Each Wide Receiver Has A Downside

After a very strong free-agency period in March, the Vikings enter the NFL Draft with options pretty wide open. Although many speculate a wide receiver will be forthcoming in the first round, offensive coordinator Steve Loney offers some balance about expecting too much too soon from a rookie in that position.

Coaches rarely like to discuss draft options until after the draft. Not surprisingly, new offensive coordinator Steve Loney subscribes to that theory.

But given the reality that the Vikings have already signed or traded for five defensive starters, logic would dictate that No. 7 pick in the first round most likely being used for an offensive player. Braylon Edwards, Mike Williams, Mark Clayton and Troy Williamson are all names being tossed around as potential fits for the Vikings.

The Vikings' moves in free agency, Loney says, allows the team to pick the best player available rather than forcing the organization to fill a need.

"The free agency (signings) have really cemented the fact that we can take the best player available," Loney said. "Our free agency (signings) allow us to take the best player available whether it's an offensive or defensive player. We've got to have our research done and it gives the powers that be in the Vikings organization the ability to pick whatever player is available."

Despite what Loney says, the Vikings know the crop of receivers who command attention in the first round would give the team something it would need, now that Randy Moss is in Oakland.

Loney won't talk about them, so we will.

  • Edwards, a 6-3, 211-pound Michigan senior who appears to be the top receiver in the draft, is a big athletic receiver capable of taking over a game. Edwards has great leaping ability and will go up over defensive backs for the catch. His downside is he has a past of dropping balls, occasionally running sloppy routes and being a poor run blocker.

  • Williams, a 6-4, 229-pound junior at Southern Cal, has great size and good hands. Like Edwards, he can outleap and outmuscle most cornerbacks. Perhaps his biggest weakness is he doesn't have game-breaking speed.

  • Clayton, a 5-10, 193-pound Oklahoma senior, is explosive and possesses everything teams need except size. He is a major threat after the catch. He needs to add weight to get stronger.

  • Williamson, s 6-2, 203-pound South Carolina junior, is a big-play threat that can stretch the field. He could have been stifled in SC's system. Durability might be a concern.

    "Every one of those star receivers offers things that give you an advantage; some in some areas over others," Loney said. "To say you like one better than the other isn't a fair assessment. Right now you've got to keep all of your options open."

    There are some positions, though, where teams can't expect much contribution from players during their rookie seasons.

    "I've always contended that the running back position in some downs — certainly not in blitz downs — can do well," Loney said. "I don't think you can say that about quarterbacks. Wide receivers have proven they blossom into their own in their second and third seasons. If it's a high draft pick, maybe an offensive lineman could excel at some positions."

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