The Draft's Thin Margin for Error

The Vikings had a close call last year when it came to selecting a receiver in the second round of the 2007 draft. They ended up with the right choice on and off the field, if the early returns are any indication. See the opposite directions the two choices have gone in since and what head coach Brad Childress had to say about why Sidney Rice gained the edge as the Vikings' preference.

How thin is the line between a solid draft choice and a mistake?

The NFL is full of examples of teams passing on a better player and drafting a bust on the football field, and despite some teams' best efforts to research backgrounds no one can predict how athletes will perform at the professional level on the field or even off the field.

While the Vikings have had their share of off-field incidents in recent years, they were close to adding another one to that list during last year's draft when they were deciding between receivers Sidney Rice and Dwayne Jarrett. Jarrett was the more decorated college player, but Rice eventually convinced the team that he was a better second-round selection for the Vikings last April.

"If I'm not mistaken, I think they were 1/100th of a second different in their 40 times at the Combine, maybe for 4.56 and 4.57," Vikings coach Brad Childress said when asked about the two at this year's NFL Scouting Combine. "Height, weight approximately the same. With all that said, in one of the interviews that we had with Sidney, you just could tell what was ringing through from him – the vibes you got, the intangibles you got. In talking to (Steve) Spurrier Jr. about what kind of kid he was, how he came to work, I think probably some of the intangibles when you've got them both on the same line with about the same grade, that in our mind put him ahead of the other guys out there."

Jarrett was one of those guys the Vikings were seriously considering, and taking into account his arrest last week, it was probably a good decision for off-the-field perception as well as on-the-field contributions.

Jarrett was arrested early Tuesday in the Charlotte suburb of Mint Hill at 3 a.m. and charged with driving while impaired. He was then taken to the Mecklenburg County jail and later released on a $1,000 bond. According to police records cited by the Associated Press, Jarrett had a blood-alcohol level of .12 when tested; the legal limit in North Carolina is .08.

If Jarrett is convicted, he could face a league-imposed penalty under the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Jarrett was in Charlotte for the start of the team's offseason program.

It might be another case of the Vikings' many pre-draft interviews with players paying off. "You're able to see if a guy's with you," Childress said when asked about the value of Combine interviews versus all the timings and measurements the teams get out of that February week of scouting in Indianapolis. "The process can wear you down sometimes. When a guy's got an interview at 10:45 at night and he's been interviewing for as long as we've been talking to guys, that's a wearing-out process. I can't remember what time we talked (to Rice), but I just remember there was a bounce in his step and he was a happy-to-be-there guy."

Since then, the Vikings have referenced many times Rice's desire to get better in practices and a strong work ethic. That has also helped translate into better results on the field.

Playing in 13 games (he missed three games due to an ankle injury), he had 31 receptions for 396 yards and four touchdowns.

After drafting Jarrett, the Panthers released Keyshawn Johnson, but Jarrett was unable to secure a starting role in his rookie season. He held the Pac-10 record with 41 career touchdown receptions, but in his first year in the NFL he played in only seven games and caught six passes for 73 yards. He was inactive six of the first eight games of the season.

The Panthers signed veteran WR Muhsin Muhammad, who previously played for Carolina, during this year's free agency and are considering signing receiver D.J. Hackett.

Meanwhile, the Vikings have supplemented their receiving corps with Bernard Berrian but still expect a bigger role for Rice as he progresses in his NFL maturation.

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