Gauging the second-tier talent of receivers

Do the Vikings need to select a receiver in the first round to get a starter? Far from it, according to NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas, who sees plenty of starting-quality talent in Rounds 2-5. See which ones he likes the best and which ones concern him.

Pick a mock draft, any mock draft. Most of them have the Vikings selecting a wide receiver with one of their two first-round draft picks, but what if that doesn't happen?

There are two reasons that might be the case: They could decide the depth at receiver is good enough to pick up a starter in the second day of the draft while a dropoff in talent at another position – perhaps middle linebacker, cornerback and/or defensive tackle – dictates they should jump on that in the first round. Or if a couple of their targeted values at receiver are gone, they could stick to the philosophy of drafting for value over need.

Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins, Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton and Baylor's Terrence Williams are all considered Day 2 draft prospects, and each brings a different style, along with various concerns.

Hopkins is likely to be drafted first among those options and said at the NFL Scouting Combine that he models his game after former Vikings great Cris Carter. However, NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas isn't quite sold on Hopkins.

"I'm not convinced that this is a guy that's going to come in the league and be all of that. I look at him as an efficient type of wide receiver but, I don't know, I see a lot of holes in his game," said Thomas, who compiles scouting reports for the NFL and many of its teams. "He runs good patterns and everything, but he's not aware of the sidelines, has balance issues and is a little stiff in the hips. He runs well on a straight-line burst, but if I need someone to do a post or an out pattern, this is not the guy I want on my team to do that."

Patton had an impressive week at the Senior Bowl, but, despite proving he can be a consistent receiver, he doesn't possess the elite qualities that are likely to elevate his draft status into the first round.

"He's a special type of ballplayer. This guy, if he's still around in Round 2 or Round 3, I'm looking at that guy. I think he can come in and contribute," Thomas said. "To me, he reminds me of Steve Smith (of the Giants) before he got hurt. I like the way that he goes after the ball. He's an aggressive little critter."

Williams entered the Senior Bowl as one of the intriguing receivers to watch. He had the reputation as a deep threat, but he struggled to get separation at times. The following month at the NFL Scouting Combine, he ran only a 4.52-second 40-yard dash.

"I'm not a Williams fan," Thomas said.

But there were other possibilities, likely in the third round and later, that Thomas does like.

"Markus Wheaton from Oregon State. I look at Markus and I see a kid who can come into this league and start right away. He's not going to put up major-league figures out there, but he's going to find a way to get open. To me, he's a smaller Hakeem Nicks," Thomas said.

Thomas said West Virginia's Stedman Bailey could be the best route-runner in this draft, even though he isn't typically considered a first- or second-round pick.

"I go back to one thing: I don't care about speed from my wide receivers. I care about my wide receivers running precise patterns. One of the things that really blew my freaking mind is that … 19 out of his 25 touchdowns were inside the red zone. The thing that I love about him is 73.21 percent of his yardage came after the catch. When you've got a guy who can move the chains like that, oh, my God, this is a guy that I need on my team. A couple of years from now he could end up being Reggie Wayne."

Not all the receivers get love from Thomas. There are some that concern him, for sure. Tennessee's Justin Hunter, considered by some to be a second-round value, is one of them.

"I think that injury that he suffered in 2011, he's hearing feet right now. He was very tentative going over the middle of the field," Thomas said. "This is going to be a wide receiver crop that you'd be better off waiting for Rounds 2, 3, 4."

Even after the first two days of the draft, Thomas has a "sleeper" pick.

"I'll tell you one guy that's going be intriguing, and if somebody ends up taking him in Round 5 they might end up with the steal of the wide receivers, and that's the kid from TCU (Josh Boyce). He was pretty banged up this year, but he's been running like all hell for teams lately. I think Boyce is going to make a major impact," Thomas said. "Another guy that I like an awful lot, and liken him to Jordy Nelson, is Chris Harper from Kansas State. Somebody picks him up in the fourth round and they're going to have a very, very, very physical inside receiver."

In other words, despite all the clamoring for the Vikings to take a receiver in the first round, there are plenty of options in the second and third days of the draft for them to get a quality product and increase the overall value of their draft by selecting positions of lesser depth on April 25.

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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