EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The Vikings added a pair of explosive offensive playmakers in the fifth round of the NFL Draft on Saturday, selecting tight end MyCole Pruitt at 143rd overall and receiver Stefon Diggs at 146th.
The movement of the Vikings on the third and final day of the 2015 NFL Draft in trades landed a player in Pruitt that showed an ability to move across the field.
"At Southern (Illinois), I was put all over the field and I got that experience and it helped me a lot," Pruitt said. "That's what I'm ready to bring to the Vikings and make an impact wherever I'm put on the field."
Pruitt followed his career at Southern Illinois in which he set Missouri Valley Football Conference records for a tight end with 211 receptions, 2,601 receiving yards and 25 TD catches by dazzling his position group at the NFL Combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in a position-best 4.58 seconds and led all tight ends with a vertical of 38 inches.
The native of St. Louis, who is named for his mother, Colette, attended the same high school as Jeremy Maclin. Pruitt ranks first in catches in Southern Illinois history and second in receiving yards and TDs by any player.
The three-time All-American consistently posted stats. He caught 81 passes and 13 touchdowns (at least one score in every conference game) in 2014 for a receptions per game average of 6.8. The catches, 861 yards and 13 scores in his senior year led all tight ends in FBS and FCS.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said Pruitt can line up multiple places on the field and make an impact from each.
"Mr. (MyCole) Pruitt from Southern Illinois, my alma mater, even though he didn't know I was from there," Spielman said. "He's a very athletic half-back type full-back. They put him out on the slot and he played something on the line of scrimmage as a tight end. I know when we talked about him, he ran very fast at the combine and he showed up at the All-Star game."
Pruitt has a basketball background and didn't start playing football until his freshman year of high school, two years before Vikings fourth-round pick T.J. Clemmings (also a former basketball player) took to the gridiron. Pruitt said he's familiar with the success Vikings Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner has had with former basketball players at tight end (Antonio Gates much?) and how often Turner involves the position group.
"This process has been amazing, an extremely great blessing for me," Pruitt said. "I couldn't have asked for anything better than to become a Minnesota Viking today and I just appreciate the opportunity. I can't wait to make the most of it."
The pick used on Pruitt was obtained from Detroit in a Friday trade when they moved from 80th to 88th and selected defensive end Danielle Hunter.
"(Pruitt) has a lot of the traits that we're looking for, especially in Norv Turner's offense, being able to do multiple things," Spielman said. "He has very good hands, he's aggressive as a blocker, and Norv, as we sat there and talked about him through the draft meetings, felt that we can do a lot of different things with him and play him at a lot of different positions."
Diggs was a three-year starter for Maryland, where he caught 150 passes for 2,227 yards and 14 touchdowns in 28 career games. He had a scoring play of at least 65 yards each season and posted seven games with at least 100 receiving yards, which is tied for second in Terrapins history. Diggs bounced back from missing half of his sophomore season to post a career high of 62 catches for 792 yards and five scores in 2014.
Special teams was another area where Diggs contributed. He returned 25 punts 235 yards, mostly as a freshman, and 57 kickoffs a total of 1,472 yards and for two TDs at Maryland.
"He's another extremely talented athlete," Spielman said. "I know I was at a game his freshman year when they played Virginia. I saw him as a kick-off returner, and he has done some punt returns in the past. He's a very gifted athlete with the ball in his hands. He was a guy, that when we got there at that point, he can do so many things – he's played outside, he's played in the slot, he's done some return stuff, probably had a little bit of a year that was down for him and his standards. The multiple things that he can do, and again, any time we see an athlete and ability to develop these guys, and we felt that he'd fit right in that mold."
Diggs ran the 40 at the combine in 4.46 seconds, the 30-cone drill in 7.03 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.32 seconds. He's shown he can be dangerous after the catch, turning short tosses into catch-and-run scores. He said he is already familiar with the Vikings offense.
"Teddy is a great quarterback with a great young team and I look forward to being a part of that team and growing in this whole process," Diggs said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity to be coached by some great coaches and playing with some great guys."
Diggs also is friends with Vikings safety Antone Exum, Jr., who was selected in the sixth round last year. Exum, who played at Virginia Tech, is close friends with a friend of Diggs, who Facetimed with the Vikings safety to celebrate his pick.
Exum gave a shout out to Diggs when the selection became official:
"We have a good relationship off the field," Diggs said. "I know he's a workaholic, so we kind of mesh that way."