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Trades, extra picks round out draft for Vikings

By CHRIS TOMASSON

St. Paul Pioneer Press

In his first draft as an NFL coach, Mike Zimmer might not have been thoroughly ready for what he saw from Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. But Spielman said it simply was par for the course.

Spielman has earned a reputation for being a freewheeling dealer during the draft, and that continued with his latest one. The Vikings ended up drafting 10 players for the third time in four years in the seven-round event.

The Vikings had made two deals during the first two days of the draft. They made two more Saturday as they concluded a draft in which seven of their players selected were on defense.

“Zim, I know Cincinnati’s not very big in moving around the draft, trading up, trading down, trading sideways,” Spielman said of Zimmer, who was the Bengals’ defensive coordinator before coming to Minnesota.

“This was a little bit of an experience for him. I said, ‘We’ll be fine. ... We’ll get good players.’ ”

The Vikings selected six players, five on defense, on a Saturday when rounds four through seven were held. That followed Thursday taking UCLA linebacker and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the first round and on Friday selecting Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton and Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon.

Minnesota on Saturday took Stanford guard David Yankey in the fifth round, Virginia Tech safety Antone Exum and Maine cornerback Kendall James in the sixth round, and Connecticut defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, Georgia Tech linebacker Brandon Watts and North Carolina cornerback Jabari Price in the seventh round.

The Vikings had entered Saturday with four picks before swinging trades with Carolina and Atlanta to end up with six selections. They dealt a fifth-rounder to Carolina for a later fifth-rounder and a seventh-rounder and traded a fifth-rounder to Atlanta for a sixth- and a seventh-rounder.

“I was trying to get as many draft picks because of the depth of the draft,” said Spielman, who apparently really wanted to beef up his secondary as he took three defensive backs Saturday.

Most of his picks were used on defense as the Vikings seek to improve a unit that finished 31st last year in total defense. That follows the Vikings having concentrated on that side of the ball in free agency.

“That will yet to be determined,” Spielman said about how much the Vikings have improved defensively since last season. “I know we have upgraded athletically. We’re a lot younger on defense than we were last year.”

The only offensive player signed in free agency was a reserve guard, and the highest offensive player taken in the draft was Bridgewater, who likely won’t play much next season. Spielman, though, said he’s unconcerned about the Vikings possibly not having added any new impact players to an offense that does return all 11 starters.

Spielman said Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner like many of the offensive players already in place. And Spielman expressed optimism about McKinnon helping the team next season.

As for the Vikings adding so many defensive players in the draft, Watts said it was exciting to see.

“It is,” he said. “With a lot of the new players on defense, it will help you adjust better and work harder because you have people just like you. Then try to get after it, and to contribute the best way you can.”

About the only offensive player the Vikings drafted Saturday, Spielman said Yankey was the top guy left on their board. Although he was drafted as a guard, Spielman said he likes the 6-foot-4, 314-pound Yankey being able to play multiple spots on the offensive line.

“They’re going to love this pick,” Stanford coach David Shaw said on NFL Network. “You put me in a corner, I’m putting him at right tackle. He’s got the length of a tackle.”

Yankey was one of seven players taken by the Vikings with picks they acquired through trades, while just three were taken with selections Minnesota had entering the draft. The Vikings got the pick used on Yankey when they traded down with Cleveland on Thursday from No. 8 to No. 9 in the first round and then took Barr.

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