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Turner ‘a game-wrecker’ for Vikings pass rush

New Vikings edge rusher Dallas Turner is in Minnesota for one key job: taking down quarterbacks.

When General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah called Turner, informing him he would be selected with the 17th overall pick during Thursday night's first round, Alabama's star pass rusher heard a clear message from the blur of executives and coaches he spoke with over the phone.

"They said, make sure I'm ready to rush the passer as soon as I get off the plane," said Turner, who was introduced alongside quarterback J.J. McCarthy on Friday at TCO Performance Center in Eagan.

Turner, the reigning SEC defensive player of the year, appeared to fall to the Vikings during the NFL's frenzied quarterbacks arms race. He was frequently projected as a top 10 draft pick, but a league-record 14 offensive players (including six QBs) were selected before the first defender.

Turner, who had 10 sacks last fall, was just the third defender drafted.

Yet he had to wait until the second half of the first round.

"I definitely was not expecting it," said Turner, who was in Detroit for the NFL draft. "It was still a good thing to see, still clap for people and still excited for people. But you know the game is changing. Teams need what they need. You just got to respect it."

Originally sitting with the No. 23 pick, the Vikings aggressively jumped for one of college football's most disruptive and hardest-hitting pass rushers. They dealt three midround picks — a fifth-round pick this year and 2025 third- and fourth-round selections — to move up six spots for Turner on Thursday night in a swap with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O'Connell said they'd identified a small group of defenders they wanted with their second first-round pick. O'Connell said he didn't expect Turner to be a realistic option.

But when he was still on the board, they didn't want to risk missing. They moved up for Turner, who arrives as the latest big expenditure by a Vikings front office trying to retool its pass rush for defensive coordinator Brian Flores.

"Flo's a calm customer," Adofo-Mensah said, "but he was excited."

After losing edge rushers Danielle Hunter, Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum in free agency, the Vikings have added free agents Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel, as well as Turner, who said he had a good feeling after visiting the team's headquarters earlier this month.

Greenard and Van Ginkel signed for nearly $50 million guaranteed combined; Turner will eventually sign a four-year deal for more than $15 million guaranteed.

"A great fit," O'Connell said. "Incredibly versatile, huge traits and skill set to be a dominant player on the edge for us."

Turner will have to get used to his new teammate in McCarthy, a former foe on the Michigan team that beat Turner's Crimson Tide in the Jan. 1 College Football Playoff semifinal. Turner joked that he unfollowed McCarthy on Instagram after the defeat but added, "That's my brother now."

"Game-wrecker," McCarthy said of Turner, who had one sack in their Jan. 1 meeting. "It's going to be amazing not being able to get hit by him now. In practice, might get a little dicey. I don't know how it is as a rookie."

Turner, a former five-star recruit out of St. Thomas Aquinas (where he played under former All-Pro pass rusher Jason Taylor), was the most athletic edge rusher at this year's NFL scouting combine. He led his position in multiple timed drills. He showcased that speed on the field, beating blockers to deliver bruising hits — some causing controversy such as the November hit that injured former LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels in a Crimson Tide win.

His athleticism has brought him to the same basketball court as the Raptors' 2021 fourth-overall pick Scottie Barnes, who was on Turner's AAU team in Florida.

Turner has also played against new Bears quarterback Caleb Williams, the Heisman Trophy winner who was drafted No. 1 overall. Turner attended American Heritage, which traveled to Washington, D.C., for the first game of the 2019 season against Williams' Gonzaga College High School. Turner's team lost 33-14.

"It didn't turn out the best way," he said. "Hopefully, we do get to play him — we do play him this season."

Twice, in fact.

And Turner said he knows Flores will put him in positions to get after quarterbacks, Williams included.

"He frees his pass rushers up to make a lot of plays," Turner said. "I definitely know his history, his defensive background, so I'm really excited to get to work."