Position Analysis: Wide receiver

The wide receiver class offers a lot of depth, versatility and plenty of questions. There is value throughout the draft, but while talent abounds there are drawbacks to many of them that the Vikings will have to consider when making their decision(s). We review in-depth more than a dozen of the top prospects, offering stats, measurables, analysis, projections and more.

POSITION OVERVIEW: One of the deepest draft classes in the last few years, there could be four or five wide receivers taken in each of the first three rounds and even more on the final day of the draft. While there isn't a Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones lottery pick in this year's draft class, there are several players that will have long NFL careers and a handful of them could end up being their team's No. 1 receiver in short order. There isn't a must-have blue-chip star that will go in the top five to 10 picks, but a lot of teams are looking to invest in the wide receiver class of 2013.

VIKINGS WIDE RECEIVERS – Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright, Stephen Burton, Greg Childs, Chris Summers.

VIKINGS NEED – The team added Jennings, but lost Percy Harvin in the trade market after his relationship with the organization went sour and released veteran Michael Jenkins. As a result, the need remains for the Vikings to invest in wide receiver – whether it is with one of their first-round picks or on Day 2 of the draft. But you can bet your last dollar that the Vikings aren't going to head to Mankato with the depth chart looking like it does above. There will be changes and, given the talent level of players that will be available at pick Nos. 23 and 25 on April 25, it wouldn't surprise anyone if the Vikings land one of the elite wide receivers available in this year's draft.


Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee, 6-2, 216 – Fourth-year junior who spent the 2009 season (but did not play) at North Carolina Tech and two years at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College…Started all 12 games he played at Tennessee, catching 46 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns…Led the SEC in all-purpose yardage with 1,858 (778 receiving, 308 rushing and 671 on kick returns and 101 on punt returns)…First Team All-SEC in 2012…A huge big-play threat, he scored touchdowns four different ways last year (receiving, rushing and on both kick and punt returns)…A home-run threat who can make a big play on a bomb or a bubble screen…Excellent combination of size, strength and speed…Excellent leaper (see below) who times his jump well, which makes him such a dangerous deep threat…Keeps his hands away from his body to pluck passes…Makes people miss…A multi-faceted threat who can make game-changing plays at any time…Versatile and capable of lining up anywhere on the field…Is very raw with just one year of experience vs. legitimate college competition…Didn't line up to face a stiff jam at the line of scrimmage and will need a lot of work to get up to speed…Still in the developmental stage of learning to run routes …Dropped too many easy passes…Was never viewed as a go-to receiver, rather a home run hitter while the offense ran through others…Didn't lift at the NFL Scouting Combine, but ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash with a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-8 broad jump. PROJECTION: The most intriguing receiver prospect in the draft. He has the potential to be a dominant receiver, but could struggle if asked to be a No. 1 receiver immediately. He should be the first receiver off the board (to St. Louis at No. 16), but he could flame out if overwhelmed early on by drawing an opponent's No. 1 corner every week. He makes a lot more sense with Pittsburgh (No. 17) or Minnesota (No. 23), but he has as much superstar potential as any player in the draft, much less wide receivers.

Tavon Austin, West Virginia, 5-8½, 174 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter…In his final two seasons, caught 215 passes for 2,475 yards and 20 receiving touchdowns, while also rushing for 845 yards and four TDs, returning 68 kicks for 1,751 yards and three touchdowns and 34 punts for 433 yards and another TD…Incredible speed and initial burst…Incredible receiving production with 215 catches in his last 26 games…Creates mismatches on almost every play…Can start and stop and start back up again in an instant…Runs great routes and creates separation when he makes a move because defenders are on their heels not wanting to get beat over the top…Makes tacklers miss and is rarely brought down by the first man who touches him…Explosive moving laterally…Has a very lean lower body and is viewed as being susceptible to injury given his free-wheeling style…Spends too much time running east-west waiting for the home-run play…Didn't run a full NFL route tree in college and will need to refine his game…Once a defender locks on him, he doesn't have the strength to fight his way loose too often…Doesn't have long arms and has a small catch radius…A sub-par blocker downfield…Doesn't have the type of body that can add a lot of bulk strength…Ran a sparkling 4.34 40 at the combine with 14 reps of 225 pounds, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: He will draw pre-draft comparisons to guys like Percy Harvin, Wes Welker or DeSean Jackson, which is unfair. He doesn't have Harvin's strength or Jackson's deep speed, but he has Welker's production. He will need time to develop and specialized packages will be devised to get him into space. With his return ability, he will remind some of Harvin. He isn't our top-rated player, but we expect him to be the first off the board – likely at No. 16 to St. Louis unless someone trades ahead of them. He could be deadly at No. 15 if New Orleans has the guts.

Keenan Allen, Cal, 6-2, 206 – Third-year junior…Started all 35 games of his college career, catching 205 passes for 2,570 yards and 17 touchdowns…Tore ankle ligaments in a pickup basketball game in March 2012 that required surgery…Left Cal as the career leader in receptions…Turns 21 on draft weekend…Ideal size and arm length…Has good initial burst off the line and lateral movement ability to avoid a jam and get early separation…Is a long strider who eats up chunks of yardage with each step…A big-play receiver who can consistently win jump balls deep down the field…Is not afraid to go over the middle and take a big hit to make a catch…An excellent hands catcher who doesn't let the ball get into his chest very often…Picks up a lot of yards after the catch…Doesn't have top-end deep speed and needs time to accelerate…Slows down a bit going into and out of cuts and when he makes a double move…Doesn't make a lot of defenders miss in the open field…Isn't an elite blocker and will get thrown aside too often when asked to block…Drops too many catchable passes…Did not work out at the combine because of a right ankle injury. PROJECTION: A smooth receiver coming out of a West Coast offense in college, he may have the easiest transition of any of the blue-chip receivers in this year's draft. He looks like an ideal fit for a team like Pittsburgh or Minnesota that have had players with a similar skill set excel.


DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson, 6-1, 214 – Third-year junior…Became a starter early in his true freshman season and started 32 of 39 career games, catching 206 passes for 3,020 yards and 27 touchdowns…A two-time All-State selection in high school in South Carolina and a three-time All-State pick in basketball…The first freshman to ever lead the Tigers in receiving…A semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award in 2012, given to college football's top wide receiver…Excellent production – his receptions, yards and TDs went up every year…Has very good hands and plucks the ball consistently away from his body…Very strong, crisp route runner…Will fight for jump balls and will catch the ball at its highest point consistently and out-fight defenders…Good burst and ability to stop and start quickly and hit top acceleration in a hurry…Doesn't have the quick-twitch ability off the line to be viewed as an elite slot receiver…Has a thin frame by NFL standards and might get knocked off his spot with a solid jam…Doesn't have an elite second or third gear running deep down the field…Drops too many easy passes as he starts running before securing the ball…Is still viewed as somewhat raw in terms of technique…Didn't help his stock by not working out at the combine due to a calf injury. PROJECTION: Hopkins is an intriguing prospect because he has been the focus of every defense he plays, yet his production has consistently gone up. Coming off a big 2012 season (82-1,405-18), he is a rising prospect who might make it into the end of the first round to a team like Houston. If not, he's a priority early in Day 2.

Justin Hunter, Tennessee, 6-4, 196 – Third-year junior…One-year full-time starter who caught 73 passes for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012…Missed all but three games in 2011 with a torn left ACL…Has ideal height and long arms…A long stider who covers a lot of ground in a hurry…Doesn't slow down much going into and coming out of his cuts…An excellent jumper who can out-fight defenders for the ball at its highest point…Runs sharp routes to create separation…Experienced receiver at multiple positions…Is viewed as too thin and seen as a potential injury risk in the NFL if he doesn't add 10-15 pounds of muscle/bulk…Has been criticized for occasionally having "alligator arms" over the middle…Is not a natural hands catcher and lets too many passes get into his body…Doesn't have the strength to consistently break tackles…His numbers were inflated against weak competition – only two of his nine TDs in 2012 came in SEC games…Didn't lift at the combine but ran a 4.44 40 with a 39½-inch vertical jump and an 11-6 broad jump – both among the highest jump totals of anyone who worked out at the combine. PROJECTION: Overshadowed by teammate Cordarrelle Patterson, Hunter is an excellent complementary receiver who, if he can add some bulk strength, has enough upside to be viewed as a No. 1 type of receiver down the line.

Robert Woods, USC, 6-0½, 201 – Fourth-year junior…Started 35 of 38 games at USC, catching 210 passes for 3,218 yards and 41 touchdowns…Had a monster junior season (114-1,622-25) and caught 37 touchdowns in 26 games over his final two seasons…A high school All-American who earned raves on both sides of the ball and a standout track star…The first true freshman wide receiver to start USC's season opener in more than 60 years…Was a 2012 Biletnikoff Award finalist…Excellent production…Has excellent first-step burst off the line…Has excellent, natural athleticism…Very strong in his cuts and can create separation…Dangerous in the red zone and always fights for the ball…Consistently highpoints the ball…Has good toughness and gains every yard he can on most receptions…Has a solid second gear and can set up defensive backs…Played in an offense designed to get him open and wasn't viewed as the most explosive receiver on his own team (that would be Marqise Lee)…Has a thin build and if he doesn't add some bulk strength, will be viewed as an injury concern…Doesn't have elite deep speed and takes time to get to top speed downfield…A willing blocker but not overly physical or technically sound and takes himself out of plays far too often…Will struggle to separate at the line from physical corners…Didn't lift at the Combine but ran a 4.51 40 with a 33½-inch vertical jump and a 9-9 broad jump. PROJECTION: A player I've loved for two years, Woods has all the tools to be an ideal No. 2 receiver in the mold of a Keenan McCardell or Donald Driver. His lack of elite physical/muscular skills will likely keep him out of the first round of the draft, but, with his innate receiving ability he could end up being viewed as one of the best receivers to come out of the Class of 2013. Whoever gets him won't be disappointed, especially if its deep into the second round.

Terrance Williams, Baylor, 6-2, 208 – Fifth-year senior…Three-year starter who caught 199 passes for 3,273 yards and 27 touchdowns in that span…Blew up as a senior after emerging from the shadow of Kendall Wright, catching 97 passes for 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns…Has ideal measurables with good height, long arms and a solid NFL frame…Very shifty on the snap and had to stick with a stiff jam…Has a second gear and can separate deep…Excellent field presences; had several toe-drag sideline receptions last year…Strong into and out of his breaks…Excellent body control and balance…One of the biggest home-run threats in the draft, he averaged 18.5 yards a catch last year and had 24 receptions of 25 yards or more…Has very short arms and will have trouble keeping NFL defenders away from his body…A one-year go-to threat who benefitted from having Wright and RG3 as the lead dogs…Drops too many catchable passes…Did not face man coverage at the line very often…When he does a double move, needs too long to get back to top speed…Ran a 4.52 40 at the Combine with 11 reps of 225 pounds with a 32½-inch vertical jump and a 9-11 broad jump. PROJECTION: A smooth receiver who doesn't have elite attributes, but does everything well. A solid pick that will be an ideal selection for a team that already has a No. 1 receiver in the second or third round.

Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech, 6-0, 204 – Fifth-year senior…Redshirted in 2008 and spent two years at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College…Started all 25 games he played at Louisiana Tech, catching 183 passes for 2,594 yards and 24 touchdowns…Has a daughter…Two-time All-WAC selection…Excellent burst off the snap and difficult to jam…Has long arms and a big catch radius for a player his size…Keeps the ball away from his body and catches with his hands…The best blocking wide receiver in this year's class…Tracks down the ball well on deep passes…Has return ability and can break off big returns…Doesn't have a second gear or top-end deep speed to get separation downfield…Doesn't explode out of his breaks and slows down when making sharp cuts…Ran a limited route tree…Very raw in terms of playing against top competition…Doesn't have natural strength to run through and break tackles…Ran a 4.53 40 at the combine with eight reps, a 33-inch vertical jump and a 9-10 broad jump. PROJECTION: Patton plays with a lot of desire and physicality and his production can't be denied. But his lack of experience against elite competition will extend his learning curve to the NFL and will likely drop him late into the second round or early third-round area.


Aaron Dobson, Marshall, 6-2¾, 210 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who caught 150 passes for 2,036 yards and 20 touchdowns in that span…Has rare hand-eye coordination and makes the difficult catch look easy…Very good route runner who has excellent body control…Gains separation in his breaks…Strong downfield blocker who seeks contact…Good leaper who highpoints the ball consistently…Gains a lot of yards after the catch…Didn't have ideal production – never had 700 receiving yards in any season…His average per reception dropped each of his three years as a starter…Not a player who can add a lot of bulk and has maxed out in that regard…Has small hands (8½ inches)…Doesn't have blue-chip speed to get separation downfield…Ran a spread offense and didn't have to run an NFL route tree…Did not work out at the combine due to a right hamstring injury. PROJECTION: He is an impressive athlete who made himself a lot of money at the Senior Bowl, where he was one of the most impressive prospects in Mobile. Viewed as a late Day 2 or early Day 3 pick prior to the Senior Bowl, he made enough of an impression that he's now solidly a third-round prospect.

Ace Sanders, South Carolina, 5-7, 173 – Third-year junior…Became a starter midway through his sophomore season…His only full-time starting season was in 2012, when he caught 45 passes for 531 yards and nine touchdowns…His father Tracy Sanders played in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills…SEC Special Teams Player of the Year as a punt returner in 2012…Had a monster game at the Outback Bowl vs. Michigan (9-92-2 receiving TDs and a 63-yard punt return for a TD)…Incredible acceleration when selling a double move…Has elite balance and is rarely taken off his route…Big-play ability – one out of every five receptions he had in 2012 resulted in a touchdown…Has great lateral quickness to make defenders look silly…Has very good burst off the snap…Saved his best for the biggest games…Plucks the ball away from his body and gets himself going north-south in a hurry…Very undersized by NFL standards and can't add much more in the way of bulk strength or muscle weight…Has suffered a series of minor injuries that lead to durability questions about him…Viewed as a slot receiver only and not a three-down wide receiver…Didn't run a full route tree…Not a good blocker…Limited game-to-game production…Disappointed at the combine, running a 4.58 40 with seven reps of 225 pounds, a 32-inch vertical jump and a 9-9 broad jump. PROJECTION: An undersized prospect, he was more a victim of Steve Spurrier's offense, which centered on RB Marcus Lattimore before he got injured. An intriguing prospect, but his lack of size will probably push him into Day 3 of the draft or the very end of Day 2.

Stedman Bailey, West Virginia, 5-10¼, 193 – Fourth-year junior…Started 35 of 38 career games, catching 210 passes for 3,218 yards and 41 touchdowns…Had a monster 2012 season, catching 114 passes for 1,622 yards and 25 TDs…Has a son…Was a teammate of QB Geno Smith both in high school and at WVU…Was a Biletnikoff Award finalist in 2012…Incredibly productive, averaging more than seven catches a game over the last two seasons (nine a game last year) and had 39 touchdowns in 35 career starts and two more in the three he didn't start…Very good with ball security, he never had a fumble in 226 career touches…Has surprisingly good power in a compact frame, which has drawn comparisons to smallish tough guys like Percy Harvin…A versatile player who lined up at every receiver position in the offense…Excellent route runner who sells double moves and makes decisive cuts…Is undersized by NFL standards…Doesn't have elite vertical speed…Is not a great leaper who can fight for jump balls consistently…Not a factor in the return game…Gets pushed around too much when trying to block and was flagged too often for offensive pass interference…Didn't face physical jams at the line often…Ran a 4.52 40 at the combine with 11 reps, a 34½-inch vertical jump and a 9-9 broad jump. PROJECTION: Overshadowed often by star QB Geno Smith and WR Tavon Austin – both expected to be locks as first-round picks, Bailey has a lot of good qualities, but has never faced the level of competition he will at the pros. Because of his long learning curve, he is likely a third- or fourth-round pick, but given the pass-happy nature of the NFL and his skills as a slot receiver, he could be drafted higher than some of the players we rate ahead of him.

Markus Wheaton, Oregon State, 5-11, 189 – Fourth-year senior…Three-year starter who caught 219 passes for 2,905 yards and 16 touchdowns in that span…Had a big season last year (91-1,244-11) and left OSU as the school's all-time leading receiver with 227 receptions…Was a star on the OSU track team as well…A tough player who is fearless going over the middle…Has excellent deep speed and can get separation…Can make sharp cuts at high speed to leave defenders behind…Has a great burst off the line to eliminate the CB cushion almost immediately…Has good hand-eye coordination to track down the deep ball…Consistently finds the open spot in zones and gives his QB an easy target to hit…Is skinny and doesn't have good lower-body strength, which will make him a liability more often than not as a blocker…Came from a gimmick offense that inflated some of his numbers…Will get pushed off his mark by physical corners and will struggle with that at the NFL level…Too many concentration drops…Never was a return man, which is a liability in draft stock…Had a huge combine showing, running a 4.45 40 with a whopping 20 reps of 225 pounds, a 37-inch vertical jump and a 10-0 broad jump. PROJECTION: A specialized receiver who has big-play ability. If he had 10 pounds more muscle, he could be a first-round prospect, but given his lack of size and strength he will likely be a priority pick late on Day 2 or early on Day 3.

Chris Harper, Kansas State, 6-0¾, 229 – Fifth-year senior…Enrolled at Oregon as a quarterback in 2008 but transferred to K-State and had to sit out the 2009 season…Started 32 of the 39 games he played for the Wildcats, catching 123 passes for 1,734 passes and 12 touchdowns…Has excellent body control and can make the difficult catch in traffic…Has good quickness and hand use to beat jams at the line…Keeps passes away from his body and is a strong hands catcher…Excellent tracking speed on deep balls and highpoints the ball when defended well…Initiates contact as a blocker and has excellent upper-body strength (see below)…Does not play to his timed speed and doesn't have a second gear…A raw prospect with limited production, averaging just over three catches a game and only 12 TDs for his career…Takes too much time to reach top speed and slows down going into and out of breaks…Didn't operate out of a full NFL route tree…No value as a return man…Ran a 4.55 40 at the Combine with 20 reps, a 35½-inch vertical jump and a 9-8 broad jump. PROJECTION: Given his size and strength, he has a lot of the attributes of an Anquan Boldin. A converted QB, he has a steep learning curve. His tantalizing size may get him drafted earlier than we have him projected – somewhere in the third or fourth round – and could evolve into a solid NFL receiver.


Josh Boyce, TCU, 5-11¼, 206
Jasper Collins, Mount Union, 5-10¼, 183
Marcus Davis, Virginia Tech, 6-3, 233
Corey Fuller, Virginia Tech, 6-2¼, 204
Marquis Goodwin, Texas, 5-9, 183
Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas, 6-1¾, 212
Aaron Mellette, Elon, 6-2½, 217
Tavarres King, Georgia, 6-0¼, 189
Denard Robinson, Michigan, 5-10½, 199
Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech, 6-2½, 217
Kenny Stills, Oklahoma, 6-0½, 194
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M, 6-0¼, 205
Connor Vernon, Duke, 6-0¼, 196

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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