EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings waited until the sixth round of the NFL draft to supplement a secondary that was a problem area last season, taking Virginia Tech's Antone Exum and Maine's Kendall James with the 182nd and 184th overall selections on Saturday.
True to form, general manager Rick Spielman maneuvered his way into more picks after making two trades during the first round on Thursday. The Vikings struck two more deals to bring their final-day total to six selections, after using their first three picks on a linebacker, quarterback and a defensive end.
The Vikings selected Stanford's David Yankey in the fifth round, bringing in a unanimous first team All-American left guard who could challenge incumbent Charlie Johnson. Yankey went with the 145th pick, which came from came from Cleveland, when the Vikings and Browns swapped the eighth and ninth spots in the first round Thursday. The Vikings traded their original 148th pick to Carolina for the 168th selection and an extra seventh-rounder (225th). Then they dealt the 168th pick to Atlanta for a sixth (James) and a seventh-round selection (220th).
The Vikings also took their original picks in the sixth (Exum) and seventh (223rd) rounds into Saturday.
Exum, who spent a significant portion of his college career at both safety positions, was the 25th cornerback taken in this draft. He's coming off a right knee injury that limited him to three games last season, a torn anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus suffered in January 2013. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Exum had five interceptions and 16 pass breakups as a junior for Virginia Tech.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound James had two interceptions and nine pass breakups last year, earning a spot on the Associated Press FCS All-American second team.
The Vikings gave up 37 touchdowns passing last season, the most in the NFL. They signed free agent cornerbacks Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox and have high hopes for Xavier Rhodes, one of their three first-round draft picks last year, but depth is still needed. Harrison Smith is entrenched at one safety spot, but the Vikings could use more quality at that position too.
The entire offensive line is intact from last season, but the 6-foot-4, 314-pound Yankey will be a building block for the future. He played his junior year at left tackle, where his size could be a better fit. The Vikings have 2012 first-round selection Matt Kalil at that spot, though.
Stanford coach David Shaw, serving as a guest analyst on NFL Network, said he'd prefer Yankey at right tackle, where Phil Loadholt got a big-money contract from the Vikings a year ago. Shaw raved about Yankey's toughness and leadership.
"When this guy spoke, the entire team listened," Shaw said.
Yankey, a native of Roswell, Georgia, whose father is from Ghana and mother is from Slovakia, became in 2010 the first true freshman offensive lineman to play for Stanford in 10 years. He was part of a dominant Cardinal front five that yielded only 11 sacks in 14 games. Stanford, which was ranked in the top 10 in the AP poll for the majority of the season, averaged 489-plus yards of offense per game. The Cardinal have produced a lot of NFL-caliber players in recent years.
"I think it's huge. I think it's a big focus on technique and having that technical emphasis, and running an offense that is really pro-style gets you really well prepared for the NFL," Yankey said on a conference call.
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