson ranked as the draft's second-most explosive receiver after West Virginia's Tavon Austin, and Spielman said: "We felt like he could be that much of a difference-maker."
So the trigger was pulled, the Vikings drafted Patterson and finished the day with three first-round selections, the first team to have more than two first-rounders since the St. Louis Rams in 2001.
(Te'o, by the way, was not drafted in the first round. With no picks available until the fourth round, the Vikings would have to make another deal to draft him. Chances are they'll need to fall back on a third-tier prospect Saturday.)
I bring you that play-by-play in part because I saw it happen in front of my bloodshot eyes and in part because it demonstrates how the draft doesn't just surprise the fans and media members watching from the outside. Sometimes, it takes the teams aback as well.
In the old days, Spielman and Frazier might have been standing on a patio having a stress-relieving cigarette after selecting Rhodes. In 2013, they were fulfilling media obligations and planning for Day 2.
Yes, it was a startling night from start to finish in Minnesota. The Vikings had rolled through 1,000 separate draft scenarios during pre-draft work, according to Spielman, and Floyd "was not in one" of them. The early guess is that Floyd, discussed by media analysts at one point as a top-five prospect, fell because of the startling run of offensive linemen and pass-rushers ahead of him.
Sometimes, players drop because of previously unreported character issues, but Spielman insisted Floyd checked out "very clean" and admitted the Vikings considered trading up to make sure they got him. Floyd figures as the heir apparent to veteran Kevin Williams, who will be 33 in August and is entering the final year of his contract.
It wasn't stunning to see the Vikings draft a cornerback, but Rhodes' 6-foot-1 frame suggested he would be off the board as well in a league that cherishes big cornerbacks. The Vikings liked Rhodes so much at No. 25 that they shut the door on all possible trade-downs, of which there were several.
At that point, everyone -- including Spielman and Frazier -- all figured the Vikings' night was over. They thought they had a chance to trade up in the second round Friday and draft Patterson, but when the Patriots called, they decided not to take a risk.
"We were very, very aggressive there," Spielman said, acknowledging the high price tag. Patterson spent only one season at Tennessee after playing at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College, but the Vikings envision him in a role that a raw receiver could fill. He'll start off as a punt and kickoff returner, where Spielman boasted Patterson "is magic" and can "do just as much or more as Percy [Harvin]." They'll also feature him in some of the simple bubble screens and backfield plays they used Harvin in to capitalize on his open-field running ability.
For a refresher on our pre-draft discussion on Patterson, here is a link to his Sports Science video.
The Vikings were hoping to get better in the first round of this draft, and I think they accomplished that. But even they were surprised by how it happens. Sometimes that's how it goes.