EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –The Vikings aren't slated to have a first-round pick in this year's draft, but that doesn't eliminate them from finding players capable of making an immediate impact.
Minnesota will first be on the clock with the 48th overall pick during Round 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft, taking place Thursday through Saturday in Philadelphia.
Since Rick Spielman was named general manager in 2012, the Vikings have selected a number of impact players throughout the later rounds of the draft. Among the more recent additions include 2015 draft picks Eric Kendricks (45th overall), Danielle Hunter (88th) and Stefon Diggs (146th) who were drafted in the second, third and fifth rounds, respectively. **
Spielman addressed Twin Cities media members on Tuesday and also referenced players like Marcus Sherels and Adam Thielen, both of whom were signed as undrafted free agents and have developed to play significant roles for the Vikings.
"I tell all the players […] what matters is when you come in here, everybody is on a level playing field," Spielman said. "We want the best 53 players, and I don't care where you're drafted or where you came from."
Added Spielman: "If you're the best 53 players – you're the best 11 on offense or defense – you're going to play, because we have to win ball games. That's what we're in this business for."
Diggs impressed in his rookie season with 52 catches for 720 yards and four touchdowns over 13 games. He followed that up with a 2016 performance in which he started 11 of 13 games and recorded 84 catches for 903 yards and three touchdowns.
The third-year receiver said being drafted in the later rounds "doesn't even matter."
"If a kid can play, he can play," Diggs said. "I have confidence in what we're doing."
Kyle Rudolph, drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, is another example of finding talent after Round 1. In his six seasons in Purple, Rudolph has started 72 of 80 games played and totaled 265 catches for 2,621 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Rudolph was initially frustrated by remaining on the board after Round 1, but he is proof that later picks can be productive.
"That Thursday night of the draft, I was so bitter," Rudolph admitted with a laugh. "Everyone is telling you that your dreams are still going to come through. [But] you lose sight of that, and it's hard to put that aside.
"But when the pick is finally in and you do hear your name called, it's an overwhelming flow of emotions," Rudolph continued. "It doesn't matter when you're drafted; the work starts once you get here. That's the most important thing for guys to realize [whether] you're the first pick or the [last pick]. The work starts after you're drafted."
Celebrate the draft with the Vikings
Stefon Diggs and Everson Griffen will join Kentrell Brothers, Isaac Fruechte and David Morgan at U.S. Bank Stadium for Vikings DraftFest on Day 3 of the draft. The event runs from 10:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. * Tickets are still available for purchase by clicking here.*