Wide Receiver Gets on Vikings' Draft Radar

The Vikings were spotted interviewing a wide receiver last month at the Senior Bowl. Find out more about his college production and Senior Bowl analysis inside.

The Vikings' need at wide receiver is pronounced. Last year, they had the fewest amount of receptions and pass attempts of any NFL team and finished with the 28th-ranked passing offense (measured by yards per game). While some degree of those statistics can be attributed to uncertainty at the quarterback position, no Vikings receiver caught more than 54 passes.

The Vikings' top two receivers in 2007 – Bobby Wade and Robert Ferguson – didn't combine for 90 catches, a threshold reached individually by 14 of the better receivers in the game. In fact, the Vikings' top three receivers as far as yardage – Wade with 647, Sidney Rice with 396 and Ferguson with 391 – still came up short of some of the league's elite for 2007 in that category.

It all has led to fan interest in the Vikings considering the trade options for a veteran and an interest in the possibilities that the 2008 NFL Draft holds.

One of those interests in the draft is Donnie Avery, a speedy wide receiver from the University of Houston whom the Vikings were spotted interviewing at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month.

Avery, who has been timed running the 40-yard dash between 4.3 to 4.4 seconds, was one of the fastest and quickest receivers at Mobile, and he showed he also was one of the more polished ones – at least during that week. On several occasions, he was spotted getting good separation from a defending cornerback and making a downfield catch.

He did that often enough at Houston to get an invite to the Senior Bowl and next week's NFL Scouting Combine, where his quickness should be displayed again and continue to keep him rated a top-10 player at his position and a second- or third-round draft pick.

During his four seasons at Houston, Avery caught 210 passes for 3,289 yards and 19 touchdowns, but it was his senior season that really put him on the NFL map.

He had steadily increased his production in his first three years of playing, starting with 18 catches and working his way to 57 receptions in 2006, but during his senior season those statistics skyrocketed to 91 catches for 1,456 yards and seven touchdowns – all collegiate career highs for him.

As an added bonus for a team like the Vikings, Avery also returned kickoffs in college – taking back 15 of them for 424 yards, a solid 28.3-yard average. While the Vikings' Aundrae Allison showed some promise returning kicks, the team hasn't been able to settle on a true kickoff return man in consecutive years since the days of David Palmer in 1990s.

The drawbacks on Avery? He doesn't have great size at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, which means that, despite his quickness, he might get tagged as more of a slot receiver, but one scouting report said he doesn't always seem willing to go across the middle. Still, he drew a solid comparison from NFL Draft Scout, who said he is reminiscent of the Green Bay Packers' Greg Jennings.

If the Vikings could get that kind of production from a second- or third-round draft pick, they'd probably take it. So far, they are just investigating the possibilities.

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