Meet the Vikings' Class of 2013
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman swears it's not by design. But for the second consecutive year, his draft class looks like it was put together in pairs.
The Vikings drafted nine players before the NFL Draft ended on Saturday and six of them played together in college, the same number of teammates as the class of 2012.
Last year, the Vikings took teammates from Southern California (left tackle Matt Kalil and tight end Rhett Ellison), Notre Dame (safeties Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton) and Arkansas (receivers Jarius Wright and Greg Childs).
This year, it was UCLA (punter Jeff Locke and guard Jeff Baca), Penn State (linebackers Gerald Hughes and Michael Mauti) and Florida State (cornerback Xavier Rhodes and defensive tackle Everett Dawkins).
"It's still just a coincidence. It is," Spielman said on Saturday night, laughing. "There's a lot of good players at those schools, apparently."
The following is a player-by-player look at the Vikings' draft class of 2013. Click the links for player quotes, statistics and highlights:
The skinny: Widely projected as the draft's top defensive tackle, Floyd (6-foot-3, 297 pounds) wasn't even in a part of the Vikings' pre-draft scenarios because they assumed he'd be gone. He projects as a three-technique in the NFL and comes across as an even-keeled personality -- not unlike the man he's expected to eventually replace, veteran Kevin Williams.
In his own words: "I played every position across the board at Florida, and even at nose, or three-technique, wherever the team sees me as the best fit is what I'm going to do. I'm just going to do my job. ... I don't think I compare to a lot of people because I haven't watched football to know who I compare to, but I think my style of play is my style of play."
Spielman: "What he brings to us from a defensive standpoint, not only his ability to play the run but his ability to get up field and rush the passer and just the natural athletic skills this player has, not just what you've seen on tape. When we meet with our coaches, and meet with our scouts and go through the film and read our reports, this is everything we are looking for to identify a defensive tackle that fits with our scheme."
The skinny: A press-man corner known for providing a physical outside presence, Rhodes (6-1, 210) also can run (4.4-range 40-yard dash) and was one of the combine's top performers in the vertical jump (40½ inches) and broad jump (132 inches). He figures to compete immediately for the starting job opposite Chris Cook -- a big pairing that has the potential to allow the Vikings to be more aggressive with their calls.
In his own words: "I was the person, when I played receiver (in high school), that liked to ... just try to find the contact. My coaches were always telling me I'm kind of crazy. ... I support the run. I'm always down, willing to tackle, throw my body into the lead blocker or throw my body to make the tackle. I'm not afraid to tackle anyone."
Spielman: "When we saw him with his size, his strength, his ability to support the run, his ability to play press coverage, his ball skills were very unique. I think when we were looking at corners, Coach (Leslie) Frazier and the defensive staff had a specific player in mind to play corner in this scheme and it's our job to try to identify those types of players. Xavier fit every specification we were looking for, especially with the type of receivers we have to match-up and the type of quarterbacks that we have to play in this division."
The skinny: A raw route-runner with explosive athletic traits and return ability, Patterson (6-2, 216) was acquired with a bold trade up by Spielman, who gave third-, fourth- and seventh-round picks to New England. He played only one year of Division I football, and it remains how quickly the Vikings can teach and integrate him into the offense.
In his own words: "My biggest challenge will be that I will have to come in and work hard every day. The first thing I will have to do is get into that playbook and start learning the different coverages and hook up with the quarterback and a couple of receivers and get ready to work. ... I feel like, when I get the ball in my hands, I feel like I'm so special with it so I feel like I can bring a lot to it."
Spielman: "Not only is he a talented receiver, but when you saw him (at Tennessee), they gave him the ball on reverses, they gave it to him out of the backfield on some toss sweeps, they used him as a kickoff returner towards the end of the season, they used him as a punt returner. ... I couldn't believe a guy with this size and this much speed made the type of movement and the type of elusiveness that he showed on that tape. ... We felt very strongly that he was by far, with (West Virginia's) Tavon Austin, the most explosive playmaker in this draft."
The skinny: A converted safety, Hodges (6-1, 243) looks like a classic Tampa-2 will linebacker -- small, fast enough and at his best in space. He'll primarily compete for time outside and could get a look in the middle, too.
In his own words: "I told them I can play either outside or inside. I can just play the linebacker position as well and I believe that I'm going to do nothing but get better at the linebacker position. I have had great coaches that made me ready, and I'm just ready to go."
Spielman: "He has the position flexibility to play a lot of different linebacker spots, either the sam, the will, we'll look at him some as the mike. Coaches will figure that all out when he comes in. But the thing that he really has is the athletic skillset, not only how he played in space ... he was usually lined up outside, they put him over the slot at times, they stacked him a few times. ... They even tried him as a punt returner, but I don't think that worked out very well."
The skinny: A left-footer, Locke (6-0, 209) also handled kickoffs in college, though he won't do that here. He immediately becomes the favorite to beat out veteran incumbent Chris Kluwe, who says he wants to compete for the job but may not even make it to camp.
In his own words: "Growing up, I was a big soccer player. I hadn't really touched a football until I got to high school and then it kind of just took off from there when I started kicking and getting more serious about it. ... I'm just going to come in and compete. Either way, you're competing with somebody in the NFL no matter where you go. I'm just going to come in and do my best."
Spielman: "One, the character, and two, he's a left-footed punter, which helps. Three, he's a great directional kicker, and four, he's excellent getting the ball inside the 20. Very good holder. Good athlete. Those were all the things, once we got into our draft meetings, and then like last year we sent Coach (Mike) Priefer out and did numerous private workouts. So when he came back and we were in our special teams meetings, he gave his input into it. Once we gathered all that information that's why we made the decision."
The skinny: An aggressive blocker with some impressive physical traits, Baca (6-3, 302) split his 45 college starts between guard and tackle. He played some center at the East-West Shrine Game and figures to compete at the three inside positions.
In his own words: "I believe I can play all three positions on the line. With proper coaching, I think that is something I can absolutely do. ... My athletic ability and my versatility (are strengths). The ability to play multiple positions on the offensive line."
Spielman: "He's played up and down the line -- tackle, guard, center. He's one of the 'Viking fit' type. I know what Jeff Davidson looks for. Very tough, competitive kid that has some position flexibility. Very excited that he got in the mix."
The skinny: A productive outside linebacker whose father, Rich, played eight NFL seasons as a receiver, Mauti (6-2, 243) is coming off his third torn ACL in four years. He projects as a mike in the NFL and will compete at the Vikings' most unsettled position once he's fully healed.
In his own words: "I have a lot of experience in the 4-3 defense, and I have played all three positions at Penn State. ... I will probably be a little more limited this year and in the OTAs next weekend (because of the injury), but once we get more into the preseason and I am running around and flying around a little bit, I'll be ready to go."
Spielman: "We were very strict on him at the combine. I've asked 'Sug' (head athletic trainer Eric Sugarman) 8,000 times, because he's a heck of a football player and has a great attitude, great leadership, is this guy healthy? ... We're going to start rehabbing him, but he should be ready to go by training camp. He was just too good of a football player, too good of a character, too good of a leader to pass up. ... He's very intense, and he'll be definitely a great competition at that mike linebacker position."
The skinny: A mammoth inside presence who has dealt with weight issues, Bond (6-6, 329) could get a chance to compete at both guard and tackle.
In his own words: "I like being physical so when I actually started playing it was pretty fun. Like I said I like being physical, I like getting all up in the defensive tackle's face. That's the fun part about football, the battles won and the trenches. I felt like we're always going to be underdogs when it comes to that situation. People that don't know sports always think we're nobodys on the field but we're actually making the big plays."
Spielman: "Jeff Davidson went down and spent a lot of time with him down at North Carolina at the pro day, spent some time with him on the board and got to know him. He fits the type of lineman we're trying to bring in here -- guys that can move and maul you at the point, especially with the running game we try to establish."
The skinny: A smallish three-technique, Dawkins (6-2, 292) enters an uphill battle competing for a spot behind Williams, Floyd and Christian Ballard.
In his own words: "I played the three-technique in the 4-3 defense, but we were more a read defense. My body and my playing style is more of an attack, one-gap style, and that's what Minnesota is. I'm loving everything about it and getting to go back to the way I used to play -- getting up the field, getting at the quarterback and being able to make plays."
Spielman: "Little bit undersized, but a very quick, upfield, one-gap penetrator. He was the highest-rated guy on our board at the time and felt he was just too good of a player not to draft and pass up."