Greg Jennings was a good start. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Entering Christian Ponder’s make-or-break third season, the Vikings’ reconstruction of an amateurish receiving corps is still very incomplete.
Fortunately, with six picks in the first four rounds of a deep receiver class—including two first-rounders (their own 23rd and Seattle’s 25th)—more help is surely on the way. Jennings is a versatile veteran technician who, in giving the team inside-outside flexibility, opens up a world of possibilities in the draft.
So whom should the Vikings be targeting, exactly?
We’re all well-versed on the generic boilerplate rankings, but the following list is tailored specifically to the Vikings offense and Christian Ponder’s skill set.
On paper, Williams fits the bill of an outside-the-numbers size/speed threat, but he’s almost entirely one-dimensional. However, that singular downfield dimension is something the team could use, putting Williams on the radar at 2.22.
Inconsistent hands, raw route-running and a lack of competitiveness when the ball is in the air are all warts, and ultimately, Williams is probably better suited for a big-armed quarterback in a more vertical offense.
Patton is an NFL-ready, fluid, fundamentally sound prospect who’s been regularly compared to Reggie Wayne.
A low-risk proposition, he projects to have a high floor and a low ceiling at the next level. From hands to route-running to blocking, he’s the total package. Patton seems to do everything well, but nothing great.
He’d be a boring-but-safe pick if he lasted until 2.22, but even then, he doesn’t really bring anything new to the current receiver group.
In the same vein as Patton, Woods is polished, silky-smooth and ready to step in and ball at the next level. He’s intelligent, quick, has great hands and would be a very safe pick if he were to last to 2.22.
The biggest issues are a mounting injury history (ankle), and the fact that his skill set is entirely redundant in Minnesota. He's very similar to Jennings, and his best fit is probably running short-intermediate routes out of the slot. Still, the team could kick Jennings outside and be just fine in their WCO.
A personal favorite, Wheaton has a touch of Mike Wallace to him as an outside vertical threat.
He’s a quick/explosive playmaker who makes tough catches, runs very good routes and has the kind of versatility that allows him to be moved around the formation.
He needs to build strength and he lacks the kind of size the Vikings truly need outside, but he’d instantly make the passing game more dangerous.
Rogers is a big, strong, explosive physical specimen whose game has been compared to that of Terrell Owens. He’s a YAC beast and an aggressive run-blocker—read: He’s perfect for the Vikings.
The rub is that character and maturity issues (including a drug history) led to his dismissal from Tennessee. Sound familiar?
He aced the interview portion of the combine and then went out and displayed dominant athleticism, which went a long way in restoring his stock. It would take a leap of faith, but Rogers could be a steal at 2.22, and Jennings could be just the role model he needs (an underrated benefit of the signing).
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve already been bombarded with my thoughts on Austin. He’s the most explosive playmaker in the draft, but sadly, I don’t think he fits in Minnesota.
Percy Harvin is 5’11” and the strongest 184 pounds in the NFL, so get the notion that “Austin is the new Harvin” out of your heads.
I view Austin as a specialty WR3 for an offense that can afford that luxury.
The Vikings offense isn’t built like the those of the Packers/Saints/Patriots. It needs an every-down outside contributor who can assist in the downfield blocking game.
That’s just not Austin. And frankly, he’ll probably be gone by 1.23 anyways.
Get to know this name.
The lanky former blue-chipper spent last season battling back from an ACL tear, but he began to regain his form late in the season. His gaudy combine performance—a 4.44 40-yard dash and combine bests of a 39.5” vertical jump and a 136” broad jump—only further fueled the Randy Moss/A.J. Green stylistic comparisons.
The bust factor (injury) is greater with Hunter than most, but he has a very high ceiling and would give Ponder a gigantic target with a massive catch radius who could win on the outside.
His value probably lies somewhere between the Vikings’ first- and second-round picks, so acquiring his services may take some maneuvering.
Patterson is a Julio Jones/Dez Bryant-type physical specimen who possesses Percy Harvin-like YAC ability. He's capable of taking a short Ponder pass to the house from anywhere on the field.
Unfortunately, he’s also an incredibly raw route-runner who can’t beat press coverage and doesn’t seem to have the competitive fire needed to overcome those deficiencies.
I view Patterson as the ultimate boom-or-bust prospect. He has the highest ceiling of this class, but I think it will take some time before he's ready to contribute regular snaps at the next level.
He may be gone before the team drafts anyways.
Absolutely bust-proof. “Nuk” is savvy and fluid, and with adequate size and outstanding hands and ball skills, he can win at all levels of the route tree.
Common pro comparisons include Roddy White and Reggie Wayne, which gives you an idea of his style. Much like Jennings, Hopkins' crisp route running is a perfect fit for the WCO, and the tandem would immediately set Ponder up for success in 2013.
Hopkins is the kind of athletic competitor you want in the huddle, and he projects in the late-first-round range, where the Vikings have two picks.
He’s not an elite-level specimen like Patterson, but Allen is big, fast, long and strong. An awesome athlete who runs good routes and attacks with a “my ball” mentality, he projects as the perfect outside receiver in the Vikings WCO.
Smart and versatile, Allen's top-notch YAC ability has led to the “bigger/slower Percy Harvin” comparisons.
A pesky knee injury has begun to cast a dark cloud over Allen, but if he checks out medically, he’s the guy for the Vikings in round one.