Stephen Hill (Tim Umphrey/Getty)
If the Vikings target a receiver in the second round, there are six to watch with two different skill sets. Will they go after one with speed to burn or size to outmuscle defenders?
The Vikings have set the stage to draft a wide receiver in the second round of the NFL draft. The conventional wisdom at this point is that, with the first two picks in the draft reserved for quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the Vikings will make OT Matt Kalil the first non-quarterback to come off the board with the third pick in the draft. The signings of cornerbacks Chris Carr and Zack Bowman, would appear to reduce the need to draft a CB in the second round. However, to date the Vikings have done nothing to address the wide receiver position.
However, when fans look at the draft prospects, there is more put into the decision of who to potentially select than might meet the eye. Why? Because not all wide receivers are created equal and, in the case of the Vikings, their needs may differ from those of other teams.
There are basically three types of wide receivers. First are the size receivers that are big-bodied, long-limbed guys who specialize in using their size to create mismatches. Second are the speed guys who earn their money outside the hash marks deep down the field as home-run hitters. Third are smaller receivers who line up in the slot and specialize in timing passes design to be quick-hitters that can spring big plays.
To put these three different wide receiver types in perspective, all one has to do is go back to 2009 when the Vikings had prototypes of all three types of wide receivers on the roster. Sidney Rice was the big receiver that outmuscled cornerbacks for the ball. Bernard Berrian was the speed guy on the outside. Percy Harvin was the slot receiver who could pop a 5-yard pass and turn it into a 50-yard gain. They had all dimensions from a receiver perspective at that time. Now they need to find replacements for two of those three positions.
When it comes to value of receivers on draft day, the big receiver is the player in most demand. Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd are the top two prospects that fit that bill – and the only two that are locks to be gone by the time the Vikings make their pick in the second round. If this is the area the Vikings are focused on, players like Alshon Jeffery, Mohamed Sanu and Nick Toon will be the guys squarely on the Vikings’ radar. Much like when the Vikings drafted Rice in 2007, if size and physicality is what the Vikings are looking for, one of those three players might be the object of their affection.
If the Vikings want a speed receiver who specializes on stretching the field deep to open up the short passing game and take a safety with him down the field (something Berrian wasn’t able to consistently do), they’re looking for a completely different receiver type. There is no guarantee that any of these receivers will be gone, although there is growing evidence that someone will jump of Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill, whose size (6-5) and speed (4.3 in the 40) will intrigue somebody enough to take him in the later stages of the first round in hopes of catching a Randy Moss-type lightning in a bottle. If Hill is gone, the likely candidates for the Vikings would be Rueben Randle of LSU and Brian Quick of Appalachian State.
Because the Vikings already have Harvin, their interest in the smaller slot receiver isn’t nearly as pronounced. Players of that ilk typically hang on the board much longer than the other two types of receiver. In fact, with the exception of Kendall Wright of Baylor, there isn’t a receiver of this type that would really intrigue the Vikings (or anyone else for that matter) with the 35th pick of the draft. The expectation is that the Vikings won’t have to wrestle with that potential dilemma, because the belief is that Wright will be long since gone by the time the Vikings pick in the second round.
Fortunately for the Vikings, it’s a good year to have needs at wideout. This is one of the deepest classes in years. The team would be ecstatic if somehow a player they have ranked as a first-round prospect slips to them. Blackmon clearly will be gone, and both Floyd and Wright are seeming locks to be off the board by the end of Day One of the draft. So what does that leave? The Vikings’ WR six-pack.
There are six realistic candidates for the Vikings to target with their second-round pick. In the big receiver category, there is Jeffery, Sanu and Toon. In the speed receiver category, there is Hill, Randle and Quick.
The Vikings aren’t going to say who they’re enamored with or what position they’re focusing on, but one thing seems relatively apparent at this point – if the Vikings take a wide receiver in the second round of the draft, it’s going to be one of those six players. The only question is which type of receiver they want – somebody with a Sidney Rice skill set or one with a Bernard Berrian skill set. The decision will come down in three weeks, but the debating can start now.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.