If the Vikings are looking for a wide receiver in the draft, there are plenty of talented options in the first three rounds, according to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.
Despite Kiper questioning whether there is a receiver worthy of being selected in the top 10 of the April 25-27 draft, he does believe there are plenty of options scattered throughout the first two days of the draft.
"There's nobody that jumps out at you to be a top-10 to -15 pick except Cordarrelle Patterson from Tennessee. That would be a bit of a stretch because he's raw and wasn't as dominant as I think he would have been with another year at Tennessee coming in from the JUCO route," Kiper said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "Keenan Allen, if he would have stayed healthy, I think he could have been a top-15 pick. I still think he's a first-rounder out of Cal. I like Quinton Patton out of Louisiana Tech. I think the Vikings would be looking at him."
Patton, Aaron Dobson and Terrance Williams were the top receivers at the Senior Bowl, but Kiper's first two receivers – Patterson and Allen – are both entering the draft after their junior seasons.
Patterson played only one year at Tennessee and set the single-season school record with 1,873 all-purpose yards (46 receptions for 778 yards and five touchdowns; 25 rushes for 323 yards and three touchdowns; four punt returns for 101 yards and one touchdown; and 24 kickoff returns for 671 yards and a touchdown).
Minnesota has the No. 23 pick overall, as well as their second-round pick, and they may be able to get another pick in the first two rounds if they trade receiver Percy Harvin, as they reportedly are looking into. Even they don't trade Harvin, receiver is a need for the Vikings, as they don't have a tall receiver who can stretch the field on their roster.
While there may not be a receiver worthy of consideration in the early part of the first round, Kiper believes Patterson is the cream of the crop (others have Allen as the more valuable prospect). However, Kiper admits pushing him into the first half of the first round could require some patience in developing him.
"Patterson did not have dominant performances in a number of games. He was OK, not great. There was some games where he showed star quality, he showed potential," Kiper said. "He's got freakish talent. He should work out phenomenally well. He's another one of those guys who's a workout warrior."
Kiper believes another year at Tennessee may have benefitted Patterson, but that would depend on getting solid quarterback play.
The issue with Allen was both quarterback play at Cal and an injury to his left knee that caused him to miss the final three games of 2012. Those two factors could push him down to being valued somewhere around the Vikings' 23rd pick.
"(He) had a nice career, not great statistically because the quarterback was an issue there in terms of not getting tremendous quarterback play. But Keenan Allen is a guy that goes in the first round," Kiper said. "He's a guy that for a variety of teams – St. Louis has two picks, one at 16 and one at 22, Minnesota at 23, Houston at 27 – (is) looking at wide receiver. So I think Keenan Allen goes in the first to one of those teams."
Because of the injury, Allen was limited to 61 catches for 737 yards and six touchdowns last year. For his career, he had 205 receptions for 2,570 yards and 17 touchdowns.
But even if the Vikings leave the first round of the draft without a receiver, there should be plenty of options for them in the second day of selecting.
"I think in the second round you're going to see a Tavon Austin, late in the first, early second, that slot receiver, return man out of West Virginia … great player, great kid, serious about his business," Kiper said. "Quinton Patton out of Louisiana Tech, you've got to like everything about this kid except the fact that he doesn't get great separation, but he catches the ball in traffic. He's got the frame, he's got the power-forward mentality. He's got the ability. We saw that in a number of games. Texas A&M, he had 21 catches, had a good Senior Bowl week. It's a shame Louisiana Tech didn't go to that bowl game like they should have. DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins of Clemson I think is a solid two. Stedman Bailey from West Virginia certainly could be. Justin Hunter from Tennessee. Robert Woods from USC. All those kids could be in the second-round discussion. It's going to be an awful lot of second-, third-round receivers. There might only be two, maybe three, in the first round, but you could see as many as six, seven go in the second or early third round."
And that could be good news for the Vikings, even if they run another route with their first-round pick.
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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