Film Buff Breaks Down Receivers

NFL Films is well-known for their deep analysis of players and schemes, and what makes each of them successful. Senior producer Greg Cosell gave his in-depth knowledge of the top free-agent receivers to Viking Update. See what he had to say inside.

In basketball, they call the obsessive player a gym rat. In football, the obsessive analyst will spends hours each day breaking down film of players. That's a big part of Greg Cosell's at NFL Films, and he thrives in the role.

With free agency on tonight's horizon and several well-known receivers believed to be in the sites of the Minnesota Vikings, we spent time at last week's NFL Combine getting Cosell's thoughts on them.

Here is his valued opinion on them:

  • The Vikings are expected to be a major player in the Bernard Berrian sweepstakes, and the top wide receiver in free agency has been able to produce some good numbers with some very questionable quarterbacks in Chicago. While Cosell admits that Berrian is probably the top receiving target, he doesn't consider him the best fit for the West Coast Offense.

    "He'll make a lot of money because he's probably the best receiver out there because he gives you the vertical threat," Cosell said. "See, D.J. Hackett doesn't you the vertical threat and he's the other (top free-agent) receiver. Berrian is the vertical receiver and he can give you the home run threat. I think Berrian – in the right offense, and obviously the Bears because they had so much inconsistency at every position, that's not the right offense for him – I think in the right offense, he can be the guy that gets you 65 catches, 1,100 yards, nine touchdowns."

    Considering the Vikings' top receiver last year, Bobby Wade, had 647 yards as a slot receiver, the Vikings could use Berrian's kind of production downfield. It might also take some of the heat off of running back Adrian Peterson, who saw more eight- and nine-man defensive fronts late in the season.

    Last year, Berrian had the best of his four NFL seasons, catching 71 passes for 951 yards and five touchdowns. It was a continuation of what he really started in 2006, when he had 51 catches for 775 yards and six touchdowns. His first two seasons in the league provided minimal results.

    Still, Cosell isn't sure Berrian is the best fit for the Vikings' offense.

    "I don't think he's a West Coast receiver. The other sort of offense in the league is the Don Coryell hybrids, which are more vertical. I think he's more a guy who fits that because he's really a deeper receiver," Cosell said. "Hackett is more of a West Coast guy, and that's what he's grown up with – he's with Seattle. I think Hackett thrives in a West Coast (offense). Now, of course, he's got the injury problem, the durability issue. But I think if he was a starter in a West Coast offense for 16 games, I think D.J. Hackett is a very solid receiver."

    The Vikings are believed to view Hackett as too similar in skills to Sidney Rice to make a run at Hackett in this year's free agency.

    "I think Berrian will get the most money for one simple reason – he's a home-run hitter," Cosell said.

  • Oakland Raiders receiver Jerry Porter is another player that has been tied to Vikings interest in free agency. We give Cosell's opinion on Porter with this article.

  • Another possibility, albeit with lesser expectations, could be Arizona's Bryant Johnson. Johnson has been stuck in the shadows of Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald with the Cardinals.

    "Bryant Johnson was a first-round pick, too, which is interesting. Bryant Johnson is a guy who has never quite played to his physical abilities. I think he runs well. He's probably got some inconsistent hands. I think maybe in another system he's got a chance. When I say a chance, again, he's not going to be the guy, but he has a chance to put up better numbers," Cosell said. "Here's what you have to understand in the NFL: Throwing the football is really paramount, so guys putting up numbers in offenses doesn't automatically mean they're great receivers. We just live in a passing world now where a lot of guys can put up numbers. I think Bryant Johnson in the right system can put up numbers. That's not going to make him Terrell Owens, Steve Smith, Chad Johnson, Torry Holt."

    The numbers Johnson put up in Arizona would have made him the Vikings' second-most productive receiver last year. In 2007, Johnson had 46 receptions for 528 yards and two touchdowns. In 2006, he had 40 catches for 740 yards and four touchdowns. In five seasons with the Cardinals, he has 210 receptions for 2,675 yards and nine touchdowns.

  • A final receiver who might make an impact in free agency is Houston's Andre Davis. However, Davis might be just as valuable for his return abilities as he is for his production as a receiver.

    In six seasons in the NFL, Davis has played for the Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans – spending one season each with the last three teams. He has never had more than the 40 receptions he mustered in 2003, but last year he had 583 yards on 33 catches, an impressive 17.7-yard average. He hasn't had more than three touchdowns since 2003.

    "I think Andre Davis has played long enough to be what he is. He's not a complete receiver. He's a vertical receiver that still has good speed. He's a very inconsistent receiver," Cosell said. "His return ability gives him added value, but as a receiver he's probably your fourth guy. He's been in the league too long with too many teams. If he was going to be a great player – when I say great, we know he's not going to be a Steve Smith – but if he was going to be a consistent receiver for a good team, that would have happened already. He's been with … I would guess four or five teams."

    Davis' return ability has been use sporadically. Last year, he had 32 kickoff returns for 968 yards (a 30.3-yard average) and three touchdowns – all impressive numbers. But the previous three seasons, he returned only nine kickoffs combined. His first two seasons in the league, he combined for 88 kickoff returns.

    The flavors of free agency are very different at receiver, but the Vikings have a chance to upgrade to varying degrees.

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