Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman Following No. 29 pick
This is a very exciting night. We feel like we brought in two very quality football players that are going to help our ballclub. I think the Minnesota Viking fans should be excited about these two players coming in. We worked with Harrison (Smith) down at the Senior Bowl for a week. He is an extremely talented safety and has very good range and size. I know he had seven interceptions as a junior and made a lot of very big plays this year but didn’t come up with some of the interceptions. But after our coaches had worked with him for that week, he showed he is extremely intelligent and has great football passion. He loves to play the game and it’s fitting the criteria that we’re looking for and an extremely high character type player that’s not only going to be a great player for us on the field, but off the field as well.
Q: I think there might be one pick left, do you want to make another move?
A: This is what makes the draft so fun. The moving up and down and accumulating picks then using those picks to potentially move back up if you target a player. I know the depth at safety in this draft was very slim. We wanted to make sure that we started on our secondary and improving that area. We feel very strongly that Harrison will definitely do that.
Q: Do you feel safety was a priority for you?
A: He was the next highest player on our board and we didn’t want to lose him. Having the extra picks to go ahead and move up, that’s why you do accumulate those picks so if there is a player that you really target and see and have a chance to go get them.
Q: It looks like to you filled your two largest voids.
A: We have filled some significant needs and we have a third round pick tomorrow and who knows what’s going to happen with that. And then we have a lot of picks in the third day of the draft and feel very strongly we are going to get some very good football players the rest of the way through.
Q: Is your goal to try and get back in the second round?
A: I don’t know.
Q: Is Harrison a guy that moved around a lot?
A: He started out at linebacker and then they moved him back to safety. This kid was a captain for them with great leadership. I was just teasing him when I was on the phone with him that we’re almost reaching our quota with the amount of Notre Dame players that you can have out on the field at one time. But again I can’t tell you, just like Kalil, everything we are looking for in football players, is what these two fill. Not only what they’re going to do on the field but also what they represent.
Q: How did the trade come together?
A: As we were getting down there in the twenties we started calling some teams. We called to try and see who had an interest. Everyone is starting to target their particular guys that they want to go get. And then Baltimore was the one that once they were on the clock, we had talked to them earlier and they had shown some interest in potentially moving back if their player wasn’t there. It just happened to work out that that’s where the pick landed.
Q: How high were you looking to go?
A: I’ll say we were very active in the bottom of the first round.
Q: Is it fair to say that going into tonight you had a vision of the Kalil/Smith combination?
A: You can say that was a fair vision.
Q: What about the experience at the Senior Bowl.
A: When we got into our draft meetings right after the Senior Bowl we had our coaches, our scouts and myself write up those players while it was still fresh in our head. When we got into our meetings and we put our board together and seeing how it was going to develop and knowing that we do need some help on the back end to improve our secondary. That was the one huge advantage of being able to coach the Senior Bowl because we got to know those players inside and out and know what they are about. How they are in a meeting room. How they are out on the field. Our coaches know what it’s like to coach that player so that was a huge advantage for us and we know exactly what we are getting in Harrison Smith.
Q: How much of a difference did it make having a system with one person making the calls?
A: It was just a lot smoother. As things are going on and I’ll throw out this suggestion or that suggestion as I see things develop I’ll ask for feedback. You know I’m talking to Rob Brzezinski and George Paton to see what we’re going to have to give up to go back into the first round. Talking to Coach Frazier on you know, we really like this player we’re going to go get him. So it’s a lot smoother because it’s going through one person.
Q: What do you think he’s going to be in the locker room?
A: I think that’s what they’ll develop into. I think all these rookies when they come in and when you talk to them I always ask them how are you going to establish yourself in an NFL locker room? I think when you talk to these two they know they have to come in at first and show their work ethic and show how much passion they have. First in, last out of the building. Then they are going to have to go out and prove it out on the field. As those things falls in to place that’s when you start to develop that leadership.
Q: Do you think you could have pulled off a couple of these trades a few years ago?
A: I’m not going to speculate that. I just know where we are at today, and what we are able to get accomplished today.
Q: When you get that deal with Cleveland, does that almost take the weight off your shoulders, like ‘Ok, now the first thing has gone right, now we have all of that extra collateral now and we can move around’?
A:That trade with Cleveland kind of set the tone for this draft, and us being able to do some things. That was a huge, huge thing to get done right before the draft started.
Q: Did you pretty strongly believe he wasn’t going to be there the second day?
A: Again, I don’t know what other teams are thinking, but I also know looking at the teams in front of us potentially there is a need at safety. I don’t know if they would have taken him or not, I just know how strongly we felt about him, felt that was the right move for our ball club.
Q: How do you envision him, is he a Strong is he a Free, how do you see him being used?
A:The thing is with our safeties, they have to be interchangeable, and they have to be able to play both Strong and Free. He’s very effective in the box, when you look at him you see that he does have range, you watch the Michigan State game this year and some of the big plays he made in that game. We watched him play on the big stage, he has held up against, and made terrific plays against top competition. The big stage is not going to be too big for this kid. He’s already been there, and has a sense of what this is about. Now it’s going to be the learning curve just like every rookie coming in, but he just stuck out on the film again about how passionate he plays. He’s a hitter, he enjoys playing the game of football, and you get that sense when you’re watching him on the tape.
Q: Is he like Kalil, does he come in here as an immediate starter?
A: Coach Frazier will answer that. I’m just trying to get the best players we can in here to upgrade our football team.
Q: Was there any concern that you wouldn’t be able to get him, when you started calling teams, and they started turning you down, was there that concern that someone else was going to take him?
A: It may be hard to believe, but I have been turned down before. You just keep working the phones, you don’t know who’s going to bite and who’s not going to bite. But you have to be aggressive working the phones, and Rob Brzezinski and George Paton do a great job going back and forth from team to team and trying to gauge what interest is there and where it could potentially happen.
Q: Was he in your Top 30? Or did you have enough from the Senior Bowl?
A: No, we have not talked to him since the Senior Bowl. We didn’t talk to him at the Combine, we did not talk to him or bring him in for our Top 30.
Q: Where are his strengths? Is he more suited for the pass defense?
A: I think he can do both, and that’s the thing that’s most appealing. I know that he’s very aggressive in run support, very smart football player, very smart with his angles. Big safety that plays fast, but I also know how smart he is in coverage. Just watching the angles he takes to break on a pass, the anticipation to watch the quarterback and get a jump on a throw as its coming out. He has a lot of those instincts, that ability to make plays because he’s so smart and so instinctive.
Q: When you look at the remaining holes on this roster, and see receiver and cornerback, did you feel more comfortable going to safety because of the depth at the other positions in this draft?
A: You sit there and watch how the draft is unfolding in front of you and there is a lot of depth at corner, there is a lot depth at receiver as well. So we will just see how that unfolds as we go forward.
Q: Rick, you had interest in Abdullah, does this eliminate that or do you still need a body?
A: Right now we are just accumulating, and we’ll see where we are going after the draft. So not to make any determination on anything right now. All we know right now is we are trying to get the best football players we can.
Vikings Safety Harrison Smith
Q: Rick Spielman said that you haven’t really talked to the Vikings at all since the Senior Bowl, did you think you did something wrong down there or did you figure they knew everything they needed to know about you?
A: I guess it went well down there. I really liked playing for those guys and took to their coaching. We got a good feel for each other.
Q: What part of that experience stood out to you when you left Mobile?
A: Just taking in their coaching. There are a few different coaching points from here and there that are different from college and the pros. I tried to do it the way they wanted me to do it and sticking to the scheme.
Q: How did they use you at Notre Dame? Were you more in deep coverage, were you in the box, or how did you split your time?
A: It was really both. I ended up coming down to the box, covering tight ends, and then also playing the pass and deep in the field. It was really a strong safety type role and a free safety type role.
Q: What was the basis of your coverage scheme? Were you guys primarily two deep, zone type of team or did you play some man?
A: Our primary coverage was quarters and then beyond that, we ran a lot of cover two.
Q: Were you expecting a round one call tonight or were you sitting on pins and needles?
A: I knew it was possible. I really didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself thinking I have to go as high as I can go. I just watched with friends and family and just waited and see what happens. If I didn’t go, no big deal, just come back the next day and watch again. I was watching and kind of just waiting.
Q: What do you feel is your best NFL transferable skill right now?
A: I really think being a strong safety and a free safety. I think I’m a versatile player that can do a lot, and on special teams.
Q: Rick Spielman noted the seven interceptions you had last year and then the drop off this year. What led to that drop off?
A: I dropped a couple, definitely. I was also down in man coverage covering deep this past year so there are less opportunities. But also, I dropped a couple balls I should have had.
Q: Were they dropping you down against tight ends a lot?
A: Yeah, that is where I was along with covering receivers.
Q: What did it mean to you to be a two time team captain?
A: It’s that sense of pride that I have for this school, for the guys that I play with and the guys that coach me. It means a lot to me and it’s a great honor for the players to have that much confidence in me to vote me captain.
Q: Did you have a sense at all at the Senior Bowl that you had made an impression on the Vikings?
A: I thought I played well and did a good job and tried to do what they wanted me to do, but they never said anything about that they were going to draft me, there were a lot of good players down there. I think it was just trying to get to know each other well and at the end of the day, I think they think I’m a good fit for them and I 100 percent agree.
Q: The Vikings didn’t talk to you after the Senior Bowl, what teams were in contact with you here these last few weeks?
A: I visited the Cowboys and the Jets. You’re kind of in contact with all of the teams. It was just kind of talking to everybody.