Vikings' pick at No. 167: Gophers linebacker Nate Triplett
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Continuing to address needs and making a rare local pick, the Minnesota Vikings selected "U" linebacker Nate Triplett with their second fifth-round pick (No. 167 overall) in the NFL Draft.
A Delano native who walked on with the Golden Gophers in 2005, Triplett (6-3, 250) was a valuable player on special teams for three years and started at middle linebacker for one. He's projected as an inside linebacker at the NFL level -- the Vikings have questions there, with E.J. Henderson coming off a major leg injury and second-year pro Jasper Brinkley having proven to be a physical but inconsistent player so far.
According to Scouts Inc., knocks against Triplett include his instrincts and recoginition: "Overaggressive and can bite on play fakes. Takes too long to locate the ball and takes some false steps but generally recovers quickly. Keeps head up and can locate the ball after engages blocker."
His strength/toughness received a better review: "Stout. Has a mean streak and not afraid to get in the face of opponents. Can hold own in phone booth situations and help clog up the middle. Upper body strength appears above-average and can lock out blockers but doesn't jar blockers with a powerful initial punch. Not violent enough with hands and can take too long to shed blocks."
UPDATE, 1:48 p.m.: Triplett got the call at home while helping one of his brothers get ready for prom. As a lifelong Vikings fan, it was a dream come true.
"You live in Minnesota your whole life," Triplett said, "and I wanted to be a Gopher since I could walk and I've wanted to be a Viking ever since I knew what football was. So, it's been a long trip through there, and I'm sure it means a lot to my family as well. They're going to be able to go to a lot more games now that I'm in Minnesota."
He said he wasn't particularly surprised because he'd had extensive contact with Vikings coaches, although he'd heard more from 3-4 teams that thought he could play inside. He confirmed the Vikings are projecting him as a middle linebacker based on his size.
"Right away, I think my role is going to be doing a lot of special-teams things until I can really prove myself as a linebacker," he said.
Triplett estimated he only went to a handful of Vikings games growing up, once competing in a halftime Punt, Pass and Kick contest.
Here's one play Gophers fans might remember: