The return of the West Coast offense to the Minnesota Vikings was thought to mean even more production for tight end Jermaine Wiggins. At least, that's what many observers figured.
That never panned out, as the team failed to get a deep-threat tight end like Owen Daniels in the 2006 NFL Draft and suffered through last season with decreased production from their top two tight ends – Wiggins and Jim Kleinsasser. Each of those two had significantly fewer receptions in the 2006 season than he did in the 2005 season, as Wiggins finished with 46 catches for 386 yards and Kleinsasser was nearly non-existent in the passing game with seven receptions for 47 yards.
Enter the 2007 offseason, where the Vikings have been looking at young talent with street free agents and college prospects set to enter the draft. And that's where tight end Ben Patrick caught the Vikings' attention last week at the Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala.
Patrick was a late fill-in for Rutgers tight end Clark Harris, who left after two days of struggling with turf toe. Patrick began practicing Wednesday, and the Vikings were spotted talking with the tight end after his first practice, a session that yielded this analysis from Scout.com analysts on the scene: "(Patrick) looked effective catching the ball all day. Fell asleep at one point and waited for the ball to get to him instead going to get it and the pass was picked off. Showed decent route-running skills as well," the Wednesday report read.
Overall, Scout.com's analysts described his short time practicing with the North squad like this: "Distinguished himself as a very good pass catcher and solid position blocker."
The former Delaware tight end didn't catch a pass in Saturday's game, but he had one ball thrown his way on a deep out route, a pass let go by a quarterback under pressure. He caught two passes in the East-West Shrine game.
Patrick's one season with the Blue Hens was much more productive.
After averaging 31 catches in his sophomore and junior seasons at Duke, Patrick exploded for an impressive senior season after transferring to Delaware. He caught 64 passes for 639 yards (a 10-yard average) and six touchdowns.
He became Delaware's first consensus All-American player since 1998 and was the first Deleware tight end to earn All-Atlantic 10 Conference honors in school history.
The question that NFL scouts will have to answer now is if Patrick's senior-season production can be replicated in the NFL or if his success was due mostly to playing against smaller college programs.
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