Childress, Spielman Sold on Safety

Many Vikings fans may not know much about safety Tyrell Johnson, but head coach Brad Childress and VP of player personnel Rick Spielman saw enough game film and were impressed in their interviews with him that they moved up in the draft to get him. See what the Vikings brass had to say about their second-round pick.

A year ago on draft weekend, as the Vikings' draft wizards went over the list of available players for the second day, they noticed that there was at least one team in front of them that Rick Spielman knew was interested in defensive end Brian Robison. In order to assure that the Vikings didn't miss out on him, they moved up in the round and snapped him up.

There was much the same sentiment as the Vikings made their only pick of the first day of the time-shortened NFL draft Saturday. With safety Tyrell Johnson still on the board and fears that one or more of the four teams in front of them – Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and/or Cincinnati – would take Johnson, the Vikings were unwilling to take the chance.

The Vikings made an offer to the Eagles to flip-flop picks in the second round (Nos. 43 and 47) as well as the Vikings' pick in the fourth round (No. 117) for the Eagles' pick in the fifth round (No. 152). With Johnson so close, the Vikings felt that, like the Robison move, it was worth the draft positioning.

"(Johnson) was a guy on our board that, when it got within striking distance, we felt we had to go up and get," Spielman said. "He was too good of a football player to sit there and wait. When you strategize and look at the teams that are ahead of you, you start to wonder, ‘Could he not get down (to our pick)?' There were some teams up there we felt had safety needs."

Johnson was not only high on the Vikings' draft board, he was very high. Having traded away the 17th pick in the draft as part of the Jared Allen deal, had the draft fallen exactly as the Vikings had it going on their own draft board, the team would have ended up with Johnson even if it hadn't traded for Allen.

"Ironically, when we went through (Spielman's) rating system, he was the 17th player on our board," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "Zygi (Wilf) is the guy who pointed that out."

The Vikings had placed a premium on a pair of safeties at prominent positions on their draft board -–Johnson at No. 17 and Miami's Kenny Phillips shortly thereafter. With the expectation that defensive ends and offensive tackles were going to go off the board early, getting a player they had rated so highly was a coup.

Although many casual football fans likely aren't too familiar with Arkansas State, a Division I-AA school in the Sun Belt Conference, a lot of teams had taken notice of Johnson. He had been climbing up draft boards for the last several months and draft guru Mel Kiper had him rated as the top safety in the draft.

If there was a child that was born to be a premium athlete, it is Johnson. His mother was a star track athlete in college at Arkansas and his biological father is Alvin Robertson – a former first-round pick of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. Although not under the glare of the big-college spotlight at Arkansas State, Johnson was a player who stood out on film and in person with the Vikings' brass.
.
"We saw a solid all-around athlete," Childress said. "Where he really jumps if you watched him play the University of Texas (in 2007). He had an outstanding game against a pretty good caliber Texas team. You always watch a guy when he competes up (to the level of competition), particularly when you're looking at a Division I-AA athlete."

While viewed by some as a raw talent that will need some developing, he can serve as an heir apparent to veteran Darren Sharper. But that doesn't mean he isn't expected to see playing time. Childress said he can contribute immediately on special teams and both Childress and Spielman praised Johnson's ability to play deep center field as well as in-the-box run support. He brings a lot to the table in terms of hands to get interceptions (he had six as a senior), has excellent closing burst and good blitzing skills.

Johnson won't be pigeon-holed as a strong safety or free safety because, in the Tampa-2 defense, the positions are essentially interchangeable.

"He's at the safety position – those guys go back and forth," Childress said. "We could put ‘S' and ‘S' (just denoting safety on the depth chart) and they both have to be able to do the same identical things."

With the Vikings now out of the fourth round, Johnson will be the only rookie talk of the town the Vikes will have for some time on draft weekend. While Johnson made a name for himself with an outstanding Combine performance that got him national attention of those in the scouting industry, team scouts knew long before his trip to Indianapolis that Johnson was a special player – as well as a special person that can immediately help the Vikings get better.

"You don't go off Combine numbers to draft a guy, but when those numbers were verified, he jumped off the charts there," Spielman said. "You got an A-plus kid with A-plus character, A-plus athlete and we feel an A-plus football player."


Viking Update Top Stories

\r\n\r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" A year ago on draft weekend, as the Vikings' draft wizards went over the list of available players for the second day, they noticed that there was at least one team in front of them that Rick Spielman knew was interested in defensive end Brian Robison. In order to assure that the Vikings didn't miss out on him, they moved up in the round and snapped him up.

There was much the same sentiment as the Vikings made their only pick of the first day of the time-shortened NFL draft Saturday. With safety Tyrell Johnson still on the board and fears that one or more of the four teams in front of them – Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and/or Cincinnati – would take Johnson, the Vikings were unwilling to take the chance.

The Vikings made an offer to the Eagles to flip-flop picks in the second round (Nos. 43 and 47) as well as the Vikings' pick in the fourth round (No. 117) for the Eagles' pick in the fifth round (No. 152). With Johnson so close, the Vikings felt that, like the Robison move, it was worth the draft positioning.

\"(Johnson) was a guy on our board that, when it got within striking distance, we felt we had to go up and get,\" Spielman said. \"He was too good of a football player to sit there and wait. When you strategize and look at the teams that are ahead of you, you start to wonder, ‘Could he not get down (to our pick)?' There were some teams up there we felt had safety needs.\"

Johnson was not only high on the Vikings' draft board, he was very high. Having traded away the 17th pick in the draft as part of the Jared Allen deal, had the draft fallen exactly as the Vikings had it going on their own draft board, the team would have ended up with Johnson even if it hadn't traded for Allen.

\"Ironically, when we went through (Spielman's) rating system, he was the 17th player on our board,\" Vikings coach Brad Childress said. \"Zygi (Wilf) is the guy who pointed that out.\"

The Vikings had placed a premium on a pair of safeties at prominent positions on their draft board -–Johnson at No. 17 and Miami's Kenny Phillips shortly thereafter. With the expectation that defensive ends and offensive tackles were going to go off the board early, getting a player they had rated so highly was a coup.

Although many casual football fans likely aren't too familiar with Arkansas State, a Division I-AA school in the Sun Belt Conference, a lot of teams had taken notice of Johnson. He had been climbing up draft boards for the last several months and draft guru Mel Kiper had him rated as the top safety in the draft.

If there was a child that was born to be a premium athlete, it is Johnson. His mother was a star track athlete in college at Arkansas and his biological father is Alvin Robertson – a former first-round pick of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs. Although not under the glare of the big-college spotlight at Arkansas State, Johnson was a player who stood out on film and in person with the Vikings' brass.
.
\"We saw a solid all-around athlete,\" Childress said. \"Where he really jumps if you watched him play the University of Texas (in 2007). He had an outstanding game against a pretty good caliber Texas team. You always watch a guy when he competes up (to the level of competition), particularly when you're looking at a Division I-AA athlete.\"

While viewed by some as a raw talent that will need some developing, he can serve as an heir apparent to veteran Darren Sharper. But that doesn't mean he isn't expected to see playing time. Childress said he can contribute immediately on special teams and both Childress and Spielman praised Johnson's ability to play deep center field as well as in-the-box run support. He brings a lot to the table in terms of hands to get interceptions (he had six as a senior), has excellent closing burst and good blitzing skills.

Johnson won't be pigeon-holed as a strong safety or free safety because, in the Tampa-2 defense, the positions are essentially interchangeable.

\"He's at the safety position – those guys go back and forth,\" Childress said. \"We could put ‘S' and ‘S' (just denoting safety on the depth chart) and they both have to be able to do the same identical things.\"

With the Vikings now out of the fourth round, Johnson will be the only rookie talk of the town the Vikes will have for some time on draft weekend. While Johnson made a name for himself with an outstanding Combine performance that got him national attention of those in the scouting industry, team scouts knew long before his trip to Indianapolis that Johnson was a special player – as well as a special person that can immediately help the Vikings get better.

\"You don't go off Combine numbers to draft a guy, but when those numbers were verified, he jumped off the charts there,\" Spielman said. \"You got an A-plus kid with A-plus character, A-plus athlete and we feel an A-plus football player.\"

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