The needs of the Minnesota Vikings have been well-documented this offseason. They need the addition of a true No. 1 receiver, help all along the offensive line and help at safety. Free agency will be very telling of what the Vikings will plan to do in the draft, but it is still possible to look at what they might do given the depth at different positions in the draft.
Wide receiver has been one of the deepest positions the past couple drafts – just look at Stefon Diggs, for example. He was a fifth-round pick in 2015 and ended up leading the Vikings in receiving during his rookie season.
Teams are not going to find that kind of depth at receiver this year, though, and that could cause teams like the Vikings to reach a little more than they probably should for certain receivers.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said in a conference call Tuesday that there will be a point in this draft where there will be a run at that position because the number of receivers that teams trust will start to diminish quickly and that will make some teams panic.
The past two years players such as Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Amari Cooper, Kevin White and DeVante Parker have been selected and that level of talent just does not seem to be present this year.
“I don’t see those kind of athletes running around this year, in this draft class,” Mayock said. “I think you’re going to see teams in the first or second round say if a particular wide receiver fits what we do then we better get him now. (Laquon) Treadwell, I don’t know what he’s going to run and apparently he’s not running this week – that was a big question. Corey Coleman and (Will) Fuller will both run really well. Josh Doctson, big question mark about his speed. If you’re looking for a slot, you better go get Sterling Shepard. There’s some different conversations here, but I agree with your basic premise. If you really like a kid and he fits what you do, you probably need to get him.”
There does not seem to be a receiver in this draft that has everything teams are looking for. Treadwell seems to be lacking speed, Coleman is lacking height, Doctson is of slender build, Fuller does not have natural hands and Michael Thomas is lacking the experience teams are probably looking for in a No. 1 receiver.
Even though they do not appear to be perfect, all five of those receivers will likely be able to step up and compete on opening weekend, making plays for their teams on the field and being a difference-maker.
But what about the other receivers in the draft that will be selected later on? Mayock believes that there is a chance one or two of them could end up being a pleasant surprise for the team that drafts them.
“A polarizing conversation is going to be Braxton Miller, more of a slot receiver, probably a second-round pick. I like Rashard Higgins, Colorado State. I’m anxious to see what he does this weekend. They call him Hollywood, Hollywood Higgins, and his tape is pretty good. I’m anxious to see what he runs. He’s got some length to him. He’s probably a third-round pick, and I think he’s an intriguing player, along with Malcolm Mitchell from Georgia, third- or fourth-round type player, very solid off the field, smart kid, has some traits you like. Geronimo Allison, third- or fourth-round pick, long, 6-foot-3, 200 pounds from Illinois. Charone Peake, again, maybe a fourth-round pick from Clemson, one year of heavy production, longer kid, has some speed.”
Mayock went on to explain that this class is not nearly as explosive as the groups in the past and does not have the same type of top-end, elite talent that the other drafts have had. The strength of this group of receivers is that it is filled with solid players in the middle rounds – players that will turn into consistent contributing players, but that is likely all they will be. Some may end up breaking through and surprising everyone, but that would be more the exception.
Instead, if a team is looking for a No. 1 receiver in this year’s draft they will have to pick from a select group of players and even then it is no guarantee. Even the receivers at the top of this year’s draft could end up disappointing and not live up to the hype of a true No. 1 receiver.
When asked about the Vikings specifically, Mayock named a couple of potential receivers on the second day of the draft.
“Depending on, again, what they’re looking for, I think Pharoh Cooper is a really interesting guy with the ball in his hands from South Carolina, slot return guy,” he said. “ Tyler Boyd from Pittsburgh, second or third-round guy, tough guy. There are just some names that could be interesting to the Vikings in the second and third.”