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Vikings add pass rusher, running back

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Grand Forks Herald
Vikings add pass rusher, running back
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

Jerick McKinnon long has admired Adrian Peterson. Now he’ll get the chance to meet him up close.

The Vikings selected the Georgia Southern running back Friday night with the No. 96 pick in the third round of the NFL draft. That followed the selection of Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton with the No. 72 pick earlier in the evening.

The Vikings are looking to take some wear and tear this season off Peterson, 29, by reducing his carries. They’re looking at McKinnon as a possible third-down back.

“For a long time, I’d say,’’ McKinnon said about how long he’s admired Peterson. “Just the way he plays the game with passion, with his physicality. … I think he’s the best in the game. It would definitely be (ideal) to learn from a guy like that.’’

The Vikings didn’t have a pick in the second round. With their first pick Friday, they continued to beef up their pass rush, something coach Mike Zimmer really wants.

Minnesota had selected UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, a top pass rusher, with the No. 9 pick in Thursday’s first round. They stayed in the Pac-12 to go with Crichton, who had 23½ sacks in three seasons.

“Me and Anthony, we’re just going to try to create havoc and create sacks and we’re just going to do what we do,’’ Crichton said.

General manager Rick Spielman said Crichton’s “motor is nonstop’’ and he’s “not very nice on the field, which is kind of what you like.’’

What Spielman likes about McKinnon is his athleticism. McKinnon had some of the best marks among running backs at the NFL combine in February in the vertical jump, three-cone drill and short-shuttle.

McKinnon, who played quarterback about half his time in the Eagles’ triple-option attack, rushed for 1,050 yards in 10 games in 2013. He gained 1,817 in 14 games in 2012.

Spielman watched his pro day on tape. He said he’d never seen one player do so much in such a setting, with McKinnon showing off at running back, punt returner and defensive back, a position he also played some in college.

“We’re trying to find another third-down back who gives us a little different version of what we have with Adrian and what we have with Matt (Asiata),’’ said Spielman, who saw McKinnon at both the Senior Bowl and the combine.

The Vikings also met with Crichton at the combine. Spielman called him a “great-character kid.’’

Crichton’s parents are from Western Samoa. The native of Tacoma, Wash., said he gave up his final year of college eligibility because he wants to help support them.

Crichton’s father, Lucky, drives a forklift in a warehouse after having lost a leg due to health reasons. His mother, Malama, is a nurse at a retirement home.

“I told my dad to retire,’’ Crichton said. “So I think he is. I don’t know about my mom. She doesn’t want to stay around the house and do nothing all day.’’

Crichton’s pick was announced in New York by former Minnesota star defensive back Joey Browner. Speaking of that, perhaps the biggest Vikings surprise so far in the draft is they still haven’t taken a defensive back.

But Spielman hinted one could be taken today. The Vikings enter the final day of the three-day event with two fifth-round picks and one each in the sixth and seventh rounds.