Minnesota Vikings new general manager Rick Spielman conducted his first draft having the final say on the team's picks and certainly enjoyed the experience.
There was a constant smile on Spielman's face in his post-pick press conferences. Coach Leslie Frazier described him as "giddy" after Minnesota traded with the Cleveland Browns to swap the third and fourth picks, with the Vikings moving back one spot and picking up three additional choices. The trade, made about an hour before the first round started Thursday, set Spielman's draft plans in motion.
He then added likely starters in first-round picks left tackle Matt Kalil and safety Harrison Smith. He filled needs in the secondary and at wide receiver, but Day 3 brought some unexpected picks -- tight end Rhett Ellison in the fourth round and kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth -- and none really jumped out as a steal.
Grading a draft the day afterward can be an exercise in futility, but here is how some analysts are saying the Vikings did with their 10 picks:
FOX Sports' John Czarnecki -- B-: "General manager Rick Spielman did an impressive job getting extra picks for his top spot and still ended up with tackle Matt Kalil. The USC lineman fills a huge need at left tackle because Christian Ponder was pummeled last season. ... They moved back into the bottom of the first round to land Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, considered by many as the second-best safety behind Alabama's Mark Barron. ... Sticking with Golden Domers, cornerback Robert Blanton has the ability to shift to safety and deal with the bigger tight ends popping up around the NFL. ... USC's Rhett Ellison, son of ex-Raider Riki Ellison, is a tremendous blocking tight end. He's also a big target in the red zone. ... In the late rounds, Greg Childs of Arkansas is a big-body receiver with decent speed. ... Georgia kicker Blair Walsh has value, averaging 4.4 hang time on his kickoffs and converting 76.25 of his field goals over his final three seasons. But what does Walsh mean for Ryan Longwell? ... Inside linebacker Audie Cole of North Carolina State has very limited range."
ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. -- B: "The Vikings did pretty well. They got the left tackle they coveted in Matt Kalil, and they moved up to get a safety. Both Kalil and Harrison Smith, their two first-round picks, should be starting in Week 1. Josh Robinson adds speed, if not a lot of polish, at corner, and has the chance to develop into a good player. Jarius Wright and Greg Childs both come from Arkansas, and both can make plays after the catch. Overall, the Vikings did a good job of hitting needs. I don't think we'll look back and see a lot of star power here, but they got what they needed. A pretty good weekend for Minnesota."
Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke -- A: "You can dock Minnesota if you think Claiborne should have been the pick at 4 over OT Matt Kalil. I think the Vikings did the right thing, and their subsequent pickups of S Harrison Smith (29), CB Josh Robinson (66) and WR Jarius Wright (118) just add to that belief."
Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer -- B: "They knew what their weaknesses were, but Kalil came at the expense of missing out on Claiborne to help their secondary."
CBS Sports' Pete Prisco -- B: "Rick Spielman did a nice job trading back, landing extra picks and still getting Kalil. They then came back into the first round to take a starting safety in Harrison Smith in a year where that position was lean. Good job."
NBC Sports' Evan Silva -- C: "Minnesota acquired fourth-, fifth-, and seventh-round picks 'for free' when it moved down one spot in Thursday's Trent Richardson trade. The Vikings then sent Nos. 35 and 98 to Baltimore to draft Smith with the 29th pick. GM Rick Spielman picked up 2013 fourth- and sixth-rounders in deals later on. While accumulating selections is always a plus, and the Vikings made the right call on Kalil over Claiborne, a majority of the other players acquired have too many question marks for comfort. Smith is really an in-the-box safety, and those are rarely worth first-round draft picks. Childs may never be right after a 2010 patella tendon tear. Wright, Robinson, and Kalil were the class of this haul. Beyond Kalil and perhaps Smith, however, the Vikings didn't get a single surefire year-one difference maker. Spielman could have used his picks better."
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