EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings are continuing to bolster their defense — and added a Golden Gopher along the way.
Minnesota drafted defensive lineman Esezi Otomewo Saturday afternoon with the 165th overall pick.
"When I first got the phone call, I looked down at the phone and saw it was a 612 [area code], and I instantly knew it was a Minnesota number," Otomewo told Twin Cities media members. "I just looked around, tears came down my face.
"I picked up, and it was emotions flying from left and right. It hit me," he added. "I haven't cried like that in a minute. I was just ecstatic."
Otomewo redshirted for the Gophers in 2017 before going on to play four seasons in Maroon and Gold. He started 20 of 46 games played and totaled up 81 tackles, including 7.5 sacks.
In 2018, Otomewo was named the Gophers Outstanding Defensive Freshman. He was an All-Big Ten Honorable Mention in 2021 and received an invite to the 2022 Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Otomewo is listed at 6-foot-5 and 282 pounds on his NFL.com bio, with arms measuring 34 ½ inches long.
Vikings Assistant Director of College Scouting Pat Roberts noted the added benefit of scouting a local athlete.
"It always makes it a lot easier when they're close to home and when you can have that kind of contact with them," Roberts said. "He's been through several different position coaches, so we wanted to see how far away he is from his ceiling, and our coaches think that they're going to be able to help him grow with his football background, as well."
A native of Indianapolis, Otomewo attended Ben Davis High School and turned heads as a senior, making 69 tackles and 8.0 sacks. He also broke up two passes, recovered a fumble, forced one fumble, blocked a punt and recorded a safety. ESPN listed Otomewo as the No. 23 prep prospect in Indiana.
Roberts noted that Otomewo has position flexibility, which the 23-year-old is looking forward to showcasing.
"I played from 5-tech[nique] all the way down to 3- and then 2-I. I'd say my coaches at Minnesota put me in a really good position by playing a lot of different positions," he said. "Going from bear front to odd front to even front, to a 4-3 look or 3-4 look.
"We did a lot of sub packages where I was lined up everywhere. Doing that for the Vikings would be amazing, too," he continued. "Wherever they need me is where I'll be at. I'm excited to learn and contribute.
Vikings Add North Carolina RB Ty Chandler
Following the addition of Otomewo, the Vikings didn't have to wait long before they were back on the clock. Minnesota quickly selected North Carolina running back Ty Chandler with the 169th overall pick.
The selections used on Otomewo and Chandler were obtained when the Vikings traded the 126th overall pick to the Raiders on Saturday.
"Today has truly been a blessing. I really appreciate the whole organization just for giving me the opportunity," Chandler said. "I appreciate my family, my mom. That's who I've really been spending it with, my family — my grandma, my grandpa, my cousins, people who just always been in my corner from Day 1."
Chandler was a graduate transfer to North Carolina in 2021, during which he started all 13 games for the Tar Heels. He racked up 1,092 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, becoming the 20th UNC player in school history to record a 1,000-yard rushing season.
Chandler also added 15 catches for 216 yards and one touchdown through the air.
Prior to transferring to North Carolina, Chandler played four seasons for the Tennessee Volunteers, where he shared touches rather than being the sole starting RB. He totaled 2,046 yards and 26 touchdowns on 421 carries for the Volunteers.
Roberts spoke to the nature of Chandler's transfer and how a change in schools reflects on college athletes now than in years past.
"It used to be when kids transferred, the first question that was asked was, 'Well, what's wrong with him?' Now there's so many kids who transfer, it's not that anymore. It's, 'OK, how did this kid help himself?' " Roberts said. "One of the things that was great was, when I went in there – I've known some people at North Carolina for a long time – when I went in there, they said that this kid, he made the transition easier than any transfer they've ever had there.
"He came in, he was a leader, he's smart, he learned the system," Roberts continued. "So I think he showed through the process that he had made growth through that year. He's a very mature kid, and we're very excited to get him."
View photos of UNC RB Ty Chandler who was selected No. 169 overall in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Chandler is listed on his NFL.com bio as 5-foot-11 and 204 pounds. He impressed at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, running the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds.
Analyst Lance Zierlein offered this evaluation of Chandler for NFL.com:
He's a smooth strider who can become a little disjointed when processing and attacking the blocking scheme. Chandler needs to turn up the play speed in the early stages to attack the fleeting run lanes he will see in the pros. In a deep running back draft, Chandler's ability to catch passes and return kicks should help improve his chance of being selected on Day 3.
A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Chandler attended Montgomery Bell Academy, where he was rated as a consensus four-star prospect and one of the nation's top 100 recruits.
Chandler's father, Chico, played running back for Ole Miss.