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Updated: April 28th, 2012 9:18pm
Meet the Vikings' Class of 2012

Meet the Vikings' Class of 2012

by Tom Pelissero
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings entered Thursday with 10 picks in the NFL Draft.

They emerged with 10 players -- four on offense, five on defense and a kicker -- plus extra fourth- and sixth-round picks in 2013 acquired through two of the four trades general manager Rick Spielman executed over the past three days.

"I know the biggest part was trying to upgrade our roster from a personnel standpoint," Spielman said, "and I believe we accomplished that mission this weekend."

The following is a player-by-player look at the Vikings' Class of 2012. Click the links for player quotes, statistics, measurements and highlights:

1. (4) Matt Kalil, LT, Southern California

The skinny: The draft's top tackle, Kalil (6-foot-6 5/8, 310 pounds) was a consensus all-America pick as a junior in 2011, his second season as a starter with the Trojans. His strength is pass protection and he immediately takes over as the starting left tackle, in theory upgrading two spots on the line by allowing Charlie Johnson to move to left guard.

In his own words, on not getting help in protection at USC: "Especially in the NFL, you're going to be left alone a lot and depended on. That's why we're drafted so high. I definitely take pride in protecting my quarterback and I like those challenges when I don't have any help and I get mad when I get help because I want to beat that guy by myself. That's what I love to do. I like going one-on-one against a defensive end and kind of being in that one-on-one battle. That's always fun for me."

Spielman: "I think right now (his strengths are) with his arm length and his athletic skill set and his feet and how patient he is right now as a pass rusher. He has great ability to pull. I know Bill (Musgrave, the offensive coordinator) likes to pull our offensive linemen. That fits something we are looking for in our scheme as well. He does get a little high. We'll have to learn to work with a little better knee bend. All the stuff that we say may be a negative is all easily corrected with coaching."

1. (29) Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame

The skinny: A four-year starter with the Fighting Irish who began his college career as a linebacker, Harrison (6-1 7/8, 213) has the versatility to play both safety spots and the instincts required in the Vikings' Tampa-2 scheme. He'll enter offseason practices at free safety, but the smart money says he's the starting strong safety in Week 1.

In his own words, on what can make him a success in the NFL: "I think being a versatile guy, especially now with all of these tight ends, so athletic, so big. You know they can do it all. Can you come down and cover those guys and make them less of a threat? And then just the simple things, like a good open field tackle. Do you fit within the defense? Do you do your job every play and be one-eleventh of your defense? Just the little things, I think, make great players. Instead of trying to focus on these outstanding plays that might happen every now and then, but then you give up a home run every other snap."

Spielman: "The thing is with our safeties, they have to be interchangeable, and they have to be able to play both strong and free. He's very effective in the box. When you look at him, you see that he does have range. You watch the Michigan State game this year and some of the big plays he made in that game. We watched him play on the big stage -- he has held up against, and made terrific plays against, top competition. The big stage is not going to be too big for this kid."

3. (66) Josh Robinson, CB, Central Florida

The skinny: The fastest man at the NFL scouting combine, Robinson (5-10 1/8, 199 pounds) was a first-team all-Conference USA selection as a junior, ranking fourth in the nation with 1.42 passes defended per game. He has the quickness to play the slot but probably will get a long look at right cornerback in the offseason, as well as a chance to contribute in the return game.

In his own words, on his strengths: "I can react quickly. I have a quick reaction, and of course everyone has speed at the next level so I never really say that as a strength, but I always tell everybody that I'm versatile. I can do whatever you want me to do, whether it's be a safety, or guard the flat, whether it be man, zone, anything. That's something that I've done at UCF, the ability to play all the special teams, that's just something that has helped me throughout my career."

Spielman: "He does have the foot speed, the quickness, how he can flip his hips, the burst out of his transition to close back underneath, the anticipation and that unique trait as far as anticipating when a receiver's going to break and his ability to get out of his transition and close to the ball, and even sometimes, just like DBs, you'll him maybe bite on a double move and just watching his recovery speed if they do get a step on him and how quickly he can recover, those are some of the unique traits that he does have."

4. (118) Jarius Wright, WR, Arkansas

The skinny: Another speed threat, Wright (5-9 5/8, 182) posted career highs with 66 receptions for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior from the flanker position, earning first-team all-Southeastern Conference honors. He figures as a front-runner from punt-return duties and also has the quick-twitch traits to train into Percy Harvin's multifaceted slot role on offense.

In his own words, on his role in the NFL: "I think I can fit anywhere, as a special teams guy, punt returner, kick returner, and also as a receiver playing inside or outside. I think I have the skill set to play inside and outside at receiver."

Spielman: "He's an extremely gifted athlete. He has great speed. We're trying to increase our speed both on the offense and defensive side. We feel that he has the chance to come in and eventually be a punt returner. We were going through that draft, what you start seeing in that fourth round is all those smaller receivers that have return ability, and so there was a run on those guys and we felt very fortunate to get Jarius at the time we got him because not only can he help on offense, but also as a potential returner as well, and a big-play returner, and that's one of the things that we definitely wanted to look at."

4. (128) Rhett Ellison, TE, Southern California

The skinny: The son of a former NFL linebacker (Riki Ellison) who worked with the fullbacks at the combine, Ellison (6-5, 250) had 53 catches for 471 yards and six touchdowns in four college seasons and also contributed heavily on special teams, earning first-team all-Pac-12 team honors as a senior. He figures to work in the movement, H-back type of role occupied in part last season by retired veteran Jimmy Kleinsasser.

In his own words, on his strengths: "I want to do what's best for the team. I want to do whatever it takes to win. Whether it's on special teams or at fullback, it's the team that matters and that's always what I put first. I don't have any specific skills, but I would say my will to win."

Spielman: "Rhett is a great character guy, extremely bright, can play multiple positions. We lost (Visanthe Shiancoe) and we lost Kleinsasser, so we're trying to create as much competition at that third tight end spot as possible. But visiting with Rhett at the combine, I was our personally at his pro day, he does a lot of things for an offense just because of his versatility and his intelligence to do a lot of different things. So, he can give you some of the same things we saw in Kleinsasser."

4. (134) Greg Childs, WR, Arkansas

The skinny: A lean leaper with experience at several positions, Childs (6-3 1/8, 219) had a monster sophomore season, suffered a complete patella tendon tear as a junior and wasn't himself as a senior, catching only 21 passes for 240 yards. He's healthy again, though, and figures to compete for action outside.s

In his own words, on his role at Arkansas and in the NFL: "I lined up all over the place, inside, outside receiver. In Minnesota, I'm here to do it all. I can play any position. I'll play any position they put me at. I'm going to learn the whole playbook so I can play every position. I'm just ready to get out on the field and compete."

Spielman: "He's a big receiver. He can go up and get the ball in the red zone. If you watched him in 2010 in the Auburn game and some of the other games that he did play in, some of the big catches that he made in the Alabama game, we felt that we got great value with him there. I think the reason he fell is because he didn't play as well this year, didn't have as productive of a year. But I know how long it takes to come back from a patellar injury. Seeing him at the East-West, seeing him workout this spring, seeing him at the combine, he looks fully, 100 percent healthy. And looking to get a player that we saw in 2010 and 2009 with that big outside receiver that does have big-play ability."

5. (139) Robert Blanton Jr., CB, Notre Dame

The skinny: A long-levered, press-zone corner, Blanton (6-0¾, 208) played in 50 games with 26 starts over four seasons with the Irish. He has good strength and feet for his size but may end up at safety because of his lack of speed.

In his own words, on whether he's more comfortable playing cornerback: "I am comfortable out on the field and being a player. At the end of the day, there is no real big difference between safety and corner. You still have to cover a guy and you still have to tackle when it comes time to tackle. You have to make plays on the ball in the air and you have to be a football player. You've got to be great to play either one."

Spielman: "The speed was somewhat a concern. But I know he's a sure tackler. He's very tough. I was reading some of his quotes. He talked to you guys -- I think you guys can feel the passion. I was excited reading his quotes."

6. (175) Blair Walsh, K, Georgia

The skinny: A strong-legged kicker who converted 10 of 17 career attempts from 50 yards and beyond, Walsh (5-9¼, 187) was a first-team all-SEC pick as a junior but slumped as a senior, making only 21 of his nation-leading 35 field-goal attempts. He'll compete with 16th-year veteran Ryan Longwell in camp.

In his own words, on his struggles as a senior: "Yes, my senior year didn't go the way I wanted it to. I ended up missing early on in the season, I missed a couple kicks and I started pressing a little bit. I'm my own worst critic. I just want to be there for the team, and help the team out. I feel like I got it back on track in the middle, end of the season. I learned from it, and I think I'm a better man and kicker for it."

Spielman: "I know watching him at the combine, he was the best kickoff guy that we saw there, as far as averaging almost 4.5 hang time and had a lot of touchbacks, and we felt he was the best kickoff guy at the combine. I know during the combine he's been very successful from plus-50 so you know he does have the leg strength. I believe he went 3-for-3 during the combine workouts. What we were looking at is just value in football players regardless of position and felt he was a good value where we got him."

7. (210) Audie Cole, LB, North Carolina State

The skinny: A versatile linebacker who shifted from the strong side to the middle as a senior, Cole (6-4 1/8, 246) racked up 276 tackles (147 solo) and 14 sacks in 51 college games (38 starts), earning all-ACC honorable mention honors and a spot on the Butkus Award semifinal list as a senior. The Vikings' coaching staff worked with him at the Senior Bowl and figures to look at him in multiple spots, as well as on special teams.

In his own words, on where he'll fit in the NFL: "I've been told by people that I'll play outside and that I'll never play inside again, and I've been told by people that I'm an inside linebacker. Honestly, I don't know. It's up to the coaches in Minnesota now for what I will be doing. What I do know is that I'm going to have to work my tail off on special teams every day and do whatever I can do to help them out. "

Spielman: "There's another guy that has a lot of versatility. We coached him down at the Senior Bowl. Another bright kid that has passion for the game. He's played outside. He moved to Mike linebacker this year. I know John Tenuta, the defensive coordinator down there, and talked to him when I went down there this fall. He can probably play all three positions and that's what we're looking for when we're looking for linebackers, is we do cross-train those guys."

7. (219) Trevor Guyton, DE, California

The skinny: A competitive power rusher, Guyton (6-2 5/8, 285) had 10 sacks and 20½ tackles for loss over his last two college seasons. He'll compete for time at multiple spots.

In his own words, on his best position: "I feel comfortable playing everywhere. I played everywhere at Cal. That's one of the best things I bring to the table is my versatility. The Vikings like what I can do. I'll wait and see what position they want me at. I'm just going to go up there and work hard and show why I deserve to be there."

Spielman: "Guyton can play three-technique. He can also play left defensive end. It gives you another rotation guy. They used him inside as a nickel rusher. So he's been over the nose some as a nickel rusher. And the more guys that we can bring in here who have versatility to play multiple positions, the more value they have for us."

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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