EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) - After sitting out the second day of the NFL draft thanks to a big trade, the Minnesota Vikings plunged into the final day in search of a linebacker to help round out an incomplete group.
No better place to go than Linebacker U.
The Vikings selected Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges with the 120th overall selection in the fourth round on Saturday, bringing a versatile player to a group that currently lacks a starter in the middle after Jasper Brinkley left for Arizona.
``Man there's no better feeling in the world,'' Hodges said in a conference call. ``I'm talking weight-off-my-shoulders type of feeling. ... I just started crying, man. I couldn't believe it. It's just a blessing.''
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 243 pounds, Hodges had 5 1/2 sacks in his college career for the Nittany Lions. He started his college career as a safety before being moved to linebacker. He played primarily on the outside, but said he would feel comfortable playing inside as well. He played middle linebacker at the East-West Shrine game.
``They really liked me and they told me, `You've got a chance to really come in here and make an impact for us,''' Hodges said. ``I told them, `Whatever you guys need me to do, whatever you guys want me to do, I'm ready to do it.' I'm ready to be a Viking. I'm ready to get started.''
He had two interceptions as a senior and scouts say he excels in pass coverage, which could help him make immediate contributions for the Vikings in the pass-happy NFC North.
It remains to be seen where Hodges will get the bulk of his playing time. If the Vikings choose to keep him outside, they could move veteran Erin Henderson to the middle to fill out a group that includes Pro Bowler Chad Greenway.
They also have picks in the fifth and sixth rounds and two more in the seventh, giving them plenty of more chances to look at another linebacker as well. The Vikings also have needs at receiver and cornerback that could be addressed as the draft progresses.
The Vikings did not have a selection during the second and third rounds on Friday night after trading those picks, plus their first fourth-rounder and a seventh-rounder, to New England on Thursday night to move up and take Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. The Vikings also grabbed Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes in the first round, making them the first team since the Rams in 2001 to have three first-round picks.
They resisted any temptations to trade back into the second day of the draft, then sat tight through the first 22 picks of Day 3 before grabbing Hodges.
Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski