That’s when Minnesota Viking fans can realistically expect their favorite team’s passing game to ditch its current 1960s retro look and resemble a modern-day NFL aerial attack – if the team chooses to draft a college wide receiver early in the 2013 draft, instead of going the free agent route to address this weakness.
That statement comes after a not-so-scientific scan of the current crop of 20 NFL receivers who have the most catches in the league as we enter the final quarter of the season. You need not have to watched every Vikings game this season to figure out the wide receiver position is a massive black hole for the club – outside of Percy Harvin. Michael Jenkins has 30 catches. Jerome Simpson has 14. Devin Aromashodu has 11. Stephen Burton has two. (Rookie Jarius Wright also has 11, but that’s over three games, and he can’t be lumped in with the other three slugs.) Those numbers – 63 catches – speak for themselves. The Vikings need to upgrade this unit during the offseason. Desperately.
But fixing the passing game isn’t so easy, especially if the Vikings don’t sign a talented and polished veteran free agent who can make an immediate impact and play the split end position opposite Harvin in the slot. And paying big bucks for a free agent may not even be possible for the Vikings if they are planning to sign Harvin to an extension. He won’t come cheap, and the Vikes may not be able, or willing, to devote that much capital to two players at one position.
Which leaves them with improving the WR position through the draft. And here is where my scanning of the NFL’s top 20 pass catchers at WR comes into play.
The top 20 list currently includes: Wes Welker (92 catches); Brandon Marshall (91); Reggie Wayne (88); Calvin Johnson (86); A.J. Green (76); Andre Johnson (74); Dez Bryant (71); Demaryius Thomas (69); Roddy White (68); Victor Cruz (68); Randall Cobb (64); Harvin (62); Marques Colston (61); Brian Hartline (60); Julio Jones (58); Dwayne Bowe (57); Michael Crabtree (57); Davone Bess (56); Eric Decker (56) and Larry Fitzerald Jr. (56).
Of those 20 receivers listed, only five of them – or 25 per cent – put up significant numbers (and by that I mean a 60-catch, 700-800 yard season) in their rookie year. Seven of the 20 (35 per cent) posted the aforementioned stat line in their second year in the league, while eight of the 20 (40 per cent) turned the trick in their third or fourth season.
Now two or three years isn’t a long time in the grand scheme of things. But for Viking fans who have been stuck watching unwatchable passing offenses since 2005 (with the exception of the 2009 season), the fact there is a 75 per cent chance any highly drafted wide receiver the team picks in the 2013 draft will not be productive until the 2014 season is not much comfort.
The encouraging news is there is some legitimate wide receiving talent the Vikings could target early in the 2013 draft – something I wrote about here last week at my site, Kick Ass Blog. The discouraging news is that if the Vikings draft a college wide receiver early, that player likely isn’t going to elevate the Vikings passing game right away – like Randy Moss did upon his arrival in 1998.
More often than not, wide receivers require a little aging before they breakout.
Note: You can read more Vikings blogs by Darren Campbell at Kick Ass Blog.