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Updated: April 26th, 2013 2:46am
Pelissero: Vikings had good reasons to be aggressive in Round 1 again

Pelissero: Vikings had good reasons to be aggressive in Round 1 again

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings had one player alone in the top tier of their draft board on Thursday night. He was long gone before their first pick rolled around at No. 23 overall.

But as the selections kept coming -- eight offensive linemen, five defensive linemen, five defensive backs, one receiver, one quarterback, one linebacker, one tight end -- everyone in the draft room at Winter Park could see the three names that weren't moving from Tier 2.

Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes and Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson were there for the taking.

"I don't know that it could have worked out any better," general manager Rick Spielman said, "for the caliber of players we got with all three of those kids coming into our program."

Floyd, a three-technique with a quick first step, was such a stunner the Vikings hadn't even discussed a scenario where he'd be available. They rejected the calls coming in and wasted no time turning in the pick for Kevin Williams' probable successor.

Then came the decision at No. 25, the center of the ransom they received from Seattle from Percy Harvin, and the phone was ringing again. But they'd identified Rhodes, a press corner with tremendous length and athleticism, as another player they wouldn't pass up if given the chance.

"To sit there and get two quality players like that," Spielman said, "I can't tell you how excited Coach (Leslie) Frazier and Coach (Alan) Williams are right now along with our scouting staff."

Spielman said that moments before Tom West, the Vikings' assistant public relations director, announced there'd be time for just one final question because the GM needed to go.

Off Spielman jogged back to the draft room, where he'd left deputies George Paton and Scott Studwell to work the phones because there was one name left on that second line.

The Vikings stack their draft board horizontally to clearly lay out their options at each position, and the prospect of adding Patterson -- a rare and raw physical talent with some Harvin-like traits -- was too alluring to leave to chance with the second round roughly 20 hours away.

"We felt besides (Tavon) Austin, he was the most explosive playmaker with the ball in his hand," Spielman said after returning to the podium.

So, the Vikings gave up their third-round pick (No. 83 overall), one of their fourths (No. 102) and a seventh (No. 229) to flip their second-round pick (No. 52) for New England's first (No. 29) and make a third addition from a category of players they believe can be difference-makers.

That makes five first-round picks in two years for the Vikings, who also traded up to No. 29 last year to get safety Harrison Smith after taking left tackle Matt Kalil at No. 4 -- two key members of an ever-growing young core who have made a difference already.

For a guy known to value mid- to late-round selections and stockpile picks by moving back, Spielman's signature deal two years in a row has been an aggressive move up, with the collective-bargaining agreement making that tact not only financially feasible, but wise.

The Vikings will hold fifth-year options on the affordable rookie contracts of all those first-round picks (plus quarterback Christian Ponder) as Spielman continues to turn over a roster that just 18 months ago was one of the oldest and most expensive in the NFL.

"I tell you, it's been a good day for our franchise," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said. "Three number one picks who I think will all come in and help our football team in their first season."

There are still holes to fill, namely at middle linebacker, and the Vikings aren't scheduled to pick again until the 120th overall selection in the fourth round, which begins on Saturday morning.

And it remains to be seen exactly how the three new additions fit in -- even Floyd, who played all over the line for the Gators but figures to split time with Williams in the early going here.

Spielman deferred all those questions to Frazier before breaking into the smirk that often gives away the moments when he's feeling a particularly high level of satisfaction.

"Right now, I'm just trying to gather them," Spielman said. "We'll figure the rest of the stuff out when we get them here."

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