Vikings' pick at No. 120: Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings' long wait to get back into the NFL Draft ended on Saturday afternoon when they selected Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges with the 120th overall pick in the fourth round.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 243 pounds, Hodges started out as a safety but converted to linebacker during his freshman season because of injuries. He became a starter as a junior and led the team with more than 100 tackles each of his last two seasons, twice earning second-team All-Big Ten honors.
Hodges, 22, primarily has played outside linebacker, where Chad Greenway and Erin Henderson have been the Vikings' starters. He played the weak side in 2011 and the strong side in 2012. He did work at inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense during practices for the East-West Shrine Game.
The Vikings' plan at middle linebacker remains clouded after they let Jasper Brinkley sign with Arizona. General manager Rick Spielman has said playing Henderson in the middle is an option.
Hodges was a Butkus Award semifinalist as a senior in 2012. At the NFL scouting combine in February, Hodges ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, put up 22 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and had a broad jump of 119 inches.
In a conference call with Minnesota reporters, Hodges said he expected to be drafted higher than he was and had just taken a shower, hoping to relieve stress, when the Vikings called.
"I wasn't even rushing to get to the phone, because I didn't even know what it was," Hodges said. "I get over here. I see Minnesota. ... I just start crying, man. I just couldn't believe it, man. It was a blessing."
He started all 25 games over the past two seasons at Penn State and finished his career with 249 tackles, including 120 solo, 21 for loss and 5½ sacks. He also forces three fumbles and recovered three and had three interceptions.
"That's why I thought I was going to go a little bit earlier than what I went, because of the fact I was great in coverage," Hodges said. "But ... God has his plan, and coaches see certain things in players that they want."
The Vikings traded their second- and third-round picks, plus their top pick in the fourth round, to move up to No. 29 on Thursday night and make receiver Cordarrelle Patterson their third pick in Round 1. They didn't even make calls during Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday, according to Spielman, instead waiting 91 picks to select again.