Mel Kiper knows the score: The Minnesota Vikings need a wide receiver for a number of different reasons – it would complement Percy Harvin and the rest of the playmakers, Christian Ponder needs more targets, and Minnesota needs to keep pace with the pass-intensive teams in the NFC North.
Kiper, ESPN's long-time NFL draft expert, released his first mock draft Wednesday and had the Vikings selecting Baylor WR Terrance Williams with the 23rd overall pick. After the release of his initial mock draft, however, Kiper spent time on a conference call with reporters that lasted more than 90 minutes and covered dozen of prospects.
When it comes to those of interest to Vikings fans trying to match need with availability, there are several options early in the draft – receiver, defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback. For now, however, receiver is the dominant topic. Here are the receiving options Kiper sees as possibilities for the Vikings:
Cordarelle Patterson (6-3, 205, Tennessee): In his only season with the Volunteers after transferring from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, Patterson caught 46 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns, returned four punts for 101 yards and one touchdown and 24 kickoffs for 671 yards and a touchdown. Kiper has Patterson as the first receiver off the draft board and being snatched up by the Miami Dolphins at No. 10.
Kiper says: "When you look at where he will project, this is not a great wide receiver corps. I don't think anybody will (go) in the top 10. The first wide receiver I have going is at 12 to Miami. … I don't think Cordarrelle Patterson drops all the way down there to Minnesota. If they want to try to get him, they're going to have to try to move up into that middle of the first, early first to try to go ahead of, say, Miami at 12, who could certainly be looking for a wide receiver as well."
Terrance Williams (6-2, 205, Baylor): Like Patterson, Williams is a big body with decent speed (both are in the 4.45-4.5-second range in the 40-yard dash). Williams was an outside complement to 2012 first-round pick Kendall Wright. Williams finished his senior season with 97 catches for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was ultra-productive in his final two seasons and finished his career with 202 receptions for 3,334 yards and 27 touchdowns.
Kiper says: "Terrance Williams from Baylor is a nice football player. I think he'd make a lot of sense at that point (for the Vikings)."
DeAndre Hopkins (6-1, 200, Clemson): Hopkins, like Patterson, decided to come out for the NFL Draft after his junior season and a look at his numbers shows why. He had 82 catches for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdown catches (an ACC record) in 2012. He had 12 100-yard games during his Clemson career.
Kiper says: "DeAndre Hopkins from Clemson had a big year. … another kid out of Clemson I like."
Keenan Allen (6-3, 210, Cal): After a highly productive sophomore season, when he had 98 catches for 1,343 yards, Allen's statistics dropped off his junior year. He had 61 catches for 737 yards and six touchdowns, but he still decided to declare for the NFL draft after a career that featured 205 receptions for 2,570 yards and 17 touchdowns. He isn't the fastest receiver, but he still finds ways to be elusive.
Kiper says: "Keenan Allen I have right now at 27 to Houston. You could put him at 23 to Minnesota. I think there's several receivers in the 20s that could come off the board or they could drop into early in the second round. I think ultimately because it's a quarterback-driven league you need the receivers in the passing game (with) a pass-happy league. I would say somewhere in the 20s is where he would come off the board."
Aaron Dobson (6-2, 204, Marshall): You know what happened the last time the Vikings drafted a receiver out of Marshall, but put this one in a bit of the "sleeper" category from Kiper. Dobson has been steadily increasing his catch numbers over his final three years at Marshall, from 44 to 49 to 57, and had 679 yards as a senior. He had a career-high 12 touchdowns as a junior, equaling the total from his other three seasons combined.
Kiper says: "A guy to watch out for is Aaron Dobson from Marshall. Here's a kind of kid like a Brain Quick last year from App State. I think Aaron Dobson is a guy – he's going to be at the Senior Bowl, he has size. They didn't have a quarterback there that could get him the ball on a consistent basis. He's very athletic. When he's had the ability to go up there and have a chance to make a play, he can make it. He's a tough matchup for cornerbacks. I think Aaron Dobson is a kid that you could see, maybe even in the late first-round discussion or certainly in the early to mid second-round discussion, as a guy that people aren't talking a lot about that maybe could emerge."
Kiper also mentioned 5-foot-9, 175-pounder receiver Tavon Austin from West Virginia as an early-round receiver, but he appears to be close to what the Vikings already have in Harvin and Jarius Wright at receiver.
No matter who the Vikings target early, Kiper believes receiver is a primary and logical choice.
"It's a big need area. I thought about giving them a corner like Xavier Rhodes from Florida State (in the mock draft), but you've got a young quarterback like Christian Ponder and in the division with Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford and (Jay) Cutler, you've got to score points," Kiper said. "You've got to help out your quarterback in the passing game. Harvin's had injuries. You don't have much around the quarterback at wide receiver after Harvin. (Kyle) Rudolph emerged as a quality pass-catching tight end this year. (Adrian) Peterson is a phenomenal running back. You've got all those things. You need a wide receiver. You don't want to force it and I know (general manager) Rick Spielman won't force it. If there's not a guy there that he likes, they're not going to take him. So it depends upon who they prefer."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Kiper assesses Vikings' receiver options
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