The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

May 8, 2014

Vikings go defense — and still get their quarterback

EDEN PRAIRIE — The Minnesota Vikings entered the first round of the NFL draft with glaring needs at linebacker and quarterback.

They hit on the linebacker early, then squeaked in at the end of the night to grab what they hope is their quarterback of the future.

The Vikings drafted UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr at No. 9 — passing on Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel twice in the process — then traded back into the first round with Seattle at No. 32 to get Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

The Vikings reportedly tried to trade back into the first round to take Manziel, but the Cleveland Browns grabbed the former Heisman Trophy winner at No. 22. So they sent their second- and fourth-round picks to the Seahawks to get Bridgewater, who threw for 3,970 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions with the Cardinals.

Bridgewater was originally predicted to be a top 10 pick early in the college season, but after a pro showing at his pro day workout, he slid down the draft board. The Vikings had a private workout with him in Florida, and general manager Rick Spielman said he liked what he saw.

"Some of the flaws you may have seen during the original pro day, as soon as you saw him getting coached, those flaws were getting corrected," Spielman said.

Barr was a running back at UCLA two years ago before making the switch to linebacker and racking up 23½ sacks in his last two seasons.

"I've never had a linebacker, even thinking back to my Dallas days, that has the size and speed and all the things that this guy has," said Zimmer, who was participating in his first draft as a head coach.

The Vikings entered the first round with glaring needs at quarterback and linebacker.

When they went on the clock at No. 8, and again at No. 9, they had both options sitting right there in front of them. With the crowd at the team's draft party in downtown Minneapolis hollering, "Johnny Football! Johnny Football!" the Vikings went another direction, apparently with designs about making a run at Manziel as he fell down the draft board.

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