Could the Vikings make it back-to-back years drafting a USC player early? They at least have an interest in another one after selecting offensive tackle Matt Kalil No. 4 overall last year.
Like many of the top receivers in this year's draft, former USC receiver Robert Woods is entering the NFL draft before his senior season. But, unlike some of the others, he has three years of college experience.
"I'd say my knowledge of the game – I know every position – my route-running ability, and my hands," he said when asked what separates him from other receivers in the draft.
Woods was scheduled to meet with the Vikings this weekend in Indianapolis, one of several NFL teams that will be interviewing him in an attempt to get to know his character and football knowledge. The formal 15-minute interviews are a little bit different, depending on the team.
"I sat in a room with the Bills, and it was about 10 coaches in there, one coach pulling up film, grilling me on some plays, some plays he liked," he said. "I went to the 49ers room, and it was just Coach (John) Harbaugh in there. It was laid-back; he asked me a couple of questions, asked me why I didn't go to Stanford coming out. I also sat in with the Raiders. That was a lot more board work, sitting there with a previous coach of mine, Ted Gilmore. Each coach and each team has been different so far."
The Vikings' need at receiver is pronounced, no matter what becomes of Percy Harvin. The Vikings are in need of a big-bodied outside receiver. Woods isn't a hulking receiver, but he is adept at running routes at 6-foot and 201 pounds.
While the NFL analysis compares him to Packers receiver James Jones, whom the Vikings pursued in 2011, Woods said he compares himself to Reggie Wayne.
"He's smaller, one type of receiver. He's not like a Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, but he's making plays all around the field, and I can see myself similar to him," Woods said Friday.
"I just want to be a big impact to a team, whether it's short passes, deep passes, or just even a few catches every now and then for a first down. Whatever role a team wants me to play I'll enjoy playing and make the best out of whatever opportunity I do get."
In addition to Kalil, Woods has another Vikings connection – tight end Rhett Ellison, who was also drafted by Minnesota last year. Woods saw him at USC on Tuesday before the receiver came to Indianapolis.
"He was just asking me, when do I leave and he was just telling me, ‘Enjoy the moment. It's only going to happen one time in your life. It's going to be crazy – everybody's going to be pulling you this way, pulling you that way. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. Enjoy the moment and have fun. Enjoy meeting everybody you watched on TV.'"
Ellison and Kalil said they would put in a good word for him with the Vikings, according to Woods.
As a sophomore, Woods was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award after he finished in the top 10 nationally in receptions (111, a Pac-12 record) and receiving touchdowns (15). He averaged 107.7 yards per game and finished with 1,292 yards. Last year, he started all 13 games and caught 76 passes for 846 yards and 11 touchdowns.
He admitted it was a rough year at USC.
"If Coach (Lane) Kiffin's game plan was to get me to come back, then he probably would have got me the ball more," Woods said. "But his game plan wasn't to get me the ball; his game plan was to win football games and he did that."
While Woods reportedly received a second-round grade from the Advisory Committee and has that draft grade by a number of analysts in the media, NFL Films senior producers, a consumer of film, has Woods as one of the top receivers, maybe only behind Keenan Allen, and he sees Woods as one of the more NFL-ready receivers.
Woods won't be the biggest or fastest receiver in the draft, but he will be one of the most polished.
"My quickness to get in and out of my breaks at the top of my routes (compensates for speed)," Woods said. "My high school coach always told me, ‘One, two,' which is at the top of your routes, get out in two steps. In high school, it seemed impossible. We were taking like three or four steps. But in my head, I still think, ‘One, two.' And that allowed me to get out of my breaks a lot quicker. My hands, I would say, are a strength, looking the ball in. I caught a lot of passes, so that helps me as well. And my third strength, I guess, track background, with the speed and the quickness into my breaks. That allows me to stop on a dime, and I think that helps me as well."
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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