Which Wide Receiver Prospects Fit Best with Minnesota Vikings?

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2013

Which Wide Receiver Prospects Fit Best with Minnesota Vikings?

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    The Minnesota Vikings need to upgrade the talent around Christian Ponder this offseason. 

    This year's draft class lacks an elite prospect at receiver, but it has as much depth as we've seen at the position in a number of years. 

    But the Vikings shouldn't simply enter the draft with the plan to take the best available prospect. 

    Given their offensive scheme and the presence of Percy Harvin, the Vikings need to target a specific type of receiver.

    Here are the top five prospects who would fit best in Minnesota.

DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson

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    DeAndre Hopkins may not be the top receiver on many draft boards, but he would fit perfectly in Minnesota. 

    Unlike many of the other receivers in this year's class, Hopkins is a polished prospect and is ready to contribute immediately. 

    Hopkins lacks elite measurables, and he won't stand out at the combine. But few receivers enter the draft with the route-running skills that Hopkins showed at Clemson. 

    In terms of his all-around game, Hopkins compares favorably to Roddy White. 

    Like White, Hopkins makes up for his lack of speed with crisp routes. He doesn't have the ability to consistently stretch the field, but he can occasionally get deep when defensive backs bite on his fakes. 

    Hopkins also possesses the most reliable hands in this year's class.

    He isn't afraid to battle for the jump ball, and he does an excellent job of using his body to shield defenders. 

    The Vikings have the talent to make another playoff run in 2013, so a polished prospect like Hopkins should be high on their draft board.

Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

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    Cordarrelle Patterson isn't as polished as Hopkins, but he has the skills to be a weapon the moment he steps onto the field. 

    Patterson is one of the few prospects in this year's class with legitimate No. 1 receiver potential. However, he does struggle with some of the basic fundamentals of the game. 

    The biggest concern with Patterson is the way he catches the ball.

    Patterson consistently traps the ball against his chest, which will lead to drops at the next level, where more of his receptions will be contested. 

    The upside to drafting Patterson is his big-play ability. 

    While the Vikings already have a home-run threat in Percy Harvin, Patterson is a different type of runner after the catch.

    Both Patterson and Harvin turn into running backs once the ball is in their hands. But Harvin is more of a scatback, and Patterson is more of a power running back. 

    That combination of weapons would give the Vikings' offense dangerous big-play potential on nearly every snap.

Markus Wheaton, Oregon State

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    Ideally, the Vikings will find a receiver with more size than Markus Wheaton, but that doesn't mean they should discount him as an option. 

    While Wheaton isn't much bigger than Harvin, his skill set would allow him to play either in the slot or on the outside.

    Unlike Harvin, Wheaton is a more physical receiver when lined up on the outside, and he is capable of beating press coverage. But he also possesses the speed to stretch the field, making him a difficult matchup for many cornerbacks. 

    The Vikings used Harvin in the slot on 59 percent of his routes in 2012, according to Pro Football Focus, so the addition of a smaller receiver who can play on the outside wouldn't disrupt their game plan for Harvin. 

    Having two receivers capable of stretching the field would also draw extra attention from the safeties, helping to open things up for tight end Kyle Rudolph in the middle of the field. 

Keenan Allen, California

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    Keenan Allen is another prospect who has the raw talent to be a true No. 1 receiver. Unfortunately, he needs to refine his skills considerably before reaching that level. 

    In Jeff Tedford's offense, Allen was used in the same role as DeSean Jackson. The California coaching staff capitalized on Allen's speed and athleticism rather than his height (he's listed at 6'3").

    But Allen lacks Jackson's speed and won't be able to excel in that role at the next level. 

    Allen definitely has the skills to contribute immediately, but he isn't as polished as Hopkins and isn't as much of a threat after the catch as Patterson and Wheaton.

    As a rookie, Allen will definitely go through some growing pains as he learns to adjust his game to the NFL.

    While he isn't an ideal choice for the Vikings, Allen could potentially develop into Ponder's go-to receiver down the road, once he learns how to use his size to his advantage. 

Terrance Williams, Baylor

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    Williams is definitely the least-exciting player on this list. In fact, at least three or four others who didn't make the cut have more upside.

    However, Williams is a fairly-polished prospect who should be able to contribute as a No. 2 option early in his career. 

    Physically, Williams compares favorably to Hopkins, but his route running is not as refined. 

    At Baylor, Williams was used as a deep threat, and it worked, due to their innovative spread offense.

    But in the NFL, he will lack the speed to get behind the defense. 

    Once he refines his route running, Williams should excel as a possession receiver, and given the strides he made from his junior to senior year, those adjustments may come quickly once he settles into his role at the next level. 

Others Names to Know

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    Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech

    Patton is a similar prospect to Williams. However, his route running will need more work, and he is likely to make a minimal impact as a rookie. 

    Justin Hunter, Tennessee

    Hunter may have more raw talent than any receiver in this year's class, but he has a significant knee injury in his past and is coming off a disappointing junior year.

    Hunter lacks focus on the field, and no team looking for immediate help at receiver should consider him in the early rounds. 

    Robert Woods, USC

    Woods can stretch the field, but he's more fast than he is quick.

    He'll struggle to create separation against cornerbacks that can match his speed, and he may be best suited to play in the slot at the next level—a position that is already filled in Minnesota.

    Tavon Austin, West Virginia

    Like Woods, Austin is a slot receiver and possesses a remarkably similar skill set to Harvin.

    While Austin may be worthy of a first-round pick, it would be difficult for the Vikings to find room for both him and Harvin in the offense.