Posted on Mon, May. 01, 2006

[size=18px]Vikings make bold moves, Wilf makes bold statement[/size]

JON KRAWCZYNSKI
Associated Press


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - As Zygi Wilf strolled out to his car on Sunday evening following an exhausting two days of the NFL draft, he turned and offered a few parting words.

"Between free agency and the draft, name me a team that's improved more than we have," the Vikings owner said defiantly.

It was the perfect ending - a bold statement to cap a weekend of bold moves.

There is no arguing the Vikings have improved their team with a busy free agency - including upgrades at running back, guard, kicker, safety and linebacker. They continued adding immediate help with their first two picks in the draft on Saturday, getting Iowa linebacker Chad Greenway in the first round and Texas cornerback Cedric Griffin in the second.

"This is a team that is consistently improving and we haven't even started the next season yet," said Wilf, who was still giddy hours after his first draft as an NFL owner ended.

After their first two selections, both of which are considered safe picks in areas they needed to address, the Vikings made a series of definitive moves that brought them unproven players who will take time to develop.

At 6-foot-7, Ryan Cook is considered tall for a center and was considered a reach by some "experts" in the second round.

After taking Cook, the team really raised eyebrows when they traded both of their third round picks to Pittsburgh to move up and select little-known quarterback Tarvaris Jackson out of Division I-AA Alabama State.

With 37-year-old Brad Johnson dubbed the starter, and Daunte Culpepper traded to Miami, the Vikings were in need of a quarterback of the future. That they made the strong-armed Jackson that quarterback came as a surprise to some, but Childress didn't hesitate.

"I think you judge quarterbacks a little differently," Childress said. "When you see what you want at the quarterback position, you need to go get it."

Despite being under the radar with the Hornets in the sleepy town of Montgomery, Ala., Childress liked Jackson's arm strength, throwing motion and athleticism.

"He has all those things we are looking for and he is wired right," Childress said. "That is important for a quarterback. I think he is a flat-line guy. I think he is a sponge."

Jackson will have to be. He comes to an ideal situation with Johnson - the savvy veteran who has seen just about everything in his 15 years in the league - to learn from. He also will be learning under Childress, who helped mold Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb into one of the league's best quarterbacks.

"Donovan McNabb is a great quarterback, one of the guys I look up to," Jackson said. "I love watching him play. It's good to see they have experience with him and he's done well. I hope I can do as well as him."

So do the Vikings, who only had mediocre quarterbacks Mike McMahon and J.T. O'Sullivan behind Johnson before taking Jackson.

They continued to stray from the predictable on Sunday, taking Purdue defensive end Ray Edwards in the fourth round and Georgia safety Greg Blue in the fifth, but also acquiring veteran guard Artis Hicks from the Eagles, who will be the starter at right guard.

Edwards has plenty of talent, but he clashed with his coaches last season and was benched halfway through the year. Blue is a big safety who may wind up playing linebacker in the NFL.

"When you take these guys on the second day, a lot of times they have a little chip on their shoulder, which plays well for us," Childress said. "Because they are all guys that wanted to go on the first day. ... It provides a little bit of motivation, maybe a little different hop in their step as they come in the door."

Jon Krawczynski can be reached at [email protected]

Vikings make bold moves, Wilf makes bold statement