Will Vikes Look For Action from Jackson?

The Vikings may find themselves with their pick of wide receivers in the first round of this year's draft, but with such a distinct variety of wideouts to choose from, which direction will the Vikings go?

There is growing trend of doing mock drafts earlier and earlier each year. While team needs are more glaring in the eyes of the beholders, the needs of a team before the start of free agency are projected forward into the draft. If, for example, the Vikings would acquire a veteran quarterback in free agency, there would be little to no chance that they would take a QB in the first round of the draft.

While many believe the Vikings are heading to a wide receiver in the first round, the name that has been linked to the team more and more is DeSean Jackson out of Cal. Jackson came out a year early and gives NFL scouts a lot to look at. He's extremely athletic and brings the added bonus of being a top-end return specialist. The Vikings haven't had a true return specialist since David Palmer and, while he likely won't have comparisons to Devin Hester in the return game, Jackson does give fans reason to make fledgling comparisons to guys like Santana Moss and Carolina's Steve Smith.

The reason for those comparisons are based on his lack of size – he's just 5-11 and 170 pounds. He is already viewed as a potential liability in terms of durability and, even if he does gain some wait in the NFL, he will have to come a long way to be a true No. 1 receiver option. Most of his passes came on bubble screens to get him into space one-on-one. That works to a certain extent in the college game, but in the NFL if you give a safety a 20-yard run at a receiver, he levels a hit that sends him groggy to the sidelines.

The wide receiver crop as potential first-rounders in the early going of the league's scouting and evaluation process leading up to the draft has a variety of interesting prospects that are very different in size and style. Early Doucet of LSU is 6-0, 211, and many believe he is as good or better than Dwayne Bowe, who made a big impact with the Chiefs as a rookie in 2007. Malcolm Kelly of Oklahoma is 6-4 and scored 19 touchdowns in the last two years. Andre Caldwell of Florida is 6-0½, 207 and runs the 40 in sub-4.4 time. Other names of interest include Michigan's Mario Manningham (5-11, 190), Limas Sweed of Texas (6-4, 212) and massive James Hardy of Indiana, who stands 6-7 and caught 36 TDs in three years. There are going to be several wide receivers taken in the first two rounds and they will invariably be compared to one another as their careers move on.

However, the bigger question is what kind of receiver do the Vikings need? If the thought is that Adrian Peterson will be getting a lot of eight-in-the-box defenses, a speed burner like Jackson could make sense. If the Vikings intend to run a pure West Coast Offense, big receivers like Kelly or Sweed make more sense. The Vikings have been burned by Hester and the threat of a breakaway return specialist gives Jackson a bit of a leg up on most of his competitors. But is he really what the Vikings need at wide receiver? Stay tuned.

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