With the 31st ranked passing attack in the league last year, the Minnesota Vikings will be looking to the NFL draft for help at wide receiver. The team has a total of nine draft picks this coming April, including at least one selection in every round.
Despite having needs at several positions, the Vikings must add weapons to a passing arsenal that continued to struggle under Christian Ponder. The first three rounds of the draft are crucial in acquiring talent at receiver. Although the team will have opportunities in later rounds to find value, the talent pool will be significantly diminished.
Rick Spielman also demonstrated last year the ability to move up in a round for a player. The Vikings traded their second- and fourth-round picks to the Baltimore Ravens for the 29th overall spot, selecting Harrison Smith.
So even if the team goes in another direction with its initial selection, don't be surprised if the Vikings move back into one of the first three rounds to grab a wideout.
I've highlighted 10 wide receivers the Vikings should consider on draft day, grouped by the round most appropriate for selection. This is not a direct reflection of where each player will be selected in the draft. Each wideout includes his results from the NFL Scouting Combine (if available) and has been evaluated by overall skill set and team fit.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
Junior | 6'2", 216 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.42 sec
Vertical jump: 37.0 inch
Broad jump: 128.0 inch
Cordarrelle Patterson ranks as my top wide receiver following the NFL combine. He possesses the deep vertical threat the Vikings need, and he blends vision and versatility to make an impact anywhere on the field. He has impressive speed after the catch and can make defenders miss.
In addition to versatility at route running, Patterson scored in four different ways as a junior last year. He was used in receiving, rushing, kickoff and punt return—setting a school record for 1,858 all-purpose yards.
Although criticized for his combine interviews, Patterson's natural talent and playmaking ability would be lost if he slips past the Vikings. With other players' stock rising following the combine, the Vikings would land the best receiver in the draft if Patterson is still available.
Senior | 5'8", 174 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.34 sec
Vertical jump: 32.0 inch
Broad jump: 120.0 inch
20-yard shuttle: 4.01 sec
A big riser coming out of the combine in Indianapolis, Tavon Austin was among the top performers in both the 40-yard dash and 20-yard shuttle. Sharing similar versatility with Patterson, the former Mountaineer was named a first-team All-American as an all-purpose player.
As a slot receiver, Austin would not fill the Vikings' need as a deep threat but would be an excellent replacement for Percy Harvin if the team decides to deal him, with potential to grab a vertical receiver in later rounds.
Austin is among the top playmakers in this year's draft. He has good toughness for his size and flashes speed few defenders can match. Depending on the Vikings' situation at wide receiver heading into April, the team should pay careful consideration to the speedster out of West Virginia.
Junior | 6'2", 206 lbs
Combine results: DNP
Keenan Allen did not participate during the combine in February, nursing a ligament strain in his left knee. The top prospect out of California will run routes at the school's pro day on March 14.
Allen may not be as flashy as others in this draft class, but he has excellent ball skills and is one of the most complete route-runners among all receivers. He would provide a reliable target for Christian Ponder with good hands and the ability to go up for balls while shielding off defenders.
Despite missing the last three games of his junior season, Allen finished his college career as Cal's all-time leader in receptions with 205, third with 2,570 receiving yards and seventh with 17 touchdowns in his college career.
If Allen can perform well during Cal's pro day and alleviate some of the injury concerns, he should be valued as a first-round receiver with the tools to make a strong impact in Minnesota's offense.
Senior | 6'2", 208 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.52 sec
Vertical jump: 32.5 inch
Broad jump: 119.0 inch
20-yard shuttle: 4.32 sec
Originally a first-round prospect, Terrance Williams has moved down on my board. He provides a top-value receiver on Day 2 of the draft. The senior out of Baylor led all receivers in the nation with 1,832 yards last year—this coming after Robert Griffin III entered the NFL in 2012.
Williams is a strong vertical receiver and would provide the Vikings a threat down the sideline, as well as physical blocking for Adrian Peterson. He has good body control against defenders in jump ball situations and has proven to be a reliable target.
Although Williams did not receive a lot of attention following the combine, he fits the Vikings well as a physical receiver with great focus and acceleration down the field.
Senior | 6'0", 204 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.53 sec
Vertical jump: 33.0 inch
Broad jump: 118.0 inch
20-yard shuttle: 4.01 sec
Quinton Patton has steadily increased his draft position, demonstrating the type of character and physical attributes scouts desire. A transfer out of Coffeyville Community College, Patton joined Louisiana Tech in 2011 and had an impressive career with the Bulldogs. In his two years at the program, he posted 2,544 yards and 24 touchdowns, earning first-team All-WAC selections both years.
Patton excels in acceleration off the line and has good hands over the middle. He has demonstrated the ability to adjust to the ball down the sideline and speed to outrun defenders to the end zone.
In addition to his physical talent, Patton made headlines when he and teammate Adrien Cole donated their bowl prize $300 Best Buy gift cards to kids participating in the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Patton would bring maturity to the Vikings, an added bonus with such a gifted prospect.
Junior | 6'1", 214 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.57 sec
Vertical jump: 36.0 inch
Broad jump: 115.0 inch
20-yard shuttle: 4.50 sec
With the nickname "Nuke," DeAndre Hopkins has proven to be an explosive player on the field. The junior out of Clemson combines quickness and agility in his routes, with an ability to find the end zone. Hopkins set an ACC record for touchdowns in 2012 with 18, adding a school-record 1,405 receiving yards.
Although only having average size on the outside, Hopkins is explosive out of the break and can elevate to make a play on the ball. He has also shown toughness over the middle with the ability to catch passes in traffic and sustain contact.
Hopkins provides excellent value as a second-round selection and complements the style of offense Minnesota is hoping to run. He has an impressive college resume, with a strong skill set at wide receiver that should translate well into the NFL.
Junior | 6'4", 196 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.44 sec
Vertical jump: 39.5 inch
Broad jump: 136.0 inch
20-yard shuttle: 4.33 sec
Judging by post-combine analysis of wide receivers, I'm in the minority regarding Justin Hunter. ESPN Scouts Inc. has Hunter ranked as the third best wide receiver and Mel Kiper has the Tennessee Vol ranked fourth after updating his list.
Hunter was among the top performers in the vertical and broad jump, demonstrating a full recovery from tearing his left ACL in 2011. Hunter has good speed down the sideline and the height and leaping ability to reach the ball at its highest point.
What concerns me about Hunter is his lack of focus and dropped passes in 2012. While his game appeared to return physically last year—and backed up by his recent combine results—he struggled mentally in games.
With Hunter's athletic ability and physical tools as a receiver, the Vikings should still consider him if he is available in the third round. However, I would avoid the wideout any earlier in the draft with other options to choose from.
Junior | 6'0", 201 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.51 sec
Vertical jump: 33.5 inch
Broad jump: 117.0 inch
20-yard shuttle: 4.47 sec
Similar to Hunter, I have Woods graded as a third-round prospect who I would avoid at earlier stages in the draft. He put up good numbers at the combine, helping to reduce any fears surrounding his surgically repaired right ankle.
Woods is a solid route-runner with good quickness and is not afraid to make a catch in traffic. However, he lacked a consistent downfield presence in college, having success primarily in the intermediate passing game.
Woods has value at this level of the draft but does not possess the talent needed to be an elite wide receiver. Depending on where other teams have Woods on their draft board, the former Trojan may not be available.
Senior | 6'3", 210 lbs
Combine results: DNP
Aaron Dobson did not participate during the combine, as he was limited with a pulled hamstring. However, according to the Marshall athletic department, Dobson ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash in 2009.
The athletic wideout was impressive at the Senior Bowl, making difficult catches and demonstrating good hands and concentration. Dobson has the prototypical size for an outside receiver, although he will need to work on getting better separation from defenders in the NFL.
Dobson is a durable receiver, having started all 37 games of his college career. He will need to be further developed by the Vikings if they select him, but he has the competitive drive and ball skills to make a difference at the professional level.
Senior | 5'11", 189 lbs
40-yard dash: 4.45 sec
Vertical jump: 37.0 inch
Broad jump: 120.0 inch
20-yard shuttle: 4.02 sec
Markus Wheaton performed well at the combine, reinforcing his athletic ability demonstrated at Oregon State. He was selected first-team All-Pac-12, posting 91 receptions for 1,244 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012. The senior wideout finished as the Beavers' all-time leader in receptions (227).
Wheaton has exceptional quickness with the ability to make cuts against defenders and rack up yards after the catch. While successful in the slot, he can also stretch the field vertically with top-end speed.
Although not having the typical height for a deep-threat receiver, Wheaton has shined as a playmaker and would be a versatile weapon for the Vikings late in the draft. He tracks the ball well in the air and has the agility to make players miss in the open field.
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