JON KRAWCZYNSKI,AP Sports Writer
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Rick Spielman stepped to the podium with a big smile on his face, elated that his Minnesota Vikings were able to land Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night.
Just when he thought an already productive night was over, the general manager cut a press briefing short and sprinted back to the team’s draft room for one more deal. The receiver they coveted was still on the board, and New England was a willing trade partner.
Moments later, the Vikings were on the clock again, landing Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson in a binge that addressed needs at three of the team’s thinnest positions.
“Sorry about that,” a chuckling Spielman said to a group of reporters he left in the lurch.
The Vikings grabbed Floyd with the 23rd pick, Rhodes with the 25th and then gave up second, third, fourth and seventh round picks to New England to get back into the first round and take Patterson at No. 29, capping a dizzying 30-minutes at the end of the first night of the draft.
The Vikings entered the draft coming off a surprising playoff run last year and with major needs in the secondary, at receiver, linebacker and defensive tackle.
Floyd had 13 tackles for loss and 6½ sacks for the Gators as a junior last season. He was initially projected to go in the top 10 of the first round, but tumbled thanks to a run on offensive linemen higher in the draft. The Vikings have a history of taking Gators who tumbled after scoring big with receiver Percy Harvin in 2009.
With Kevin Williams aging and younger players like LeTroy Guion and Christian Ballard still relatively unproven, the Vikings jumped at the chance to stop Floyd’s slide down the board.
“I went through a thousand scenarios at that 23rd and 25th pick and I can tell you honestly he was not in one of those scenarios,” Spielman said. “So for him to fall down to our lap, there were some conversations as he fell to potentially even move up. But as the names kept falling off the board, we had more than enough options to just sit there and let everything fall to us. And when Sharrif fell to us, it was something that was very unexpected.”
Floyd was surprised to land with the Vikings, but excited to learn under Williams, one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL over the last eight years.
“I couldn’t have been part of a better ball club,” Floyd said. “I’m excited to get started.”
After taking the big defensive tackle, the Vikings then went for a big cornerback in Rhodes to help take on some of the big receivers in the NFC North like Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Chicago’s Brandon Marshall. He had four interceptions and 12 pass breakups as a junior last season and will help atone for the loss of trusted veteran Antoine Winfield, who signed with Seattle after being released due to salary cap concerns.
Spielman said they received several trade offers at 25, but the need for a cornerback to come in and play opposite Chris Cook was too great.
“Him and Floyd were two of the players that we said we will not trade out for,” Spielman said.
Then came the biggest move the night, when the Vikings paid a hefty to price to jump back into the first round for Patterson, a raw receiver with only one season of major college experience. He was a junior college transfer at Tennessee, but his ability to make plays after the catch and in the return game proved too much for the Vikings to pass up.
“We were very, very aggressive to go do that because I know what he can do as a receiver, but especially what he can do as a potential punt and kickoff returner,” Spielman said. “Because he is magic in that area as well.”
Patterson had 46 catches for 778 yards and five touchdowns last year and said he feels a sense of responsibility to the Vikings after they gave up so much to draft him. He also had three rushing touchdowns, a punt return for a touchdown and a kick return for another score.
“It means a lot to me,” Patterson said. “From not expecting to be on the Vikings, it was great to see all that they gave up to get me. I feel like I can be a great player for them.”
The one need the Vikings weren’t able to address on Thursday night was middle linebacker, where there still is not a starting caliber player on the roster. Many believed the Vikings would use one of their picks on Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o. But he was on the board all three times the Vikings were on the clock and they passed each time.
As it stands now, the Vikings do not have a pick on Friday, when the second and third rounds will be held. But coach Leslie Frazier said they could still address middle linebacker on Saturday, and did leave open the possibility of trading back up again.
“The draft is not over,” Frazier said. “We have some guys on our roster that can compete for the position and we still have some time to maybe bring in a young guy as well.”
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