Wide receiver has visit scheduled

Without being able to land T.J. Houshmandzadeh in free agency, the Vikings are showing interest in a first-day wide receiver. Find out more about him and how he could be a good match for the team.

The Vikings are among several teams that have arranged a visit or workout with Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. According to Scout.com's Ed Thompson, Heyward-Bey is tentatively scheduled to visit the Vikings on April 8-9, which is looking like the days of the team's mass predraft visit with prospects.

Vikings receivers coach George Stewart was one of the NFL team personnel in attendance at the Maryland pro day earlier this month, according to a report in the Baltimore Sun.

Bey's primary asset is his speed. He ran the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.25 seconds) at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. However, there are questions about his ability to consistently catch the ball.

"Heyward-Bey is an explosive playmaker who can change the momentum of a game on any play," writes Scout.com's Chris Steuber in his analysis of Heyward-Bey, whom he has compared to former Vikings receiver Troy Williamson. "He gets a quick release off the line and uses his game-breaking speed to get down field. He's doesn't shy away from going over the middle and makes tough receptions in traffic. He has to improve his route running and must develop more as a receiver. He has good hands, but tends to drop easy passes. He's a very gifted player, but his production didn't match his talent."

Heyward-Bey said he's working on his hands.

"I've worked on it since Day 1 when I got to College Park and the second I left College Park," he said. "I never sit back and think that I'm good at anything. I feel like you need to improve on everything, your hands, routes, even your speed."

In his final (junior) season at Maryland, Heyward-Bey had 42 receptions for 609 yards and five touchdowns. In his first two seasons with the Terrapins, he averaged 49 catches for 740 yards and four touchdowns. His 138 receptions rank third in Maryland history and his 2,089 receiving yards is second. He is also third with 13 touchdowns and sixth with four 100-yard receiving games.

His production wasn't aided by the fact that Maryland didn't to have many other offensive stars to take the pressure off of him. He did say he has a good understanding of pro style offenses and said he was used to the West Coast offense since the Terrapins ran that. He even tried to downplay the importance of speed to a receiver.

"I played in the pro-style offense. I played the West Coast. I understand how to sight-adjust, coverages. I think that's something people don't really think about when it comes to football. Everybody is really worried about the 40 time, worried about how many stats you have. But do you understand football? Are you ready to come into the NFL game and know what you're doing? I think I have that knowledge. I have that ability to pick things up fairly quickly and be on the field early," he said.

"I think I'll (be) a playmaker, somebody who can stretch the field. Being able to have somebody on the field that can run deep during Cover-2, that can get other people open, that can open up the running game. When you have somebody who makes plays, you're always a threat on the football field."

He said he also considers himself a good route-runner and added another quality that Vikings coach Brad Childress likes from his receivers – the ability to run block.

"I rate myself pretty good. That's what we did in practice – understanding the angles, that's key to blocking," Heyward-Bey said. "You can't go out there and just knock people out. You've got to be able to do the right things, know the scheme."

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound speedster said at the combine that he wasn't considering leaving school early, but others were telling him it was time.

"Toward the middle of the season (I) just really started thinking and started hearing from our coaches, saying 'This could be your time to leave,'" he said. "I wasn't thinking about it. People were telling me, 'This could be a good time for you to leave.'"

Before Heyward-Bey became the best of his draft class in the 40-yard dash at the combine with a 4.25-second run, he said he just wanted to "run something comfortable" and "don't want to strain myself out there."

Whether his blazing 4.25-second time was a strain or not, the projected first- or second-round pick helped his draft stock and kept himself high on the boards of several teams, and that apparently includes the Vikings.


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