E.J. Henderson: Vikings' Thoughts

The Vikings didn't have an urgent need at linebacker, but when E.J. Henderson was still available he was too good for the team to bypass, according to the Vikings officials.

Many in the media have scoffed at the time-honored notion of the Vikings war room being shocked the player they had just selected was still available. It's become a running joke, but on those occasions like drafting Randy Moss or Dwayne Rudd -- players almost universally projected higher than they went -- it's much more believable.

So it was when the Vikings drafted linebacker E.J. Henderson. A victim of a draft that saw 11 defensive linemen go in the first round, Henderson fell much farther than he thought he would and, more importantly, than the Vikings thought he would.

"E.J. was the top-rated linebacker in the draft that we had," Tice said. "He was a first-round grade -- from what we had -- and he went to (Tice's alma mater) Maryland. For me, it's a trifecta."

Henderson was an example of the Vikings taking the "best athlete available" approach to drafting. Middle linebacker wasn't an immediate need for the Vikings -- Tice was quick to point out before the question was asked that Greg Biekert is and remains the starting MLB -- but that Henderson was too big a talent to pass up.

"(We said) we were going to take the best athlete available regardless of position," director of college scouting Scott Studwell told VU. "Everyone that graded E.J. gave him first-round grades. We all thought that he was one of those players that may not be an immediate impact player, but he's potentially going to be the kind of player you want to step behind a veteran player like Biekert."

While Henderson won't be asked to take over a starting role immediately, linebackers coach Brian Baker said this year could be his most important season.

"This is a chance for E.J. to learn a lot from a player like Greg," Baker told VU. "He can learn a lot if he chooses to. Some players could come in with a chip on their shoulder and say, ‘I'm going to take your job.' I don't believe E.J. is that kind of player, and I think he can learn a lot from Greg to make himself a better player. I'm just happy we were able to get him because I didn't think there was a chance he'd still be on the board when we picked."

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