Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman
I feel today that with the picks that we were able to make today, we made our football team better. In the second round, when (Eric) Kendricks fell to us, we had a lot of activity on teams trying to trade up. We felt that he was the most instinctive linebacker in this draft. As we talked through with our coaches, we feel that he can play Will or Mike (linebacker positions). He's very good in coverage. He's very instinctive against the run. He's not overly big as far as size, but he's still over six feet and about 235 pounds, ran well and plays very heavy-handed to shed and get off blocks and really locate the ball. He has great range from sideline to sideline; he has the athletic skillset to be a three-down (line)backer and we were kind of surprised that he fell to us where we were at. And he says he says that he can help Anthony Barr line up, is what he told us at the Combine. He said that they had the AB rule when he was there and I said that he could tell the media about that. In the third round, we got a little active. We actually tried to trade up at one point – that didn't go through. Then we decided to move back down and I think we tried to move back down twice to try to cumulate a lot of picks for tomorrow. So, we have a full boatload of picks going into the third day. Looking at our draft board, as you see it unfold, we feel there's a lot of depth through that. One of the reasons why we did that was because there's so much depth and feel that we're going to be able to get some very good football players tomorrow to help this football team.
Mr. (Danielle) Hunter from LSU, actually saw him at the Combine. We met with him at the Combine. Myself and George Edwards went down and worked him out at LSU on LSU's Pro Day. He's a physical specimen – he's 6'5 and change, weighed 252 pounds, we measured his arms at 35 and a half, I think he had a 10-10 broad jump, which is extremely unique for his size and his position. I think he was a 36.5 inch vertical jump. He plays extremely hard, he's raw, he's a project that I know that we're going to have to work with. I think if you look through his high school background, I think he only played two years of high school football and three years of college, so there's tremendous upside with this kid. Coach (Mike) Zimmer, George Edwards and Andre Patterson and what they do with this kind of physical specimens and how they develop these kids. We feel that he has tremendous upside to grow as a football player. It's another guy that I know Coach Zimmer loves to work with athletic guys that have length. Character wise, he was A off the chart when we sat there and talked with him. I know he's of Jamaican descent, and when you go down there and talk to the LSU coaches about him, they have nothing but great things to say about him as a person. Heading in tomorrow, I wish I could tell you how many picks we have. I know you guys are probably counting but I know that we have a pretty good amount where we can move up and down now. We feel like there's some pretty good depth, especially on the offensive side of the ball, so we may look to address some of those needs. But, we're always going to stick to our board and if we can continue to add good football players, regardless of position, we will definitely do that.
Q: Your first three picks were defense. Was that the focus?
A: It was not the focus at all. The focus is getting the best football player and I think the first two picks we were definitely able to fill needs and get the best football player available. I think the third pick, we picked a kid that we needed to add another pass-rusher at some point in this draft and just unique physical traits and unique mental make-up this kid has, he's a great project to work with. I know we're excited to get him up here and get him going. It has nothing to do with offense or defense. I really believe in trying to follow your board, and as guys come, go ahead and pick them.
Q: Middle linebacker spot has been a bit of a revolving door. Is Eric Kendricks the long-term guy?
A:* *We know he's a great football player, there's no question about that. Where he fits in the scheme, I know that our coaches feel that he can play Mike or Will. He'll carve his niche out as all of these young guys do once they get in here and get going, and the coaches will figure out what the best fit for him is. Right now, we're just trying to collect as many talented football players as we possibly can.
Q: Do you look at the Danielle Hunter as a defensive end?
A: We looked at him as a defensive end and then when you watch his work out at the Combine and you watch his work out at the pro day, he's an incredible athlete when we put him through drops and coverage. He is an Anthony Barr-type athlete, maybe not as fluid, but has the ability to do a lot of different things depending on how he develops and where our coaches see him.
Q: Was Kendricks a priority coming out of the Combine?
A: We felt we had all A pluses coming out of the school call by our college scouts. We spent time with him and met with him as one of our Top-60 interviews at the Combine, spending 15 minutes with him. There was no off-field issues we had to address, no character issues. After we talked the first five minutes about football, there were definitely no intelligence issues. He was one of those guys that we had a pretty good feel for right off the bat, we didn't feel like we had to do any more work after that.
Q: Is Kendricks the only guy you would sit there for?
A: Yes. Once Kendricks fell, we had a lot of activity. I had a lot of texts. Yeah, we're good. We'll stay here and take that player.
Q: What separated Kendricks more from the other linebacker prospects in the draft?
A: Watching how he played the game – his instincts, his ability to be a three-down linebacker, his ability to play multiple positions, his character and background that we felt very comfortable with and his intelligence. I know Coach Zimmer stresses that we want to have smart, tough, passionate football players and he fit every one of those boxes.
Q: Does the fact that Kendricks was a college teammate of Barr help at all?
A: No, because he probably has some college teammates that we wouldn't have taken. No, we look at it on an individual basis and judge them purely as a football player and how he can help our organization.
Q: Why did you not talk to Anthony Barr about Eric Kendricks?
A: He tweets too much. You know how I am about Twitter. Guys that we like we can just say, alright we're good, we're not going to mention his name anymore.
Q: Kendricks had an ankle injury last year, is this something that you were concerned about at all?
A: No, we looked at a lot of guys that you see and you may see floating on the board still, and you ask why they are still there. It could be a character concern; it could be a medical concern. We had no issues with him from a medical standpoint. Our doctors and Eric Sugarman, our trainer, felt he was fine.
Q: Do you think you will be able to find some reinforcement on the offensive line tomorrow?
A: Yeah, we are not going to force it if its not there, but I think that there is some depth there that we can add. We do have some good, young talent on our offensive line right now and I'm anxious to see how they've progressed. If there is an offensive lineman or two that we can potentially add, there are some guys that we have targeted at certain points in the draft. We will look to address it if it presents itself, but we are not going to force the issue, we are not gong to reach. We are going to continue to draft the best football players.
Q: Is there any concern that Danielle Hunter needs to refine his game on the pass rush?
A: I think when you watch him, there is no question about the effort. The biggest thing that he has to work on is just the way he rushes the passer. He relies a lot on his length and speed. Is he polished with the technique and moves yet? No. But I know what Andre Patterson did last year with Sharrif Floyd, what he did with Everson (Griffen). He has a pretty good pedigree, even when he was here in the past, of taking guys like this and making them pretty productive players.
Q: How much extra time did you have to invest in Hunter knowing that he was so raw?
A: That's why we went down and watched him personally work out. We spent time with him at the Combine, we spent time with him at our interviews at the Combine that night. Very serious kid, very focused and very passionate about wanting to be good, then spending the time with him down there at the LSU pro day, watching his ability to move. A lot of times when we are in the draft room, when we are talking about players, we talk about potential, and asking, does this guy have potential and the athletic traits that the coaches want to work with. I can't tell you how much confidence I have in Coach Zimmer and his coaching staff to develop young guys and get the best out of them. You can't find his unique traits that he has. Now, can we go ahead get him polished up from a technique standpoint? I think he has only played, if I am not mistaken, five years of football, so he's a real raw young kid with tremendous upside.
Q: How much do you value the versatility that you have been able to get in the two players that you drafted today?
A: Anytime you can get guys that maybe or potentially can play multiple positions or do multiple things with, it just gives coaches that many more tools to work with and that many more opportunities to tweak things within the scheme. Coach Zimmer and the staff are great at identifying strengths of each player, and then trying to adjust the scheme according to what these guys can and can't do. We value it very highly.
Q: How much do you value the defensive front seven when you're going through the draft process?
A: We value it very highly.
Q: Is Hunter so raw that you feel he might not be able to be a part of the rotation this year?
A: I don't know. We are definitely planning on all of these players coming in and competing, competing with what we have on the roster. What we finish up with tomorrow, what we sign in college free agency. Our job right now is to get the best 90 football players on the roster. We start next week with our rookie mini-camp and we go through our OTAs and have a whole training camp, one of the thoughts behind playing in the Hall of Fame game was knowing that we have a very young team and giving these young players an opportunity to get one more extra preseason game in to get more playing time to develop.
Q: Do you compare Hunter to Scott Crichton last year in terms of how raw he is?
A: Two different styles of players. Hunter is a right end, with great length. He has some flexibility to drop in coverage. The way Scott has worked and came in in shape, playing left end, and also being able to potentially move inside and do some inside nickel rush. All that will be determined as our coaches put these guys through different scenarios and find out what their strengths are. Two different types of players but built out of the same mold from a character standpoint and a passion standpoint for football.
Q: Hunter is not a consideration for left end?
A: Maybe. You just can't predict what's going to happen. All I know is, like I said, we are trying to gather the best football players we can, guys with a lot of potential and upside. As we go through the process, all of these guys, what their role and they carve out as rookies will be determined as we go forward.
Q: Is Norv Turner doing ok up there after all of these defensive picks in the last two days?
A: Yeah, Norv's been sitting up there in the draft room, and yeah he's doing fine.
Q: After playing through all of the scenarios, was there anything specifically that happened in this draft that surprised you?
A: I don't know if you go into a draft and not expect anything. I thought it was pretty good that we were able to move down twice in the third round. We had Hunter pretty targeted in that third round at some point and we felt pretty good about still being able to move down, accumulate picks and still being able to land him. You put all of this work in this draft and just to see it unfold, and what other teams are doing, what other teams are taking, its fun to watch and fun to say, "Boy, we were right on that or boy they must have saw something different than we saw." Everybody is going to pick players and they're going to pick players that they think best help their football team and best help their football team win not only this year but probably in the future as well.
Q: How hard did you try to move up in the third round? Was there a specific player you were looking at?
A: Yeah, there was a specific player we were looking at to potentially move up. If the value is there then we will do it, we will do it, if I don't think its there then we won't.