Vikings fill needs, focus on athletes on the 3rd day

Published 8:00 am Monday, April 30, 2018

EAGAN — As he maneuvered through the NFL draft on Saturday, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman certainly had his eye on filling team needs.

Trusting his coaches to develop players, Spielman also had a specific focus on athleticism.

Minnesota, after trading out of the third round and holding the second pick in the fourth round, selected Ohio State defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes to start Saturday’s third day of the draft. Later, the team added two former basketball players as part of a six-player, final day haul.

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“Sticking with the athletic traits we’re looking for and relying on this coaching staff to develop a lot of this young talent,” Spielman said. “A lot of the traits that they have, you can’t teach, you can’t coach, but you can sure develop them.”

Spielman continued to move around the board on Saturday. The Vikings then made a pair of trades with the New York Jets, adding tight end Tyler Conklin from Central Michigan and the first kicker taken in the draft in Auburn’s Daniel Carlson in the fifth round.

Minnesota added guard Colby Gossett from Appalachian State, Tulane defensive end Ade Aruna and California linebacker Devante Downs.

Holmes, a 270-pound defensive end at Ohio State, likely will play inside for the Vikings. He ran 4.82 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, sixth among defensive ends.

Conklin and Aruna were both former basketball players.

Conklin left behind a scholarship at Northwood University as a basketball player to walk on to the football team at Central Michigan. Aruna came to the United States from Nigeria to play high school basketball before switching to football prior to his senior season.

Conklin had the second-best mark among tight ends in the vertical jump and 60-yard shuttle at the combine.

Aruna also flashed his traits at the combine. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound end was second among all defensive lineman in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.60 seconds and had the top vertical jump and broad jump.

“We’ll have a hell of an intramural team,” Spielman joked. “All these guys are long. All these guys can jump out of the gym. All these guys can run. When you have those traits, to me and to this coaching staff, our philosophy if we can get athletes in like that, it gives you a chance to hit on some guys that can be pretty special.”

Spielman referenced the team’s selection of defensive end Danielle Hunter in the third round in 2015 after Hunter had 1½ sacks as a senior. He’s developed into a starting end and has 25½ sacks in three seasons.

Aruna’s basketball background even included a matchup with NBA forward Andrew Wiggins where Aruna was responsible for defending the eventual Minnesota Timberwolves player.

“As soon as we got down to the stadium to play that game, my coach told me, ‘Hey, I want you to guard Andrew Wiggins. He’s going to be your assignment tonight,’” Aruna said. “I told him, ‘No problem, if that’s how you want it I will get it done, just like that.’ I gave him one of the lowest scoring games of his high school career, that night.”