Meet the Vikings' class of 2011
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- With only two picks in the first 105 selections of the NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings thoroughly contemplated trading up to get into the third round on Friday night.
Instead, they held tight, traded back once to add an extra pick and ended up with 10 selections that addressed every position of need -- albeit mostly in the final three rounds.
"We felt very fortunate the way the draft fell to us this year," vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman said. "Everything just seemed to kind of click and hit right in place."
The following is a player-by-player look at the Vikings' Class of 2010. Click the links for player quotes and videos.
1. (12) Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State
The skinny: Ponder (6-foot-2, 229 pounds) arrives as the Vikings' quarterback of the future, if not the present. He completed 61.8% of his passes for 6,872 yards with 49 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in 37 games (24 starts) over four seasons with the Seminoles. The Vikings likely will sign a veteran quarterback, at least as a backup, but Ponder sits atop the depth chart for now along with Joe Webb.
Spielman: "He is extremely bright -- one of the top quarterbacks as we went through this process. He graduated in two-and-a-half years. He has his M.B.A. and is working on his second Masters (degree). After talking with their coaches, he knows their offense inside and out. He has also worked in a pro-style offense. He has taken some snaps from center and you can see how accurate he is when he gets back and sets his feet. All of them are going to have some things to work on, but we felt he was NFL-ready."
More: Vikings tried to trade down ... Q&A with Ponder ... Scouts say Ponder is a "genius" ... A photographic look at Ponder's college career ... Ponder could start, but Vikings need a veteran QB, Musgrave says ... 'I have to earn my respect,' Ponder says ... Coaches take advantage of time with new QB ... Interest in Donovan McNabb?
2. (43) Kyle Rudolph, TE, Notre Dame
The skinny: Rudolph (6-5, 266) was considered a first-round talent who dropped because of concerns about a serious hamstring injury that shortened his junior season in 2010. In 29 college games (28 starts), he had 90 catches for 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns. The Vikings like his versatility and believe he can play in tandem with Visanthe Shiancoe, who like Jimmy Kleinsasser and Jeff Dugan is entering a contract season on the wrong side of age 30.
Spielman: "We had no issues with him medically after he was cleared by our doctors. When he fell to us, we felt that he was too good of a player to pass up. ... He has a lot of different skill-sets. You can split him out wide, you can put him as an H (back) or you can put him on the line of scrimmage. He's going to develop into a starting tight end in this league. The most unique thing about him right now is his ability to catch the ball and his route running ability. He'll develop as a blocker as we go along, but the skill set there -- it's hard to find guys like that."
4. (106) Christian Ballard, DL, Iowa
The skinny: Ballard (6-4, 283) was regarded as a probable second-day pick before he reportedly tested positive for marijuana at the NFL scouting combine in February. In 49 college games (39 starts), Ballard had 153 tackles, including 60 solo, 21½ for loss and 12 sacks. The Vikings plan to work him initially behind Kevin Williams as an undertackle, but they also may try him at defensive end, where he split time with the Hawkeyes.
Spielman: "I can tell you that he is an outstanding football player. We spent time with him down at the combine. We spent time with him on the phone. We thought in the fourth round it was a great value pick for us. Just what he brings to the table as far as his versatility up front, where he's played some end, he's played some tackle, they split him up and down the line this year at Iowa. ... We felt he was a second-round value that we got in the fourth round."
5. (139) Brandon Burton, CB, Utah
The skinny: Burton (6-0, 190) came out as a junior in part because the NFL Draft Advisory Board told him he'd be a second-round pick. He had three interceptions, 18 pass break-ups and 101 tackles (70 solo) as a two-year starter in the Utes' man/Cover-2 scheme. The Vikings desperately needed young depth at the position, and Burton figures to be in the mix for subpackage duty.
Spielman: "We felt Burton was another value pick for us. He slid down to the fifth round. He has a lot of cover skills. He can be physical in (run) support. He's a fast and big corner, and those are the types of corners that we're looking at from a defensive scheme standpoint, so we felt very, very confident when he was there that that was our guy."
6. (168) DeMarcus Love, OL, Arkansas
The skinny: Love (6-4, 315) started 11 games at guard early in his college career and 26 more over the past two seasons at weakside tackle. The Vikings like his chances for being a multipositional backup in the mold of Artis Hicks, despite a downturn in his play in 2010 and a rough week at the Senior Bowl.
Spielman: "He didn't play as well his senior year. But off his junior tape, you'd say this guy has left tackle feet and this guy can do a lot of things and he for some reason did not have as great a senior year as he did his junior year. ... That's a rarity to find a guy that's played both right and left tackle. Those guys are hard to find that have swing opportunities, and he may have a chance to develop as a starter down the line as well."
6. (170) Mistral Raymond, DB, South Florida
The skinny: Raymond (6-1, 192) walked on at South Florida and ended up playing 34 games (15 starts) at safety and cornerback, earning a scholarship and being named captain in 2010, when he earned second-team all-Big East Conference honors. The Vikings like his makeup and plan to look at him first at safety, although he also fits the mold of a press corner.
Spielman: "Another good athlete that can play multiple positions and coaches will figure out whether they want to start him out at corner or safety but as we look at our depth as we get ready to head into, whenever we start training camp or whenever we come in, we'll look at where our depth is and where we want to start those guys but we know that he can play corner and he can also play free safety so that gives us an opportunity to look at him in both areas."
6. (172) Brandon Fusco, C, Slippery Rock
The skinny: Fusco (6-4, 316) didn't even receive a Division I scholarship offer but ended up a Division II All-American who started 44 games and had 332 knockdown blocks. He probably won't be ready to start soon, but the Vikings needed to get another developmental center in the program as injury-plagued starter John Sullivan enters a contract year.
Spielman: "He's a very good athlete. The one thing you like about him is his demeanor and how he plays the game. You saw some of the rawness in him coming from Slippery Rock and all of a sudden start blocking the guys down at the Senior Bowl. But Jeff Davidson, our offensive line coach, did a personal workout with him and came back and had rave reviews about him."
6. (200) Ross Homan, LB, Ohio State
The skinny: Homan (6-1, 238) was a first-team All-Big Ten Conference as a senior who finished his career with 287 tackles (55 solo), five fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles, seven interceptions and five sacks. He eventually could be a candidate for the weakside position that would vacated if veteran Ben Leber starts elsewhere but figures to make a short-term impact on special teams.
Spielman: "Ross is a very talented football player. I know the knock on him a little bit is the size factor, but may be one of the most instinctive linebackers that was on the board, and he was a lot higher on our board than where we were able to get him. But not only does I think he can play three downs in the NFL because of his athletic skills and his instincts, I think he's going to help contribute on special teams as well. He's just a solid, good football player."
7. (215) D'Aundre Reed, DE, Arizona
The skinny: Reed (6-4, 261) played in 47 college games but started only eight, recording 83 tackles (56 solo) and six sacks in a rotation with fellow draft picks Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore. He's a pass-rushing project who likely would have to make the Vikings' roster on special teams.
Spielman: "Whatever clicked from that USC game on, he really started playing lights-out. He's a 6-4 body. He's a very good athlete. He can run. We actually sent Diron Reynolds, our assistant d-line coach, out there a couple weeks ago to work all three of those defensive ends out. He had an excellent workout out there. He can play the left side, the right side. They even split him inside some as a nickel rusher. ... We always try to focus on the guys that have some athletic skills that our coaches can work with and try to develop, and he fit that mold."
7. (236) Stephen Burton, WR, West Texas A&M
The skinny: Burton (6-1, 221) was recruited to Oklahoma but opted to play Division II football instead, racking up 132 receptions for 1,909 yards and 13 touchdowns over two seasons in West Texas A&M's spread offense. The Vikings desperately need options for outside receivers, although Burton's best chance to make the team might be on returns.
Spielman: "There's another big athlete, a big receiver, 220-pound receiver that ran 4.44 on our watches (in the 40-yard dash) that has some natural hands and playmaking ability, but he also has some return ability as well."