EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) — Josh Robinson left Central Florida after his junior season with the stated goal of becoming one of the best cornerbacks to ever play in the NFL.
The Minnesota Vikings would be happy with a lot less than that.
Confident in the depth of this year’s draft at this critical position, the Vikings patiently waited until the 66th overall selection and made Robinson their third-round pick on Friday, going with a 5-foot-10, 199-pounder who ran the fastest electronically recorded time among all prospects at the league’s scouting combine two months ago at 4.33 seconds.
“Of course everybody has speed at the next level, so I never really say that is a strength,” Robinson said on a conference call. “But I always tell everybody I’m versatile. I can do whatever you want me to do.”
He might return punts or kickoffs. Most importantly, he’ll be asked to help shore up the pass coverage that was one of the NFL’s worst last season, a weakness made weaker in the NFC North Division, where Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler are on the schedule a total of six times. That athletic skill set Vikings general manager Rick Spielman raved about will come in handy. He’s also not, Spielman insisted, simply a finesse player who needs the safety or the linebacker to make the tackle for him.
“This kid is more than willing to come up and hit you,” Spielman said.
The Vikings gave up their second-rounder in the trade with Baltimore to move into the latter part of the first round on Thursday, sending the 35th overall selection to the Ravens. So they had a longer wait than usual. But Robinson fit another need on their roster.
Three players who enticed the Vikings went with the three of the four picks preceding No. 66: Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward to Green Bay, LSU wide receiver Rueben Randle to the New York Giants and Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson to St. Louis. But they saw no reason to try to move up, preferring to save their stable of nine selections over the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds as fuel for potential trades on Saturday.
Robinson, who was gathered at a draft party at his family’s church in Florida with “a lot of people near and far,” said he’s confident he can play in the slot position or on the outside. He said he is also eager to see Minnesota — and, possibly, snow come winter — for the first time.
The Vikings will welcome him to a secondary that has begun to be rebuilt but can still be upgraded. Antoine Winfield will return from his neck injury, and Chris Cook is back from court after his acquittal of felony assault. Veterans Zack Bowman and Chris Carr were signed for depth. Asher Allen is still around, with three years of experience. Brandon Burton was a fifth-round draft pick last year who was buried on the depth chart as he learned the pro game.
Coach Leslie Frazier said Cook has been at Winter Park for every day of the offseason strength and conditioning program since it began earlier this month.
“He’s working right along with everybody. There haven’t been any alarms at this point,” Frazier said. “Barring some unforeseen situation we expect him to be a starter for us.”
The Vikings turned their attention to a busy Saturday, with plenty of quality wide receivers available at the other position of most glaring need. Spielman acknowledged the Vikings were interested in Randle but said they believe there are enough good ones to wait for on the draft’s third day. Chris Givens of Wake Forest, Nick Toon from Wisconsin and Keshawn Martin of Michigan State are some of the top names still available on the board.
Their hope is they’re talking about their wide receiver group come training camp like they were this weekend about their improved offensive line, thanks to the addition of left tackle Matt Kalil. Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson spoke highly of Charlie Johnson’s ability to move from left tackle to left guard and better maximize his skills.
“He’s more compact. He doesn’t have quite the length that Matt has. He is a good athlete so he was able to survive at left tackle. He’ll battle with the best of ’em,” Davidson said, adding: “We’ve started seeing it move in the right direction. There’s no doubt about it.”
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