Vikings take 2 Arkansas WRs on Day 3 of draft
By: By Jon Krawczynski, AP Sports Writer, Superior Telegram
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Rhett Ellison wasn't even watching the NFL draft on Saturday afternoon when the Minnesota Vikings came on the clock for the second time in the fourth round.
He'd grown tired of "seeing the same highlights of the same players" for the last two days, and truth be told, wasn't expecting to hear his name called at all. So he sneaked away for some quiet time on a river near his family's home in California when he received a phone call that changed his life.
The Vikings drafted the Southern California tight end/fullback with the 128th overall selection, surprising Ellison so much that he broke down in tears on the phone call.
"I wasn't expecting to get drafted or anything like that," Ellison said. "I was pretty shocked. I'm still trying to calm everything down right now."
Ellison was taken on an extremely busy day for the Vikings that started with the selection of Arkansas receiver Jarius Wright with the 118th overall pick in the fourth round. They took Arkansas receiver Greg Childs, who went to the same middle and high school as Wright as well, with their third fourth-rounder and added Notre Dame defensive back Robert Blanton Jr. in the fifth round.
In Ellison, the Vikings may have found a replacement for long-time battering ram Jim Kleinsasser, who retired after last season. Ellison is 6-foot-5 and 251 pounds, with the versatility to catch passes and block bigger defenders. He caught 21 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns for the Trojans last year and also spent a lot of time protecting quarterback Matt Barkley.
When Ellison got the call, "They asked me if I was watching TV and I was out on the river at that point trying to relax. I said, 'No I'm not watching it.'
"They said, 'Well you're about to be a Minnesota Viking.' I was crying pretty hard so I don't know if they understood anything that I was saying. I'll have to give them a call back later."
Ellison's father, Riki Ellison, played on two Super Bowl-winning teams in San Francisco during a 10-year NFL career as a linebacker. Even dad was trying to prepare his son for life after football. Rhett Ellison is finishing up his master's degree in communication management and has an undergraduate degree in international relations and was getting ready for a job in the real world.
"That's the wisdom I got from my dad going through all this," Rhett Ellison said. "You prepare for another career. In football, you don't know if it's going to happen. It's amazing it did happen. I can't believe it."
If the 2012 Vikings draft had a theme, it may be familiarity. Ellison is close friends and teammates with Vikings first-round pick Matt Kalil, Blanton has spent the last four years playing in the same defensive backfield with first-round safety Harrison Smith, and Wright and Childs have known each other since the third grade.
"We had talked about this one day, what if we end up going to the same NFL team?" Childs said. "It would be crazy because we've been to middle school, elementary, high school together. Same college team. Now we're moving on in life and we're still going to be on the same team together."
The Vikings have finished last in their division for back-to-back years for the first time in the franchise's 50-year history. Last year's debacle prompted owners Zygi and Mark Wilf to elevate Rick Spielman to general manager and give the team a singular voice to chart the course of the rebuild.
In his first offseason running the show, Spielman took a cautious approach to free agency, signing second- and third-tier players to short deals to bolster the team's depth rather than make splashier moves to address the many holes in the starting lineups on both offense and defense. The strategy put a lot more pressure on this week to add difference-makers to a roster in flux.
After taking Kalil and Smith on Thursday and Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson in the third round on Friday, the Vikings took nine picks into the final day of the draft with needs at receiver, defensive back and linebacker.
Wright caught 66 passes for 1,117 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Razorbacks last season. He helps fill a need on the outside for the Vikings, who are desperate for playmakers to complement Percy Harvin. At 5-10 and with an affinity for going over the middle, Wright set the Arkansas career records for catches (168) and yards (2,934) and bears a resemblance to Harvin, the team's most dynamic playmaker.
"Percy Harvin has always been one of my favorite receivers and one of the guys I looked up to in my career," Wright said.
Childs is more of a prototypical receiver, listed at 6-3 and 219 pounds. He was a rising star in the SEC during his first two years at Arkansas before tearing the patellar tendon in his left knee as a junior. He rushed back for his senior year, but was limited to 21 catches for 240 yards. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at his pro day in March and said he feels 100 percent.
"To put it simply, I'm just a playmaker," Childs said.