After taking an offensive lineman with the No. 18 pick in the NFL Draft Thursday night, the Minnesota Vikings added more offense in the second round Friday.
Vikings legend Carl Eller gave the announcement that they chose Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr. with the No. 50 pick. It’s an interesting choice with current tight end Kyle Rudolph playing in the final year of his contract. Rudolph has expressed interest to restructure his deal and stay with the Vikings.
Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network went as far as to say “I wouldn’t be surprised if Kyle Rudolph has played his last game with the Minnesota Vikings.”
Spielman said Friday night drafting Smith has no impact on Rudolph's status with the Vikings.
Smith gives the Vikings an athletic tight end who is a threat down the middle of the field. He owns the Alabama single-season record with seven touchdowns by a tight end. He finished fourth for the Crimson Tide with 44 catches for 710 yards and seven scores last season.
"I’m just so excited to have this opportunity. I’m blessed that the Vikings believed in me and that they wanted to make me a Minnesota Viking. It’s an amazing opportunity and I can’t wait to get out there," Smith said Friday night via conference call.
He's expected to give Kirk Cousins another weapon on offense.
“It was crucial. It was one of the things we talked about in our meetings the last two, three weeks, we wanted to be more explosive on offense,” Vikings' Director of College Scouting Jamaal Stephenson said. “We want to move the ball and keep our offense on the field. We feel like Irv can do that for us.”
He averaged 16.1 yards per catch last season, and 28 of his 44 catches went for a first down. Smith had four catches for 43 yards in the national championship game against Clemson.
Vikings officials said trade calls were "flooding in" during the second round, but they felt Smith was too valuable to pass up. There were a few surprises, but Smith was one of their top targets heading into the second round.
"Our board has played out pretty much like we thought it would. We just stayed true to our board," Stephenson said.
Smith is the son of a former NFL tight end who was a first round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 1993. Smith said he prides himself on creating mismatches on the field. He's not shy about his potential.
"I believe no linebacker or safety 1-on-1 can stay with me, and I’m going to keep proving to people that’s how I feel," Smith said.
After trading bonanza, Vikings take Boise State RB in third round
After making four trades in the third round, the Vikings selected Boise State running back Alexander Mattison with the No. 102 overall pick. It was the final selection of the third round. Mattison earned First-Team All-Mountain West honors last season, finishing top-10 in the country in rushing yards (1,415) and touchdowns (17).
He had 40 carries for 200 yards and a touchdown in the Mountain West title game loss to Fresno State. He rushed for 1,086 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Spielman was a trading machine Friday night with his third round pick. He traded out of No. 81 to the Lions for Nos. 88 and 204, then traded Nos. 88 and 209 to Seattle for Nos. 92 and 195. The No. 92 pick was sent to the Jets for picks 93 and 217. Finally, the No. 93 pick was sent to the Baltimore Ravens for the last pick in the third round, Nos. 191 and 193.
The Vikings will have nine draft choices on Saturday, including four sixth-round picks and three seventh-round picks.
“We got very active moving back in the third round. There were a lot of players still on our board that we think can help our football team,” Spielman said. “We’ll see how it all unfolds but I know we do have a lot of good football players on our draft board and a lot of players that can come in and help our football team.”