WR Draft Class Deep

The NFL draft is more than three months away, but the Vikings are already beginning the process of laying out their draft board, which, fortunately for them, likely includes as many as 10 wide receivers in the first 50 or 60 picks -- matching a team need with player availability.

The Vikings are spending the period of time between now and the opening of free agency in March evaluating all of their positions. While many fans believe the most pressing need remains at quarterback – the collective groan that was heard throughout Minnesota was audible throughout the state when Brad Childress said he's prepared to enter 2007 with Tarvaris Jackson and Brooks Bollinger as his QBs – the team sees wide receiver as its biggest issue.

The good news for Vikings fans is that, while the free agent market currently looks relatively weak, the depth at wide receiver in this year's college draft could be as deep as it has been in the last several years. As many as eight or nine wideouts could go in the first 50 picks – almost unheard of on draft day – giving the Vikings several options to address this need.

Atop VU's early projections is Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech. Standing 6-4 and weighing 210 pounds, Johnson is a beast that has deceptive speed, tremendous size and excellent hands. If he is still available at No. 7 on draft day, the Vikings will almost assuredly snap him up because he has drawn comparisons to Randy Moss coming out of college, expect with a bigger, more muscular frame. However, there is the strong possibility that Johnson will be gone by the time the Vikings pick at No. 7, which presents a different set of criteria for the team.

There may not be another wide receiver that is worth reaching for with the seventh overall pick, but that isn't to say that there isn't talent available. Dwayne Jarrett of USC is 6-5, 215 and has all the makings of being a solid pro, but his lack of speed (a 4.55 40) makes him a push with such a high pick. Ohio State's Ted Ginn is an electrifying player in the Steve Smith mold with legitimate 4.3 speed in the 40, but at 6-0 and just 175 pounds, some have questioned whether he can be a full-time receiver in the NFL with the physical style played by NFL cornerbacks.

While the "Big 3" wide receivers are sure to go in the first round, there are a half-dozen other wide receivers that will likely go in the late end of the first round or early in the second round, including Andre Caldwell of Florida, Craig Davis and Dwayne Bowe of LSU, Jason Hill of Washington State, Aundrae Allison of East Carolina and Jeff Samardzija of Notre Dame – not to mention the potential of a couple of more underclassmen being included in the event players like Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio State officially enter the draft.

With the deadline looming for underclassmen to declare for the NFL, teams will have a solid handle on who's in and who's not for the draft. The Vikings' options also remain open. If Johnson is on the board at No. 7, he would appear at this point to be a no-brainer because of the combination of talent, personality and coachability that he brings to the table. The team could also entertain offers to move down a few spots, save money on the huge contract price of a top 10 rookie pick and stockpile one or two additional picks and still have a shot at snagging Ginn or Jarrett. Or the team can wait until the second round and still find a talented player on the board that could help address the problems at wide receiver.

It won't be surprising if the Vikings have three or more wide receivers on the roster in 2007 that weren't on the roster last month. The team's need seems to coincide nicely with a draft class that will have plenty of talent to choose from. While teams don't ordinarily alter their draft to go specifically for a position of need, this year's draft class fits into what the Vikings need most and, if they could land a difference-maker like Johnson with the seventh pick, the Vikings offense could get the immediate infusion of life that was missing in 2006.

Viking Update Top Stories