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It would seem that everyone is doing the job of Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman these days. From Mike Mayock to Mel Kiper to fans who couldn’t tell you where Laquon Treadwell played his college ball, it would appear that everyone is of like mind that the Vikings are going to take a wide receiver with their first-round draft pick.
Spielman has seen so much of that type of chatter that at his annual predraft press conference at Winter Park Tuesday he addressed the question before it was even asked.
During his opening remarks outlining the draft process, Spielman addressed the elephant in the room preemptively, saying that selecting a wide receiver in the first round is a possibility, but the Vikings aren’t locked into that position
“I’m sure I’ll get a receiver question here – I’m not sure, but, in case someone does, we’re not honed in on a receiver in the first round,” Spielman said. “We’ll look at the potential best available player regardless of position. I think that’s the way that we have done it and will continue to do that because it ends up paying off for you – not only for potentially this year, but as we go into the future years.”
Spielman said this year is a solid draft class for wide receivers and, when asked about the depth in the first two or three rounds of the draft, he believes talent can be found throughout the process, not just the first two days of the draft, as the Vikings proved last season when they targeted Stefon Diggs, who ended up leading the team in receiving.
As he sees it, there are a lot of specialized receivers in the college game and the goal is to find someone who fits the kind of offense the Vikings run and the need they have for a specific receiver type.
That can come in the first round or the second or even later, as Vikings fans learned last season.
“Even a Stefon Diggs in the fifth (round), I don’t know how the draft is going to fall,” Spielman said. “We spent a lot of time at all of these positions, but I do think there is a lot of quality at (wide receiver) as you go down through. There are different styles, different types – small ones, tall ones. We don’t look so much at the height, per se, as the catching radius. There are fast guys, there are possession guys. There are a lot of different flavors.”
The Vikings have identified wide receiver as a need position, since the only change on the roster from 2015 is that Mike Wallace is no longer on the team. The rest of the cast of characters remain the same, including players that had disappointing 2015 seasons – namely Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson.
Simply because the Vikings didn’t get the type of production they expected from either of them last season, Spielman believes Teddy Bridgewater has a good corps of receivers already in-house and that adding another player would help augment what they already have.
“We know after sitting and going through that position in particular, what guys we identify that we think would be a good fit here,” Spielman said. “Where Teddy is as a quarterback, but I also don’t want to discount our current receivers that we have on this roster. Charles Johnson did a great job two years ago. Unfortunately, he got injured and never got back into the picture. I know Cordarrelle Patterson has worked extremely hard this offseason and I know everybody is excited to see him when we get out on the field here in a couple of weeks. Adam Thielen is a great third or fourth type that fills in and plays on special teams. Jarius Wright, we feel, is very, very comparable in the slot. We have a lot of young guys that are still developing and we’re hoping that will continue to grow with our young quarterback.”
Drafting wide receivers in the first round is never an exact science. Some players pan out immediately and become superstars. Others don’t seem to hit their full potential until their third season, which is a time-honored analytic that has been part of many NFL wide receivers – the first year you learn your job, the second year you learn what defenders do to shut you down and see the game from their perspective, and the third season it all comes together and a light goes on in terms of production.
The unpredictability of the position is a risk/reward that teams struggle with every year. For every Randy Moss, there are many more Troy Williamson-type busts.
“There’s a history there,” Spielman said. “There are some really good receivers that panned out in the first round, too. I don’t think it’s any different than any other position to be honest with you. Some things you can’t predict that are going to happen. But I don’t think it’s any less predictable than any other position.”
While Spielman and the Vikings are locked in to taking a wide receiver in the first round, they may end up doing what everyone else in the mock draft world believes they’re going to do – use their first pick on their next wide receiver of the future.