**Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman
Just want to start out by thanking everybody that put this draft on and the team work that we used to get through the circumstances. As I mentioned before, the technology that was used, we did not have any glitches at all during the whole process. The trades worked well. The communication amongst the scouts, the coaches, were excellent. I can't say enough about our IT team and what they did to put this on. I can tell you that we were very excited about how the Draft felt to us this year. I know we had a lot of picks and it will create a lot of great competition with the young guys that we are bringing in. We are just now finishing up college free agency and that was as smooth as it's ever been. In fact, the way we did it virtually, it forced us to look at how we do things from a college free agency standpoint, and it really made it even more efficient than when we are all together. So the IT people set it up. We had a Vikings draft room, and then we had a chat room for each position. So the scout and the coach were in the chat room and then we were able to jump in and out of each of those position chat rooms to the main room as we kept track of the guys we were signing and the monies that we were spending. We were very aggressive in college free agency. We wanted to get the best guys out there. We probably will not have our 90-man roster totally filled since we don't have a rookie mini-camp coming up. So we'll finalize a couple spots. I think we have maybe four spots left that we'll finalize over next week. As we went through this seventh round and had all those picks, I know the coaches and scouts worked hand and hand, and the coaches did a phenomenal job with all the effort they put in and the extra film, and I believe since we were -- the coaches had extra time, we were able to -- they were able to watch a lot of tape on these late-round college free agents that we signed. They picked up their -- or what I call their pet cats, or their rat hole players that they keep in their back pocket. What really set everything apart, though, and I can't say enough about Scott Kuhn and our analytics department, because they play a huge role in this as far as targeting a guy. So when you have a scout, you have a coach and then you layer in the analytics on top of it, we feel that we've had a lot of guys that are going to have a chance to be pretty good football players for us. So that's become a critical part of our process, as well. But very excited about all the guys we're able to get. I think the other thing that stood out is we were able to turn some of these picks into 2021 draft picks. I think right now, we're counting the potential compensatory picks. We're going to be starting, I believe, with 12 picks next year. As long as you can keep that draft capital and keep building that draft capital and still get the amount of players that we are bringing in, it gives you the opportunity, I believe, to have success. So with that, I'll open it up to questions.
Q. Anybody that you landed today that jumps off the page and you're excited about?
A: I think we are excited about all of them. I think the way the fourth round felt to us, to get those players where we got them, D.J., the South Carolina defensive end fit us from an athletic trait standpoint, and I know as I told you last night, that was one of Andre Patterson's, as I called them, guy that he really he wanted to get his hands on and work with, and to get a Lynch that fell us to, as well, who just plays his rear end off, can play some end, but we are probably going to slide him inside as a nickel inside pass rusher, and to get the athletic linebacker. I think as we went through these picks, a part of it is as you get into the sixth and seventh rounds, you see the depth at the position. So there's positions that are light that I know we're going to have a tough time signing as college free agents, and there's positions that are heavy. So for example, wide receiver was really heavy this year, so we didn't use -- even though we had some wide receivers up there, we were going to go attack that position in free agency. Like in the seventh round, the defensive end class was light this year, so for us to get the Michigan State kid where we got him, who is a heck of a player, was good for us. So a lot of times when you have that many picks in the sixth and seventh rounds, and you're weighing in where the strength of college free agency is going to be and where it's going to be hard to get players; that's where you maybe lean because they are all graded relatively in the same place, but that's where you're going to lean on a position where you know you may not be able to get it in free agency. I know the other thing that was real important is the guard -- Hinton, the guard we took in Washburn who is a phenomenal athlete. But when you looked at the guard list going into college free agency, it was going to be really tough and as we were talking to the kid, he had a ton of calls already potentially on getting drafted late. So instead of -- and you know when a kid is getting a ton of calls at the end of the Draft, on potentially getting drafted, he's going to be one of the hottest guys in the free agent market. So if you go ahead and draft him, you don't have to worry about going out and competing. So a lot of the things that we do from a strategic standpoint are based on things that I just went through.
Q. Seven of the 11 players you drafted today were at defense. How do you feel you did replenishing some of the depth on defense since you had, of course, lost some guys on defense and free agency?
A: Well, that was one area we thought on Saturday we were going to get a lot of good, young, defensive players. I know we've got a lot of depth in the corner position. The whole secondary was a major point of emphasis as we went into Saturday here. We also wanted to get some defensive linemen, which I know was another area of need for us. So as you look, there were a lot of good players where we were able to select them and they are going to fill the void of a lot of guys that we weren't able to keep or that signed elsewhere.
Q. How do you feel about your cornerback position group overall after adding three guys today?
A: Well, I can't wait till we get a chance to see them on the field. But on paper and all the work we put into it, very excited about the depth we were able to add at corner. And plus, I don't want to forget about the young guys that we already have. I mean, Kris Boyd played well for us, key contributor on special teams. Holton Hill, Mike Hughes; so we've got a lot of young depth there, and now we're going to add another layer of depth into that corner position. So we feel very confident we've got a lot of young talent there to develop.
Q. Did you realize you set the record for most players drafted in the seven-round draft?
A: No, I never even thought of it to be honest with you. Hagan pointed it out before I got on this call but I had no idea. Alls I knew is we were trying to manipulate the board and make trades where we thought -- to select players. It's great to have that many picks. I think the other thing, and I mentioned a little bit last night, is with the way college free agency was going to work in this virtual world, by having that many picks, you don't have to be going on the phone and convincing guys to come. We had enough draft capital just to take guys that if we didn't have that much draft capital in those later rounds, we may not have got them as free agents. So that was a little bit of a strategic thing we looked at, as well, especially during this year.
Q. Was it also important to stash away a couple extras for next year?
A: Yeah, I know draft picks are very -- I treasure those and I try to collect as many as I can. So that's why we -- when you have that much draft capital going into it and you're able to flip some picks into next year's picks, and I don't know what the depth of next year's draft's going to be, but to start off right now where we stand to have 12 draft picks, who knows where we're going to end up next year.
Q. How valuable are those picks, if you have a training camp injury or maybe at the trade deadline, just to have that in your back pocket?
A: Those are huge. A couple years ago, we traded for Brent Jones and we used a seventh-rounder there. So you don't know what potentially can happen once we get into training camp or the season. But to have that much draft capital and be able to still maybe give a later-round pick and still have two or three more in your pocket is huge going into that.
Q. You talk about what you liked about -- Jamal --
A: He was a kid that transferred from the University of Buffalo. Very mature kid. I know Coach Maalouf really, really thought he was one of the top returners in this draft. I know when Andrew Janocko and Gary Kubiak watched him and watched his tape, along with our scouts, they felt he has some really natural ability that they can develop and that's critical with all these guys is to get everybody on the same page. And when you have the scout and you've got the coaches and you have the analytics all tied into, yeah, this is a guy we want to go get, then it's a great organizational pick. But there are a lot of things, not only from a football standpoint and a potential return standpoint, but also from a quality of person he is and how much true passion he does love to play.
Q. You talked about some of those cats that Patterson comes up with on the third day. Do you feel the defensive linemen that you got today fit into that category, that maybe you got some diamond in the roughs there?
A: Yeah, I think Andre Patterson has earned the respect; that when he has a guy that he's really honed in on, that it feels that strongly and gives you a strong opinion on that guy and what he can do with that guy; that carries a lot of weight as we go into these picks, especially on the defensive line.
Q. What prevented from getting a trade with Trent Williams getting done?
A: I won't go into things we discussed. There were things as we went into negotiations, and I won't get into thinking, but I knew once we start seeing that Ezra Cleveland was going to fall to us, we got a young, talented offensive tackle that we're going to have, you know, under contract for the next four years.
Q. On that note, how do you feel about the way that you were able to address the offensive line? Did you come away feeling like you did enough to upgrade it in the areas that you wanted to?
A: Yeah, I think we got some young talent. The one thing I don't want to forget is some of the young guys that we drafted last year, the coaches are also extremely high on, the Dru Samias of the world; the AC Collins. Oli from Elon as I call him; when you watched him in that last game against Chicago, he played very, very well. So we are very excited about some of the young offensive lineman that we drafted last year. And what was a huge benefit for us was that last game against Chicago, all those guys started. You evaluate them through the preseason and you see them grow. You watch them in practice; but for them to actually get an opportunity to go out there and play in that Chicago game, it answered a lot of questions for us on a lot of those players. I know Rick Dennison and Gary Kubiak were very excited about what they saw in that last game of the season. Courtney, I can't wait to read your, what did we have, 17 picks? You're going to be up typing all night on your evaluations on these 17 guys.
Q. With Josh client being released in free agency period, do you anticipate a competition then at guard with Samia or Hinton or whoever else?
A: I think, you know, once we get everybody in, we're going to have open competition, especially at the guard spots. I know that the coaches will figure out who are going to be our best five combination guys up there. We are very excited about Bradbury and O'Neill and Riley Reiff holding down the fort on the left side until we see what we have. But it's going to be a wide-open competition, I believe, at the interior spots and the two guard spots.
Q. What does Nate Stanley potentially bring to you in the quarterback room?
A: I know Coach Kubiak spent a lot of time with him. We visited with him throughout this process. I had an opportunity to see him play live a couple times. He's a big kid that has a strong arm. He's won a lot of games in the Big Ten. The one thing that I think he doesn't get enough credit for is his size. He's a very good athlete. I believe he ran in the 46s or 47s off the type of my head at the Combine, and a couple times when you watched him live, or even on tape, you may underestimate what type of athlete he is. But when he opens stride and had a couple scrambles in some of the games -- he can really move -- getting the ball out quick, time and rhythm throws, ability to move in the pocket. So we are excited to have him come in here and compete.
Q. When you were looking at the defensive backs, how important was it to have guys that are versatile or have experience in the box or as deep safeties or in the nickel?
A: All of our secondary positions; like the safeties have to be interchangable. Also, you know, the corners. We have a couple guys that can play outside but also can slide inside at nick. So I know when you get banged up or get injuries in the secondary, it's just like the interior offensive line. You're hoping you can get guys that can play multiple positions. I think a lot of the guys that we were able to draft today, over the last three days, have the ability to play multiple positions in the secondary. Thanks for covering us this weekend, and look forward to seeing you, hopefully, relatively soon. Stay safe out there and thank you for everything.