So what did the Vikings get by taking Arkansas receiver Jarius Wright with the 118th overall pick in the draft? At first glance, it looks like they got a back-up for Percy Harvin. A small, quick slot receiver who gives them insurance in case Percy comes down with a bad migraine or injures himself trying to run over a safety. It was probably not a terrible idea to pick up a little insurance behind Percy but at the same time, it’s fair to ask if the 4th round wasn’t a little early to be grabbing for a back-up when there were plenty of holes at other positions (if you insist on rehashing those draft day arguments).
That’s at first glance. Look a little closer though and you realize that Wright gives plenty of value beyond potentially backing up Percy Harvin. Wright, despite his size, should not be limited to strictly short patterns and across-the-middle routes and the other stuff you associate with slot receivers. Here are a couple scouting report snippets that hint at the other larger possibilities for Wright
“Good boundary receiver who plays the sidelines well… Blinding speed, very tough to contain, routinely beats the safety deep.”
“Elite speed and quickness. Elusive in the open field. Runs crisp routes. A legitimate deep threat. Looks comfortable working the sideline.”
In other words, Jarius Wright shouldn’t be thought of only as a slot receiver. This is a guy with raw speed who can work the sidelines. Honesty compels me to report this however: the same scouting reports that make mention of Wright’s downfield and sideline skills also caution that he is small and struggles to get off the line when covered by bigger men. This means he won’t be a guy you can consistently line up on the outside in the pros. Though he can do other things, his main value will still be in the slot.
But forget about specific roles for a second: let’s consider the complete package with Wright. The scouting reports all make mention of the same attributes. Good route runner. Good leaping ability. Adjusts to the ball. Knows how to play the sidelines. Speed and quickness. Knack for finding soft spots in zones. The knocks on Wright are all related to size (along with the occasional remark about his tendency to take his eyes off the ball). At 5-10, 182, he’s always going to have a hard time against big, physical corners. That’s the reality.
Despite his limitations, there’s no doubt that Wright is a talent. Now it’s up to Bill Musgrave to figure out ways to use him. In the short term, he gives you value as a punt returner and, as I said, injury/illness insurance for Percy. As the offense evolves, perhaps Wright’s role will expand. The suggestion has already been made that Wright’s presence will free Percy Harvin to line up outside more often. Percy certainly can line up outside, though his ideal position remains the slot. It’s all about the mix. Maybe we’ll see Percy in the slot and Wright outside at times. And vice versa. At least now Bill Musgrave has some pieces to work with. Unlike last year when he was stuck with poor personnel and therefore unable to implement the offense he wished.