EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — After taking USC wide receiver Jordan Addison in the first round, the Minnesota Vikings extended their wait for their second pick and eventually selected Trojans cornerback Mekhi Blackmon with the final pick of the third round of the NFL draft on Friday night.
Minnesota began the second day of the draft without a second-round pick from the trade they made last November with Detroit to acquire tight end T.J. Hockenson. The Vikings entered Friday with the 87th overall selection, in the third round, before moving back in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers.
In exchange for No. 87, Minnesota received the 102nd pick, a compensatory selection for San Francisco, to draft Blackmon. The team also added the 164th pick, in the fifth round, and No. 222, in the seventh round. After starting the draft with just five overall selections, the Vikings will have five during Saturday’s third round.
Blackmon addresses one of Minnesota’s biggest needs.
The 24-year-old cornerback enters a Vikings’ secondary that lost veteran Patrick Peterson in free agency, along with Cameron Dantzler, Duke Shelley and Kris Boyd. Minnesota signed Byron Murphy in free agency and has 2022 cornerback draft picks in Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans.
Addison and the Minnesota Vikings hit it off during his pre-draft visit, which ended a vow from coach Kevin O’Connell that they would take him with the 23rd overall pick in the NFL draft if the USC wide receiver was still available.
“Once Minnesota came up, I just kept checking my phone,” Addison said.
But surely other teams made the same easy, empty promise?
“Yeah, they said that, but they didn’t stick to their word, so I’m glad to be a Viking,” said Addison, who was the fourth consecutive wide receiver to come off the board Thursday. “This is where I’m supposed to be at. They believe in me, and I’m just glad to be here.”
The synergy is strong between Addison and the Vikings, who have as rich of a lineage at wide receiver as any team in the NFL — with Cris Carter and Randy Moss in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Justin Jefferson well on his way. He’s also a native of Maryland like former Vikings standout Stefon Diggs, whose route-running skill was must-watch video for Addison as an eager teenager.
“Just the way he ran routes and his mindset about everything just kind of shifted my perspective because I was a quarterback at first,” Addison said. “That’s when I switched my position to receiver in high school, and then I never looked back.”
Listed at 5-foot-11 and 173 pounds by the NFL, Addison on the small side for his position. He’ll have to prove he can consistently beat man-to-man press coverage that will be much tougher than he faced with the Trojans in the Pac-12 last year or in the ACC at Pittsburgh in his first two college seasons.
“That’s something that a lot of people tried to do, just eyeing me up from the first point, but I just tried to use that as their weakness. Some people just tried to get overaggressive, and I just used that to my advantage,” Addison said Friday at his introductory news conference.
Separation ability and sure hands are two of his best attributes.
“When I’m running my routes, I like to look at it like I’m an artist and I’m going out there painting pictures,” he said. “I just fell in love with the craft, and I feel like that’s what’s helping me succeed.”
With Jefferson and K.J. Osborn at wide receiver and T.J. Hockenson at tight end, Addison ought to be able to ease in to the offense — even though it’ll be counting on him to essentially replace a fixture like Adam Thielen.
“I can run routes all day, and I’m ready to work. But just coming into a great receiver group as a young receiver or a young rookie, that’s what you want,” Addison said.
Said O’Connell: “He’s already asking for a playbook and, ‘What are we going to be doing here or there or how are you planning on using me?’”
Addison shojld be ready for the high-pressure environment of the NFL, having experienced plenty of online backlash from Panthers fans after transferring for his final season. He said begun to lobby his mother to be able to play football all the way back at age 3. Two years later, he was signed up.
“Once you put them pads on, it was over with,” Addison said.