Vikings must be wary of top-flight WRs
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings' biggest need in this weekend's NFL draft is wide receiver. Big surprise. But beware of what you wish for. This hasn't exactly been the best millennium for selecting receivers in the first round. Thirty-one ha...
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings' biggest need in this weekend's NFL draft is wide receiver. Big surprise.
But beware of what you wish for. This hasn't exactly been the best millennium for selecting receivers in the first round.
Thirty-one have been taken that high since 2000, and only 16 are starting regularly. Two of the five top-five picks (a No. 2 Charles Rogers and a No. 4 Peter Warrick) are out of football, while a No. 10 (Travis Taylor) is still unwanted in free agency; a No. 9 (Koren Robinson) is serving a drug suspension; and a No. 8 (David Terrell) is attempting probably his last comeback after failing to make a final roster last season.
"Some guys just can't handle the competition," said former Vikings Pro Bowl receiver Anthony Carter, a 12th-round pick in 1983 who spent three seasons in the USFL before joining the NFL. "When you get to the NFL, everybody seems like a first-round pick. Everybody seems like an All-Pro. Everybody was All-American. A lot of receivers crack under that pressure of being a high draft pick. I think that's why you see a lot of busts in the NFL."
Six receivers taken in the first round since 2000 have made the Pro Bowl a total of seven times. Meanwhile, five players selected in the second and third rounds since 2000 have combined for 10 Pro Bowl appearances.
"There are a lot of great receivers taken (in the first round)," Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith, a third-round pick in 2001, told ESPN.com. "But you look around the league, and you see it's not a must. I wasn't a first-round pick . . . and I've done pretty well for myself."
Whether to invest in a wide receiver in the first round is a yearly draft conundrum. Yes, there have been success stories since 2000, such as Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne (No. 30 in 2001), Houston's Andre Johnson (No. 3 in 2003) and Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald Jr. (No. 3 in 2004). But the aforementioned busts and potential flops such as Detroit's Mike Williams (No. 10 in 2005) and the Vikings' Troy Williamson (No. 7 in 2005) have illustrated the dangers that come with reaching for the wrong receiver.
"And the funny thing is Detroit is sitting there at No. 2 and they're going to be afraid to take (Georgia Tech receiver) Calvin Johnson because of their own history with Rogers and (Mike) Williams," said Carter, who ended his career with his hometown Lions. "I've seen Johnson play. He's a can't-miss guy who is going to be a great player. If I were the Vikings, that would be my guy. I'd go up to get him."
Johnson is a 6-5, 239-pounder with 4.35 speed. He had 76 catches for 1,202 yards (15.8) and 15 touchdowns last season. There isn't a mock draft on the planet that has him falling below Tampa Bay at No. 4.
With multiple needs, it's unlikely the Vikings will trade up from the seventh pick to get him. To move up to No. 3, which might not even be high enough to get Johnson, the Vikings probably would have to give up their second- and third-round picks.
"And after Calvin Johnson goes, I really don't think you'll see another receiver go until the middle of the first round," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "So if you're the Vikings and you have three areas of need (receiver, defensive end and cornerback), all could be solved if you drop into the middle of the first round. I would think they would be very interested in moving off that pick. But they have to get an offer first."
Dropping to the middle of the first round probably would garner the Vikings another second-round pick and give them a choice of the second-best receiver available. That could be Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr., who comes with 4.38 speed, return ability and raw receiver techniques; Tennessee's Robert Meachem, who comes with 6-2, 217-pound size, 4.39 speed and concerns about his consistency; Louisiana State's Dwayne Bowe, a 6-2, 221-pounder who comes with 4.4 speed and a concerns about his hands; or Southern California's Dwayne Jarrett, a tremendously productive college receiver (216 catches, 41 touchdowns) whose stock has dropped because of a 4.62 40-yard dash and character concerns.
"I think if you're the Vikings, you've got to make other plans," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "I think you have to look for the receiver that fits your type of offense in the second or third round."
The Vikings appear to have made less-attractive plans at receiver in case they don't come out of the draft with what they're looking for. They signed veterans Bobby Wade and Cortez Hankton, and even gave a contract to a Division III high jump champion (Todd Lowber) who has never played organized football.
"Right now, they don't have anything," Carter said. "And it's strange. This is a team that's had Sammy White, Leo Lewis, Gene Washington, Cris Carter, Anthony Carter, Randy Moss and they don't have that anymore. They need to find a way to get back to that."