2006 NFL Draft Archives

May 2, 2006
"Mistakes Made, But At What Cost?" by Vikes Geek

As successful NFL personnel people will attest, NFL games are won as much in the front office as on the field, for it is the successful front office that tends to correlate with the successful team. In the NFL, a successful front office is measured by three criteria—contract management, free-agent signees, and draftees.

With few meaningful contract issues this season, the Minnesota Vikings’ personnel people are most aptly judged in 2006 on the basis of their free-agent signings and their draft acumen. After a respectable free-agency period, whether the Vikings would keep pace with their division rivals came down to a question of how the Vikings did in the draft. And upon further review, the returns are as much disappointing as they are promising.

In yesterday’s column, I noted that one could argue that the Vikings had a respectable draft. After selecting a consensus starter in Chad Greenway in the first round, the Vikings proceeded to add two more players in the second round—Cedric Griffin and Ryan Cook—who potentially fill extant holes. But it is with these picks that questions begin to arise about the draft skills of the Vikings’ draft coterie—head coach Brad Childress and personnel men Scott Studwell and Fran Foley. For beginning with the Griffin pick, the Vikings tranformed from a team intent on optimizing their selections to a team bent on proving that counter-intuitiveness trumps conventional wisdom. And that transformation could be the difference between the Vikings merely keeping pace with their division and conference rivals and gaining an edge on those same adversaries through a draft in which the Vikings purportedly had a numbers edge.

The problem with the Vikings’ draft picks from the second round on is not necessarily who they drafted—though there are some clear concerns in that area—but what the team paid to get those players and whether the team optimized its selections. And no matter how one dissects the draft, it is clear that the Vikings’ personnel people made several gaffes once they moved from selecting, in round one, a consensus player at a position that they desperately needed to fill, to drafting in the murkier waters of the post-round one realm.

The Picks and the Prices

Having addressed their primary need at linebacker with the selection of Chad Greenway the Vikings next moved to address their need at cornerback. With Brian Williams gone the Vikings needed a corner capable both of starting at nickel back and pushing the enigmatic Fred Smoot. There were several comparable cornerbacks of reasonable quality still on the board when the Vikings selected at forty-eight. But rather than selecting the more highly regarded Ashton Youboty, the Vikings opted for Cedric Griffin. That Youboty lasted until the seventieth pick suggests that taking Griffin at forty-eight was an unnecessary reach.

As I’ve said many times in the past, a reach is only a reach if it adversely affects your bottom line. And Griffin’s selection at forty-eight affected the Vikings’ bottom line. For, had the Vikings not drafted Griffin at forty-eight, they still could have taken him at fifty or drafted any number of other comparable cornerbacks in round three. The reach on Griffin would be virtually meaningless, however, were it not for the Vikings’ desperation to select a quarterback in round two and the team’s subsequent comedy of errors made in an attempt to ensure that they landed a player that they could have landed without having to trade away a valuable third-round pick.

Purportedly, the Vikings had Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens as their target in the second round. The Vikings erroneously assumed that Clemens would still be available when they next selected at fifty-one. When the N.Y. Jets swung a deal with the Dallas Cowboys to move into the number forty-nine position to take Clemens, the Vikings’ draft room imploded, with those who wanted to take Clemens at forty-eight at odds with those who did not.

The Vikings reacted to the Jets’ move by making two moves of their own. First, they inexplicably took center Ryan Cook with the fifty-first pick. Barring either a revelation that Matt Birk will not be ready to play at the beginning of the 2006 season or a determination to move Birk to right guard, a position that the Vikings purportedly filled with the trade for Artis Hicks, the move makes little sense as center is not a need for the Vikings. With several legitimate NFL players still on the board at positions of need for the Vikings, the selection of Cook—widely regarded as a round-five pick before the draft—therefore is mystifying.

Adding to the Vikings’ second-round intrigue was the Vikings’ trade of their two third-round picks, numbers eighty-three and ninety-five, to the Pittsburgh Steelers for the Steelers’ number sixty-four pick. With the sixty-fourth pick, the Vikings selected a major quarterback project, Alabama State quarterback Tarvaris Jackson.

To summarize the Vikings’ round two blunders, it is easiest to work backwards at this point. If the Vikings had wanted Clemens there was no excuse for not taking him with the forty-eighth pick. If that meant that another team snuck in between forty-eight and fifty-one to nab Griffin, so be it. There were many other viable cornerbacks still available—Youboty among them.

If the Vikings were content with obtaining Jackson, however, Griffin was a credible selection at forty-eight and the Vikings still could have had Jackson at fifty-one. And that would have left the Vikings with picks eighty-three and ninety-five—where they could have selected Cook or, if Cook was gone, another center such as the much more highly rated Greg Eslinger, or another player that filled a need.

Who would have been available to the Vikings in the third round? To name just a few, Rashad Butler, Maurice Stoval, Greg Eslinger, Dominique Byrd, Will Blackmon, Elvis Dumervil, and Mark Setterstrom. Even if the Vikings believed that these players were redundant or stretches, they were free additions—the price was merely proper management of selections in round two. That the Vikings failed properly to manage their selections in round two meant, at a minimum, that the team forfeited the opportunity to add at least one more third-round caliber player. That’s a peculiar luxury to afford oneself in an era in which third-round picks more often than not make the squad and stay with a team for at least three years.

Ultimately, what might be a decent draft for the Vikings on the basis of a solid first-round pick might as well be regarded as a highly disappointing pick for the loss of at least one pick in the third round without benefit of any meaningful return. And if the purported return is a bust, the second-round maneuvers in this year’s draft will look even more amateurish and could lead to a recall of personnel people.

Up Next: More Questions. Plus, remaining needs.

Posted by maasx003 at 6:07 AM
May 1, 2006
"At Fork in the Road, Vikings Go Big, Then They Go Down Home" by Vikes Geek

As the Minnesota Vikings prepared for the 2006 NFL entry draft, the vast majority of Vikings’ fans predicted a nice haul in the draft. With five picks on day one, history supported such a sentiment. And with a draft replete with good talent deep into the first round—and numerous players that fit the Vikings’ draft needs likely to be available when the Vikings selected at seventeen—the Vikings appeared in position to make a draft move.

To some extent, the Vikings did what they needed to do in this draft. Entering the draft, the team’s greatest need was at middle linebacker. Three linebackers stood out as potentially filling this need—AJ Hawk, Ernie Sims, and Chad Greenway. Of the three, Hawk widely was regarded as the superior linebacker with Greenway and Sims close behind. But a case could be made that Greenway—with thirty-five more tackles than Hawk in 2005—was the best linebacker on the board, with Sims a distant third both as a player and as a person. That made landing Greenway at seventeen a nice, as well as a less expensive, catch.

The question for the Vikings is how soon it will take Greenway to move to the middle linebacker slot. Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress has indicated that Greenway will open camp as the starter at weak side linebacker with EJ Henderson manning the middle linebacker position and Ben Leber lining up at strong-side linebacker. If Greenway shows the aptitude for the game that he showed as a walk-on at Iowa, however, the linebacker alignment could change before the regular season begins and the Vikings could have one of the more solid linebacking corps in the NFL.

Another of the Vikings’ pressing needs was a role player in the secondary. The Vikings filled that need by selecting Texas cornerback Cedric Griffin. While Griffin probably will not draw comparisons to Deion Sanders any time soon, the Vikings drafted him to fill an immediate need that does not require star quality—the role of nickel cornerback. And with 86 tackles for the Longhorns last season, he should be more than suited to fill that role.

The Vikings’ selection of Griffin meant not only that the Vikings had filled their two remaining vacancies, but also that the team could turn its attention to upgrading positions for which they at least had a body penciled in as starter in 2006. That shift of attention led the Vikings back to their number one problem last season and gave Vikings’ fans their first real reason second-guess the Vikings’ draft triangle—a group that, through pick forty-eight, merely had followed virtually everybody’s big board.

Finding a Fork in It

Shortly after selecting Griffin, the Vikings reached a fork in the road. Holding the 51st pick, the Vikings still sought an offensive lineman, a backup quarterback, and another linebacker. With several talented offensive linemen still available the question for the Vikings was whether they preferred finesse or brute strength.

One option was Outland Trophy and Rimington Award winner Greg Eslinger from the University of Minnesota. The only player ever to be selected both the best interior lineman and the best center in college football, Eslinger appeared to be a good fit for the Vikings as his selection would allow the Vikings to move Birk to right guard and to interject some quickness into a line otherwise heavy of foot.

The Vikings took the road more traveled, however, foregoing drafting Eslinger in favor of drafting the much taller, weightier Ryan Cook out of New Mexico. While the knock on Eslinger is that he is too small, the knock on Cook is that he is too tall—ripping the tape at 6’7?.

The primary concern about the Vikings’ selection of Cook, however, is not that Cook is too tall to line up at center for Minnesota, but that the Vikings’ took the mammoth center far too early in the draft. With most experts having pegged Cook as a second-day selection, picking Cook in the middle of the 2nd round certainly looks like a reach. And if the Vikings truly could have had Cook in the fifth round—where he was projected to go—then the team blew the pick with respect to what they later had to pay to move up to take Tarvaris Jackson.

If Cook pans out, however, all probably will be forgotten about this gaffe—one that pales in comparison to previous draft-day gaffes—as Vikings’ fans predominantly will recall only that the Vikings obtained Cook somewhere in the 2006 draft. And if Cook pans out—as is also expected of Greenway and Griffin—the Vikings will be able to look back at the 2006 draft, in which the team had only one pick in the first forty-seven, as at least a satisfactory draft.

Up Next: Jackson and Change.

Posted by maasx003 at 6:08 AM
April 30, 2006
"Squealing with Anger" by Mr. Cheer Or Die


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Many of you who know me well also understand that I wear my emotions on my sleeve. And I just want to open with that because I could come back here later this week and be in a different frame of mind over what transpired over the last 48-hours at the draft war room inside Winter Park.

But, as of right now I'm too infuriated to even articulate about the picks made on the second day. Just too incensed. And I know some of you, especially the younger fans, won't understand my anger. (And there will be those even angrier than myself.) So, let me try and elaborate for all those you think I’m being too harsh in my assessment.

It's been 46-years since the inception of the team. And the Vikings have yet to win a Super Bowl. So, the fans tend to magnify everything that happens with the team in an attempt to find the promised land.

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When a team has been to the Super Bowl four times and come up empty, the fans start reaching for excuses and help. To the fans, progress always seems slow. In fact, fans don't want improvement. We want a ring! And we want it yesterday.

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Whenever I'm sick, I'm always reminded of how the Vikings fans magnify every little move the Vikings make. You must know that feeling when all you have to do is lie in bed and concentrate on your condition. It's impossible not to focus on yourself. All your little aches and pains seem magnified. You watch yourself for the slightest signs of improvement. If there isn't any, you wonder why. You wonder what's happening. You start worrying about what you might have done differently to avoid being laid up.

The same with the Vikings. We'll analyze the hell out of every move, every trade, the coach, and even the food served at the MetroDome. So, exactly how do I usually keep a smile on my face?

First off, I gave Zygi Wilf a honeymoon period. And I still don't really have any issues with a man who has spent more in a single year than the previous did in five. Even Red McCombs enjoyed immense popularity his inaugural season. I also gave a honeymoon period to Brad Childress which was suppose to last one full season.....but that period may have abruptly ended over the weekend. And I also gave a honeymoon period to Fran Foley which lasted as long as a marriage with Zsa Zsa Gabor did....to any of her many husbands.


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So, for Vikings owners, coaches (Bud Grant excluded), administration, and players, our adoration can be fleeting. Especially when owners decide to raise ticket prices early in the year followed by a crappy draft. But I'm getting off topic a bit. (For a complete rundown on the history of ticket rate increase (and hijacking) please read more here.)

All we really ask of our Vikings owners and players is that we receive your undivided attention and effort. Or at least feign it. We don't like to be shared. Especially when the new owner is exploring the purchase of a Major League Soccer team to bring to the Twin Cities. Perhaps that fits into his new stadium plans or he has another goal in mind. But, the new owner hasn't even reached the Big Dance with the Purple yet. As The Wife® will tell me, "Keep your eyes over here, Mister!"

Yes, Mr. Wilf opened up his pocket book and brought the Vikes closer to the salary cap maximum. I'm not saying Zygi has to spend just to spend. But when the opportunity to vastly improve the team at a weak position presents itself the reply should be, "Cash or check?" and not, "I'll pass."

In that regard, Zygi gets high, high marks.

Additionally, I truly understand the need to bring in additional income for advertising by renting space for signage throughout the MetroDome which was done under McCombs. But, the appearance was more in line with a Texas league high school football than a professional football team. Last season, Zygi took a look-see for himself. He understood being an ECG (East Coast guy) and all. Again, two huge thumbs up in improving the look of the Dome.

And Wilf is riding a high approval rating here on the Viking Underground. Wilf got an 86% approval rating for April. For the year, Zygi actually improved to an overall 87% approval rating. I wonder if that will hold in May given the recent uniform change and then what I am referring to as a draft debacle.

Note: The May Zygi Approval Rating poll is now available. Just navigate to along the left frame to the poll area. And directly underneath the approval poll is a new poll on which NFC North team had the best overall draft.

With any draft, one has to allow time to judge the value of the players drafted. It will be interesting to see how the "experts" grade the team but I have to think no higher than a "C" which is again, helped by the first two picks which I truly loved.

But we aren't even sure Chad Greenway or Cedric Griffin will be "all that and a bag of chips" either. This could be one of the worst drafts EVER in the history of the team.

For example, the Vikes opening day linebacker corps for opening day could be Ben Leber at strong-side, EJ Henderson at middle and Greenway at weak. Um, don't you need at least one guy who can take on a block? There was Abdul Hodge for the taking. Numerous times in the second round and again early in the third. Instead, Hodge was picked up by the Packers. Now the Vikes have to face AJ Hawk, Hodge, and either Nick Barnett or Na’il Diggs twice a year. Hell, the Pack could even go 3-4! And do you know how pissed I get when I have to tip my hat to the freakin’ Packers!!!????!!!!

Then there was the reach for Tarvaris Jackson. I fully understand that other teams were looking to move up and “steal him? from the Vikes. But, c’mon!?!? That was a lot to spend for him. Yes, Jackson has got an absurd arm. Yes, the pundits said the arm of Jackson might be the best in the draft. But, the big negative in his game is Jackson has trouble absorbing an offense and taking it to the field. The West Coast offense is not an easy offense to learn. And the team let a QB leave that had a freakish arm who was already a Pro Bowler and familiar with the personnel. He just didn’t want to be here. So, we are now supposed to start from scratch!?!? (Recall the 46-year Super Bowl draught?)

I might be just too upset to think straight. I know I'm too upset to write any more for a few days and will look for the analytical honey-sweet tones of Vikes Geek to perhaps set me straight....or vindicate my current gut feelings.

How about you? Am I being harsh? Do you consider this draft to be a stinker or does it have the aroma of a Super Bowl? Can you put a smile back on my face? If so, I'd love to hear from you. Tell me what I am missing, please! And grade out the Vikes draft in the poll below.




Update: Sunday evening 9 PM CST

Best comment fed back to me so far....."No Steller names, but all soild players. Remember the Pats?" Slight smile starting to crack on left side of face. Keep them coming!

Vikes Free Agent Draft Summary 2006: Know anyone? Leave a comment if you do.









PLAYER



PLAYER

POSTION

SCHOOL

Stinson, Albert

OT

Jackson State

Carter, Jason

WR

Texas A&M

Baskett, Hank

WR

New Mexico

Jackson, Steven

FB

Clemson

Henderson, Taureen

HB

Texas Tech

Torp, John

P

Colorado

Palermo, Jason

C/G

Wisconsin

Gordon, Charles

CB

Kansas

Penn, Donald

OT

Utah State

Smith, Kyle

WR

Youngstown State

Cobb, Robert

CB

Massachusetts

Mathis, Wendell

HB

Fresno State

Mitchell, Jayme

DE

Mississippi

McKenzie, Kyle

LB

Minnesota

Nealy, Barrick

WR

SW Texas State

Hopoi, Manase

UT

Washington

Hoyte, Oliver

LB

NC State

 

Posted by maasx003 at 3:53 PM
April 29, 2006
"Squealing with Delight" by Mr. Cheer Or Die


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Updated Sunday afternoon to fix Greenway audio link: Scroll to bottom of this entry.

Chad Greenway arrived at Iowa as a quarterback who played nine-man football in tiny Mount Vernon, S.D. He came from a hog farm where hard work is more expected than demanded. And being a Dakota native (North, not South) I know that the work ethic of Greenway is to “do whatever honest work it takes to be successful.?

After being selected by the Vikings in the 17th round of the 2006 NFL draft, Greenway leaves Iowa University as an all-Big Ten linebacker and probable pro football starter as a rookie.

The personification of a success story, wouldn’t you say?

All the NFL pundits expected Greenway to be taken in the middle of the first round. His comrade at linebacker, Abdul Hodge, was pegged as a second-round pick. After selecting Greenway, I actually had hopes to see the Vikes go and draft Hodge as well….the dynamic duo at linebacker in purple for years to come! But that was not to be.

Depending on the forecaster I read prior to the draft, Greenway was either the second-, third- or fourth-best linebacker in the draft. Ohio State’s A.J. Hawk was the consensus pick as the No. 1 player at the position, with Florida State’s Ernie Sims and Greenway generally in the next two spots. Interestingly enough, Hawk went to the Packers and Sims to the Lions….both NFC Central foes.

With Brian Urlacher already entrenched in Chicago as the league’s preeminent linebacker, is there any question that the Black and Blue division will once again be mentioned by the TV guys this coming fall?

The Des Moines Register ran linebacker rankings from veteran sports writer Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday. Gosselin had Hawk first, of course, followed by Sims, Ohio State’s Bobby Carpenter (who went to Dallas with the 18th overall pick) and Greenway. He had Hodge at No. 10.

One analyst summed up Greenway this way:

“He is not the biggest, strongest or fastest LB in this draft, but he is the most instinctive.’’

Gil Brandt, who is quoted in every football paper and publication it seems like, wrote on NFL.com that while Greenway needs to get stronger, he’ll “be a very good player for a long time.’’

Greenway’s overall grade from the scouting service used by NFL.com is 6.5, which translates into a “highly productive starter’’ and a first-round pick.

One motivating note for Vikings fans who are non-believers in Greenway entails The Sporting News, which graded Greenway as the second-best outside linebacker in the draft. Greenway remembers that publication for something else. He said his greatest inspiration at Iowa came when The Sporting News, in its 2004 college football preview issue, called him the most overrated player in the Big Ten.

“It’s going to take a lot of coaxing for me to buy another Sporting News,’’ Greenway said.

That is a linebacker, people. Just like earlier this week when I asked my readers how can one find fault with a linebacker who wears a shirt with a list of 10 "Norm-isms" that have been uttered by Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker as seen below:

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I mean at #3 is "Run like a scalded-ass dog." And how will Vikes defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin like it when Greenway shows up with the shirt and Tomlin reads #6 which goes, "The three fastest ways to die are 1) natural gas, 2) electricity, and 3) cover 2".....I'd think Tomlin might just implode! But that is linebacker mentality.....and what the Vikes need.

But back to the draft. With their first selection in the second round the Vikes selected Cedric Griffin.

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At first I went, “who is that…? but then remembered one of my Texas buddies telling me about a Longhorn player that I should watch in the Rose Ball whose name was not Vince Young. I remember reading the day after that Young said he was inspired by the UT defense stoning USC running back LenDale White on fourth-and-2 at its 45 with 2:09 to play and USC leading 38-33.

"Cedric Griffin came off the field and looked into my eyes and said, 'What you gonna do?' " Young said. "That gave me a little more edge to go out there."
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That’s the type of guy I want on this team. A defensive player who does his job and then walking off the field makes it known to the offense to do their job as well. We could have used Benson last year to get into the face of the Poutin’ QB!!!!

Now, Benson should have gone even higher in my view. Why didn’t he? Could be some off-the-field issues that I am sure Zygi and Co. will address with Benson as soon as he steps onto Minnesota soil. Cedric Griffin was involved in an assault and battery case prior to last year’s big bowl game. Charges were dismissed. But the damage was done. Still, I love the pick. And Benson has the best tandem in the league to teach him the tricks of the trade with Antoine Winfield and Fred Smoot.

But the Vikes had another pick remaining in the second round. And they addressed another “need area? once again by selecting New Mexico center Ryan Cook. And I’ll be looking for a insider perspective from the VU’s own columnist, and New Mexico resident, Hiking Viking within 24-hours!!!

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I’m not sure I’m elated about the pick. But time will tell. I see Cook early on as a backup center/guard that may eventually develop into a solid starting center under proper tutelage. The big knock on Cook seems to be that he lacks the foot agility and good athletic ability for a lineman.

Two more picks coming in the third round! Stay tuned. And I'd love to hear your early comments so far! So leave a comment at the end of this entry.

Update

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The Vikes addressed their need for a future QB after trading the Poutin’ QB to the Miami Dolphins. They moved up into the second round to select Tarvaris Jackson from relative unknown Alabama St. Jackson is a gifted, underdeveloped draft choice who needs a lot of work. You think Cook was a reach? I strongly think that Jackson is the biggest reach out of all the teams of the first day so far. And that includes the Bills selection of Donte Whitner in the first round. Jackson will sit and learn and has interesting upside, but could have been selected much later. Much, much later. Much, much, much later.

I would have much rather the Vikes had made a run to capture Matt Leinart when it was clear the USC star was falling out of the top seven picks. Leinart could even have been called into duty as soon as this season had Big Bad Brad suffered an injury. Leinart would have been the perfect fit for a West Coast style dink-and-dunk offense. And that’s why I end the first day of the draft pretty steamed about this QB selection.

Jackson is not a West Coast type of guy. Per various reports, his passing is erratic and the offense run at Alabama St. was your basic vanilla college offense. Not the finesse type in which you want a future West Coast offense QB to come from. Me thinks Vikes coach Brad Childress made the call on this, perhaps enamored by Jackson’s ability to move in and out of the pocket. That may have reminded Childress of someone he used to coach at QB while with the Eagles.

And in the same vein, I am very happy the Vikes did not go after Jay Cutler. Did you did a load of the honky-tonk cowboy hat and mirrored sunglasses in those commercials? And Cutler looked all of 14-years old! I could envision Cutler coming to the line, seeing a John Randle type defensive tackle foaming at the mouth, and then Cutler wetting his pants.

But, back to Jackson. I’d like to be happy about this pick. Right now, I’m not. But I’ll sleep on it and reserve the right to change my mind once I see him in mini-camp in a couple of weeks.

So, who is left on the board for the second day that I hope and pray the Vikes Triangle of Authority can muster up the gumption to draft? Here are the names I'd like to see in purple:

Guards

Jean-Gilles, Max
O'Callaghan, Ryan

Defensive Ends

Dumervil, Elvis
Jenkins, Julian

Cornerback

Webb, Demetrice
Zemaitis, Alan

Quarterbacks (Yep! Quarterbacks)

Jacobs, Omar

Pull one or two names from that list and the Vikes maybe grade out at a B. Certainly up from the C they are at now. Again, I think the first two picks were great. I just feel they overreached with the next two.

How about you?




Update: Sunday Morning

Chad Greenway Highlight Reel

Brad Childress talks about Greenway shortly after Round One.

Cedric Griffin had a fantastic interception of a Jay Cutler pass in the end zone in the Senior Bowl (video posted below).


(video courtesy of dougutx from Orangebloods)


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Video Highlight Reel for Jackson (thanks chadpad)

From the Alabama Montgomery Advertiser:

Jackson, who led ASU to a SWAC championship two years ago, got the unexpected call from Minnesota while watching the draft with family and friends.

Jackson's mother, SaSanque, answered the phone, heard a voice she didn't recognize ask for Tarvaris and handed the phone over without giving it much thought.

On the other end was a Minnesota Vikings' official, calling to inform Jackson that the team didn't feel as though he would still be on the board by the time their third-round draft pick rolled around.

So, the Vikings were trading up to get him.

Posted by maasx003 at 5:13 PM