Tice, Studwell Ecstatic About Draft


Posted Apr 26, 2004


For the second straight year, the Vikings sang the praises of the new draft system installed last year that had seven rookies make the team in 2003, and they are just as excited about the chances of this year's crop making the squad.

Following Sunday's portion of the NFL draft, Mike Tice and Scott Studwell looked physically drained. For the last month, they had evaluated, ranked and shuffled players in the team's exhaustive process of filling out their draft board. But, when it was all said and done, for a second straight year, they had ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper again singing their praises.

After the first day, the Vikings had come away with two of the top defensive ends in the draft and an outside linebacker that they believe can start immediately. By the end of the draft, they had not only five more players -- including the top two on both their and Kiper's boards heading into Day Two -- but they hit what they believe to be a bonanza of unsigned free agents in the hour following the final selection.

"We had not only an excellent draft, but also an excellent college free agency. You can't downplay that. We got some rubies."

The second day started with the selection of OT Nat Dorsey on the fourth round. Dorsey, a mammoth left tackle from Georgia Tech who was recruited by former Vikings defensive coordinator George O'Leary, will begin as career as a backup to Bryant McKinnie. But, with Mike Rosenthal in the final season of his contract and the potential that Dorsey could even be moved to guard as an eventual replacement for Dave Dixon, the options are open.

That pick was followed by RB Mewelde Moore of Tulane. Moore is an all-purpose back who became just the second Division I player in history to have more than 4,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards receiving in his career. While the Vikings backfield is crowded already, Moore will find a niche with the team.

"Some people described him as a faster Amp Lee," Tice told VU. "Amp Lee was a damn good football player for us coming out of the backfield. (Moore) is a third-down back that we're going to try to find a role for. That Moe's (Williams) role. Moe's getting up there in age -- not that this is going to force Moe out or take any reps away."

In the fifth round, Southern Mississippi linebacker Rod Davis was selected to help fill in some numbers. Coming into the draft, the Vikings had just seven linebackers on the roster and one of them -- MLB Greg Biekert -- is expected to announce his retirement as early as this week.

With the final two picks, the Vikings selected South Carolina defensive back Deandre' Eiland and tight end Jeff Dugan. Eiland has a chance to make the squad because of his versatility. While he's going to be tried out as a cornerback, he has experience at free safety and nickel packages -- enhancing his chances of making the team. The final pick, Maryland tight end Jeff Dugan, was viewed by many scouts as the best blocking tight end in the draft and will compete with the younger tight ends already on the squad for a slot behind Jim Kleinsasser and Jermaine Wiggins.

All in all, Tice was ecstatic that the team was able to stick to its draft board and come away with players that he thinks will make the Vikings much tougher this season.

"This is the second year we've done this (draft) process," Tice told VU. "I love it to death. I think it's very thorough. It takes a lot of time and really wears you out. The best thing is it has so many checks and balances in the system that we eliminate mistakes."

MONDAY NOTES
* After the draft, the Vikings announced the re-signing of free agent center Cory Withrow to back up Matt Birk this season.
* The Vikings signed 13 free agents following the draft -- WR Chris Collins of Mississippi, WR Lane Danielsen of Iowa State, WR Blake Elliott of St. John's (Minn.), guard Anthony Herrera of Tennessee, under tackle Spencer Johnson of Auburn, QB Matt Kegel of Washington State, long snapper Cullen Loeffler of Texas, LB Jeff Mack of Wisconsin, safety Ben Nauman of Augustana, kicker Dan Orner of North Carolina, TE Richard Owens of Louisville, OT Alan Reuber of Texas A&M, running back Butchie Wallace of Marshall, LB Grant Wiley of West Virginia and NT Jeff Womble of Florida State.
* First-round pick Kenechi Udeze had fun at the expense of his former coach Pete Carroll by taking part in a phone interview with Carroll and members of the Minnesota media. Identifying himself as a writer for the Minneaplis Tribune, Udeze asked Carroll to rate Udeze as a player and then asked if he was a head case in college before letting Carroll know who was asking the pointed questions.
* The Vikings actually had DE Darrion Scott rated one slot ahead of second-round pick Donterrious Thomas, but got both -- giving them three of the top 34 players on their board.
* USC cornerback Will Poole, who dropped because of some character issues, was rated as a first-round prospect by the Vikings, but part of their process is to wait until the second day to take players they have concerns about. Poole went in the fourth round before the Vikings could select him.


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