“Although it might not be as quite dramatic at wide receiver as a year ago, it’s still going to be a very good wide receiver class,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.
Because this draft class is so deep, it could be an opportunity for the Minnesota Vikings to add to a receiving corps that struggled at times in 2014.
Last season Greg Jennings was the Vikings leader in receptions (59), receiving yards (742), and touchdowns (six). There was never a clear-cut No. 1 receiver on the team over the course of the season. And moving forward there is still a lot of uncertainty at the position.
Jennings is currently 31 years old and is due an $11 million cap figure in 2015. Charles Johnson showed glimpses that he could make an impact in the NFL but is still an unknown for the long haul. And big things were expected from Cordarrelle Patterson last year, but he seemed to take a step backwards in his development.
The question then becomes whether the Vikings want to target a receiver at No. 11 with their first-round pick or if they wish to do it in a later round.
“This particular class, Kevin White, Amari Cooper, DeVante Parker are consensus top-20 picks,” Mayock said. “However, after that, there’s a bunch of question marks. Dorial Green-Beckham is as gifted as anybody in this class, but you better do your homework off the field. Is he a tight end or a wide receiver? I’ll give you the name of a guy who I think has first-round talent, the (Breshad) Perryman kid from Central Florida. (Devin) Smith from Ohio State, (Sammie) Coates from Auburn. All of them are going to run 4.35 or better.”
For the most part, Cooper is thought to be the best wide receiver in the class because he is also the safest pick. He is a good size, has good hands and good speed. Teams know what they are going to get out of him, and unless the Vikings trade up in the draft it is not likely that they are going to get a chance at him.
“I think Cooper from Alabama has got the highest score,” Mayock said. “In other words, I think he’s the safest pick of that group. Really good route runner, had over 100 catches last year, reminds me of some of those wideouts that played on the Greatest Show on Turf with Dick Vermeil in St. Louis – Tory Holt, for example, that type of wide receiver.”
After Cooper, analysts vary on whether they prefer White or Parker, but in reality it seems as though teams would be fine drafting either of them. Mayock, however, actually believes that White is the best receiver in the draft. He realizes that Cooper is the safer pick, but believes White has more upside.
Scout.com NFL Combine Coverage
Parker has been a popular pick for the Vikings in a lot of mock drafts because of his history with Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Both players played together in Louisville, so it is thought that they will have chemistry together right away.
But general manager Rick Spielman said he wouldn’t draft Parker just for his chemistry with Bridgewater.
“They had a great career together, but that has no influence on who we’re looking at,” Spielman said Wednesday. “We’re going to look at who’s best for us regardless. You have to look at the best football player, who fits your scheme the best and what you’re trying to get accomplished. That has no part of the equation.”
One player to look at would be Jaelan Strong, who played wide receiver at Arizona State. He is thought of to be a big-bodied receiver who is strong but lacks elite speed. A lot could be riding on what he is able to run his 40 time in, as he is currently believed to be a second-round pick. There is a possibility for him to move up into the late first round if he performs well.
“(Strong) has the physical traits – height, weight, speed of Larry Fitzgerald when he came out of the University of Pittsburgh,” Mayock said. “That doesn’t mean he’s anywhere close to him from a technique perspective. He’s really raw. But what he is, is he’s strong, very strong hands, big body. I think he’s a second-round pick that could evolve into even a late first-round pick if a team falls in love with him. He’s big, strong. What he runs this week is going to be important. There’s a huge difference between him running 4.6 and 4.5. I’m rooting for the kid because I like his game.”
Another player who may be able to slip into the first round of the draft is Breshad Perriman from UCF. A lot of people have him notched as having bad hands, but Mayock does not see it that way. If he can show people that he can catch cleanly at the Combine, his pro day and while working out with teams that he can catch he will likely see his draft stock rise.
“A wide receiver who has too many drops should have bad hands, right? Well, I look at his hands and say he makes acrobatic catches, he makes high-point catches, he makes contested catches; however, once in a while he drops an easy ball, but I think he’s a natural hands catcher,” Mayock said. “I think he’s got height and weight. I think he runs good routes. To me he looks like a first-round wide receiver. I need to see what he’s going to run this week. If he runs 4.50, 4.48, 4.51, people are going to be looking at him as a potential first-round wide receiver, and they should.”
An interesting receiver in this years draft is Green-Beckham out of Oklahoma, who is a big receiver with a lot of talent. There have been claims that he is the most talented player in this draft, but he also has red flags. He originally started his collegiate career at Missouri but was released from the team after being arrested on two separate occasions for marijuana possession.
Another big receiver that could make an early impact in the NFL is Devin Funchess out of Michigan. He has drawn comparisons to Kelvin Benjamin, who was drafted by the Carolina Panthers a year ago and recorded 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie. The question surrounding Funchess is whether or not he will gain extra weight and then become sort of a tight end/wide receiver hybrid.
“The question is Benjamin from Florida State last year ran 4.61 at 6-5, 240 pounds. I think Devin Funchess will be almost as big, run faster and have better movement skills,” Mayock said. “Will he gain 15 pounds in the next coming years? Will he be more Jimmie Graham, which would be fine also. So I think you have to look at him as a mismatch and evaluate him that way.”
Along with receivers that are able to create mismatches with their size, this draft also has receivers that can create mismatches with their speed. The three to keep an eye on are Phillip Dorsett from Miami, Devin Smith from Ohio State and Sammie Coates from Auburn.
“I’ll give you three of the fastest at the combine, Phillip Dorsett from Miami. He might run sub-4.3,” Mayock said. “My introduction to him came two years ago at Notre Dame when he dropped two passes on the first series where he was 5 to 10 yards beyond the closest Notre Dame player, and I don’t think Notre Dame had ever seen a guy run that fast. He flies and he’s gotten more consistent with his hands and route running. This kid can play and pick the top off any zone. Devin Smith, very similar from Ohio State. He’s going to run sub-4.35. He tracks the deep ball maybe better than anybody in this draft. And Sammie Cotes from Auburn at 205 pounds is the biggest of the three. The tallest of the three. He’s going to run sub-4.4. He flies. I just don’t know if he catches the ball as naturally as those other two guys.”
This is a deep draft when it comes to wide receivers. So even if the Vikings decide to go in the direction of offensive line, safety, cornerback or some other position, it doesn’t mean they won’t come out of the draft with a No.1 receiver. However, when they take a receiver could be an indicator of what they think of the receivers already on their roster. Specifically, Patterson, who they took in the first round just two years ago.
SCOUT.COM DRAFT RANKINGS
Position: QB RB FB WR TE OT OG C DT DE OLB MLB S CB K P LS