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A good night to be a Vikings fan

Last season, the Minne-sota Vikings surprised many by going 10-6 and earning an unlikely trip to the NFL playoffs, during what was suppose to have been a rebuilding year.

In all reality, it was just that — a rebuilding year, with the team having to rely much on the 2012 draft class.

Along the way through the season, Adrian Peterson had the best rushing season in Vikings’ history and the second-best ever in the history of the NFL, while the offense was up and down under the leadership of young Christian Ponder at quarterback.

But the 2012 draft class delivered, and they delivered big. Viking general manager Rick Spielman pulled off the expected pick of left tackle Matt Kalil, but made a big trade up into the back end of the first round for safety Harrison Smith.

Both became instant starters. Then add in All-Pro kicker Blair Walsh, who was 10-for-10 from 50 yards-plus, and the contributions of cornerback Josh Robinson and slot receiver Jarius Wright late in the season, and Spielman was rounding the bases with a home run of a 2012 draft.

Spielman was hitting clean-up again Thursday night for the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, without the benefit of a top 20 pick, but the advantage of having two picks in slots No. 23 and 25.

The only thing the Vikings had to do for most of the night was sit tight and let the players they wanted fall to them.

Then, Spielman was able to add to the first round by trading up, which was affordable due to the extra picks from the Percy Harvin trade.

But let’s first hit on No. 23 and 25, where the Vikings were fortunate to just stand pat and pick the best available player, which happened to fill needs, as well. In pre-draft mocks, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was projected to go in the top 10, specifically No. 3 to Oakland. But the Raiders traded out of the slot and Floyd fell…and fell…and fell.

In reality, Floyd was overrated by the draft pundits and was actually the third-best defensive tackle in the draft, behind Star Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardson.

But that’s not a bad thing, especially for the Vikes. Although Floyd may not be a top 10 talent, he certainly is a top 15 or 20 player and the Vikes were able to address a DT need, while selecting the best available player.

His sack stats at Florida are not eye-popping, with just 4.5 in the last two years, but he has shades of Kevin Williams, whom he will eventually replace.

His 6-3, 303 pound frame allows him to be a speed rusher with his 5.17 40-yard time. Floyd is quick off the snap and will pair with Williams to form a potentially strong middle once again, for this year at least.

Then with two of the top three corners falling to No. 22 in Desmond Trufant and Xavier Rhodes, the Vikes were in good shape to grab one of them.

Atlanta made the trade up to pick Trufant at No. 22, while the Colts picked defensive end Bjorn Werner at No. 24, thus leaving Rhodes for the Vikes.

Rhodes was the best possible cornerback, behind Dee Milliner who went earlier, for the Vikes’ defensive scheme.

Losing Antoine Winfield to Seattle made Rhodes the easy selection. Rhodes is a larger and much younger form of Winfield.

The Florida State product has good size to be a good run-support CB at 6-1, 217 pounds. But he can also man cover with good length. Pairing him with Chris Cook, another lengthy CB, the Vikes may have a great starting duo, with Robinson in the slot.

With DT and CB going with the Vikes’ two top picks, that left gaping holes at linebacker and wide receiver.

That’s where Spielman used his bevy of picks and moved up 23 spots by giving second, third, fourth and seventh round picks to New England.

It was a fair trade, too, according to the NFL’s trade value chart. The Vikings gave up picks which totaled 649 points and obtained a pick worth 640 points.

The 52nd pick in the second round is worth 380 points, while the 83rd pick in the third round is worth 175 points, the 102nd pick in the fourth round is worth 92 points and the 229th pick in the seventh round is worth 1.2 points.

With the upgraded pick, the replacement for Harvin was taken in Cordarrelle Patterson.

Basically the Vikes gave up a third and fourth, which have produced players such as Nate Burelson, Darrion Scott, Marcus McCauley, Asher Allen, Ciatrick Fason, Nat Dorsey and Ontarrio Smith in the past for the Vikings. Not exactly huge contributors.

Patterson is raw, but has a high ceiling with big play ability after the catch. More importantly, he replaces Harvin on kickoff returns, in which former Colts’ GM and ESPN analyst Bill Polian said Patterson will be better.

If Patterson was one of the first two picks, it would not have been good value, but since he was the third one selected, it looks much better. With Greg Jennings as No. 1, there isn’t as much pressure for Patterson to become a huge contributor as a rookie, with his kickoff return ability becoming a weapon.

The triple Spielman hit can turn into a homer, depending on if he can address the MLB spot and of course, if these players perform on the field this coming season.

It’s all projection for the moment, but as of now, the Vikings have filled some big holes in what potentially can be an even better draft than last year.

In other words, it was a good night to be a Vikings’ fan in the month of April.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.