Picking apart the first-round receivers

Every prospect has his flaws and one NFL scout broke down the concerns and intrigue with the four receivers most have worthy of first-round consideration. Two of them concern the scout; two he really likes.

So you think the Vikings are primed for one an early pick at wide receiver, do you? They have options there, for sure, but the further along in the evaluation process you get with them, the more the flaws start to be discussed.

Perhaps nowhere is the "paralysis by analysis" motto more apparent than the NFL draft. Even Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has admitted that sometimes you can poke so many holes in the prospects that you think none of them can play. That's obviously not the case, but Dave-Te Thomas of NFL Scouting doesn't mince his words when discussing some of the first-round prospects at receiver.

As usual, some he likes and others he believes are overrated. For instance, most analysts have Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson (6-foot-2, 216 pounds, 4.42 in the 40-yard dash) as the top-rated receiver, labeling him as the most athletic receiver in the draft while admitting he is raw. Thomas, meanwhile, thinks the drawback will outweigh the risk, going so far as to compare him to another receiver that didn't pan out for the Vikings.

"I'm not high on Cordarrelle. Listen, I'm telling you one thing: Anyone who takes a Tennessee wide receiver in the first round is going to be in for a sorry mistake. I look at Cordarrelle Patterson and I see another Troy Williamson," Thomas said. "He's not a great route runner. He's a very good athlete, but I have a lot of problems with ball players who don't dedicate themselves to their craft. That was one of the reasons why he ended up going to junior college, because he thought he could just coast through everything.

"I've spoken quite extensively with the former coaching staff over at Tennessee and they weren't enamored with the workout habits of either Patterson or (Justin) Hunter. They did say (Da'Rick) Rogers was the try-hard guy of the bunch, but he's not exactly going to be drafted high. A lot of teams have been bringing in (QB Tyler) Bray and talking with Bray about his wide receivers and they're getting the same impression, that these are the type of guys that will probably show up on Sunday but you won't see them Monday through Friday."

There have been reports of friction between Bray and some of his receivers at Tennessee, and there are also character concerns over Bray himself. Sifting through the opinions is why NFL general managers earn the big dollars and have their jobs on the line with every selection they make.

Patterson is the big-bodied, athletic receiver. West Virginia's Tavon Austin (5-8½, 174, 4.34) is the small, explosive receiver that is being compared to another former first-round pick of the Vikings – Percy Harvin. Either Patterson or Austin could become the first receiver off the board on April 25, and Thomas sees Austin as a target of the Vikings.

"Tavon Austin will more than likely end up being a Minnesota Viking, if the Vikings are lucky enough to see the Pittsburgh Steelers pass on him," Thomas said. "Pittsburgh is a little torn right now. Pittsburgh is really concerned about Eddie Lacy. If Eddie shows up with flying colors at his workout, more than likely Pittsburgh is going to go with Lacy. If not, Tavon Austin will be their man, and then they'll gang up and hope that later in the draft that Stedman Bailey is going to be there so they have both of the West Virginia wide receivers."

Others, like ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., believe the fight for Austin will be between the St. Louis Rams and the Vikings.

But if neither Patterson nor Austin end up with Minnesota – they might both be off the board before Spielman can execute his first pick at No. 23 – there are two other receivers who are considered first-round possibilities. Keenan Allen (6-2, 206) of Cal and Robert Woods (6-0 ½, 201, 4.51) of USC are considered more NFL-ready.

Thomas likes one and has concerns about the other. The order might surprise some draftniks.

"I like Woods. Everybody has to go back and look at last year. He had an ankle injury and a lot of people didn't know about it and they thought he was having a down season. (QB Matt) Barkley was showing a lot more affection toward (WR Marqise) Lee, but the reason behind that is Woods," Thomas said. "Woods had a fantastic workout for teams recently, showing some good cutting ability. Would they take him in the first round? With that second first-round pick, if I was Minnesota, I would not be embarrassed about doing it because, honestly, I have Woods as my second-rated wide receiver."

That's behind Austin, the West Virginia dynamo. The issues Thomas has with Allen are, in part, because of his health.

"I am firmly convinced that whoever gets Keenan Allen is going to have to draft another Alan and that's Alan Alda, because he's going to need the MASH unit," the scout for the NFL said. "I'm not a Keenan Allen fan, even before the injuries. You're talking about a guy that goes through the motions."

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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