This is the start of a regular series where we will review the Vikings’ major needs for the offseason and propose guys who could fill those needs. We’ll start with arguably the biggest need of all, wide receiver. Actually there’s nothing arguable about this. Wide receiver is the biggest need. Period.
In this series we will consider free agent options and draft options. And also, possibly, guys already on the roster who might step up and fill the need. First of all we’ll look at where the Vikings are personnel-wise at this position.
Signed for 2013: Stephen Burton, Greg Childs, Percy Harvin, Michael Jenkins, Jarius Wright
Signed to a futures contract: Chris Summers
Free agents: Devin Aromashodu, Jerome Simpson
The only guy listed above who is almost 100% guaranteed to still be on the team in 2013 playing a significant role is Jarius Wright. He slides in right now as a nice complementary-type receiver, a slot guy with some versatility. Michael Jenkins has some value as a possession receiver but he is getting up there and is a guy you might want to look at cutting ties with. Stephen Burton is in all honesty barely a practice squad player but the Vikings seem committed to working him in somehow or other, so I guess he’ll still be around though probably not as a major piece. Greg Childs is a huge question mark obviously coming back from major surgery on both knees. Chris Summers is a PS guy who has nice physical tools but who knows what he’ll ever develop into. I’m already on record saying the Vikes should dump both Aromashodu and Simpson. We’ll deal more with Percy Harvin later on down this post.
Now looking at some potential guys who could fill spots. First, draft prospects.
Keenan Allen, Cal This guy appears to be the #1 prospect the Vikes should be targeting. He has size, speed and toughness and he’s good after the catch. He has all the tools to be a #1 receiver. And right now it looks like he’ll still be on the board when the Vikings pick at #23. If this guy pans out the way the drafniks think, he will be a legit #1 weapon.
Robert Woods, USC Allen and Woods appear to be jostling for #1 receiver status in this draft. Neither guy is thought of as highly as Justin Blackmon or Michael Floyd were last year. It’s possible Blackmon and Floyd were both overvalued though. So maybe these 2013 guys are being valued right about where they belong. Right in that late teens-early twenties area. Woods probably has about the same raw physical tools as Allen but he’s got way more question marks. He drops balls and he has had some injuries. He seems like a riskier pick than the kid from Cal.
Justin Hunter, Tennessee I’ll say flat out I’m not feeling this guy. People love his size-and-speed combo but there’s too much talk about lack of physicality and lack of refinement in his game. Strikes me as a two-year project guy. Vikes don’t need one of those. They need a guy who can step in right away. Forget this guy. That’s my first instinct anyway.
DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson I think we’re already getting down in that area of first-second round tweener guys who are maybe not wildly exciting prospects but could pan out. This is where scouting comes in big. Looking for specific traits that you think fit your system. And this is where these kind of posts become a tad fraudulent. Cause I have no idea what the Vikes are looking for. I don’t work for their scouting department. They could love any one of these guys or hate any one of these guys. And we’ll never know.
Terrance Williams, Baylor Another big guy who figures as an outside target. He also has good speed. There’s some question about his ability on short routes but people love his downfield explosiveness.
Tavon Austin, West Virginia How you feel about Austin as a Viking prospect depends on what you think of Percy Harvin’s value. If you think Harvin should be let go but the Vikings should replace him with a similar player, then you probably value Austin. He’s the best Percy analogue in the current draft crop. He’s probably closer to a Percy-type than Jarius Wright. The problem is he’s really really small. Smaller than either Percy or Wright. I personally think the Vikes need to stick to big outside-type receivers here. I don’t like the idea of them trying to replace Percy with a like player. Percy is unique. Wright can be a slot guy without necessarily giving you exactly what Percy gives you. That Percy level of versatility is not common. And therefore it would not be smart to build an entire offensive plan around the idea that you can find it again. You’re just not going to find another Percy. You either have him or you don’t.
Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech Too much baggage.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee Hmm, maybe. He has lots of speed for sure. Love those downfield speed guys. Inconsistent though. That’s what it says.
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia Another one of those little guys. Fast. Not what we’re looking for though. I don’t think.
I think we’ve moved out of the top prospect realm at this point. Actually we probably did that after Allen and Woods. I frankly think it’s down to those two guys if the Vikes are going to draft a #1 receiver. And Woods seems slightly shaky. So I guess I’m in the tank for Keenan Allen.
Let’s move on to potential free agent targets. There are three guys who stand at the top of this list who are the most coveted and will be the most expensive. And will most excite the fanbases of whatever teams end up signing them. I think I know the guy Viking fans want most. And I actually think that guy is the most likely at this point. So let’s run this down.
Mike Wallace The Pittsburgh receiver held out and then he didn’t hold out. And then he had a decent season but not as good as the previous two. I’m frankly underwhelmed by this guy. I don’t know if he’s a guy you want to add to a young team and say “Go be our #1 receiver.” I think he could sign a huge deal and drop right off the map. Just my gut feeling.
Dwayne Bowe I just can’t see paying a ton of money for this guy with the potential character issues on the table. And I don’t know if he’s really what the Vikings need anyway. He’s a great red zone weapon but not necessarily a downfield weapon. I just think some team is going to overpay for this dude and be disappointed.
Greg Jennings This is the guy Viking fans want. And I think he’s probably got the best shot to be signed among these top three guys. I think when you add everything up he makes the most sense. He brings solid professional veteran presence to the receiver corps. He can still produce on the field. He would be a great stabilizing influence for Christian Ponder. He could teach Ponder some of Aaron Rodgers’ tricks. I wonder if the Vikes deliberately saved up cap space just to make a run at this guy. I don’t know. We’ve been led to believe that Minnesota is on this frugality kick but I believe Zygi Wilf will open up the wallet for the right guy. Jennings might be the right guy.
Wes Welker No.
Danny Amendola Also no. Slot guy.
Brandon Stokely Product of Peyton Manning. No.
Domenik Hixon Look, the Vikes are going to have to sign at least one significant free agent receiver. Right? And if that guy’s not Jennings or Wallace or Bowe, who is it? You wouldn’t think they’d pursue an Amendola-type guy even though he’s a tough guy who brings a lot to the table. So what kind of receivers are we really looking at? I like Hixon. I think he’s a guy who, at the right price, would make sense for this team. He would be a definite upgrade over Michael Jenkins or Jerome Simpson. As a #3 receiver? Again, this depends on some other stuff falling into place. So say you draft Keenan Allen. And then you have Jarius Wright as your #2 guy (we’re assuming Harvin is gone – more on that later). Hixon looks good to me as a #3 guy. You won’t have to overpay for him. Yes I realize he’s coming off some injuries. That’s concerning. But we’re talking about a second-tier receiver. You’re not going to get a perfect package. To me he’s less risky than a lot of other guys even with the physical stuff. For what it’s worth, he graded out better than Victor Cruz, Brian Hartline or Greg Jennings at PFF.
Danario Alexander This guy had a pretty impressive run of about six games last season. He became something of a fantasy football giant. And then he sort of vanished. So what to make of him? We know he’s big and fast. We also know he gets hurt a lot. And we know he’s really only got that run of about six games to hang his hat on. He’s a restricted guy though, so keep that in mind. Were he a UFA you’d think he was right in Spielman’s wheelhouse in terms of age and potential upside.
Brian Hartline 1,000-yard guy. But the Dolphins will keep him. Right?
Brandon Gibson Showed flashes. Feels like the kind of dude you settle for after a couple other things fall through. Again, the Vikes will have to sign someone.
Emmanuel Sanders, Donald Jones Younger guys who might fill spots. What would you think if I told you both these guys were graded by PFF lower than Devin Aromashodu?
Kevin Ogletree His stock kind of plummeted after some early buzz. Another settle-for guy. No better than a #3. Realistically probably a #4.
We could go on like this all day throwing out names. Devery Henderson? Ick.
But let’s not do that. Let’s instead wrap this up by considering one last key person who may or may not be in the mix for 2013:
Percy Harvin Here’s my thing on Percy Harvin. I love him as a player. I want the Vikings to keep him. But I just think he’s a bad fit with Christian Ponder. I think if you had a more veteran QB with an assertive personality you could make it work. But I don’t think Ponder is that guy. I don’t think he will ever be able to get in Percy’s face and tell him to sit his butt down. That incident in Seattle was telling to me. When Harvin got upset with Ponder and went off the field and yelled at Leslie Frazier. I think that looked bad. I would’ve actually been better with it had Harvin yelled at Ponder instead of Frazier. I think quarterbacks and receivers yell at each other all the time and it can be a sign that they work well together. Seriously. But if the receiver doesn’t even bother yelling at the QB and goes straight to the coach? That screams disrespect. Not of the coach but the QB. I think the dynamic between Harvin and Ponder is all wrong. I think you have to dump one and the guy you dump is Harvin. That stinks but it’s reality. So to me, Harvin is pretty much gone. You might as well not even factor him in. Of course I’ve been way wrong about many things. But this time I fear I’m right. There’s just so much smoke right now. You’re hearing so many things about how bad Harvin is in the locker room. Forget Rick Spielman’s statements. Forget Leslie Frazier’s statements. Guys like Judd Zulgad, who get more than a glimpse of how things work behind the scenes and have no reason to lie, are convinced Harvin is history. You can’t discount that opinion.
That’ll wrap up this epic. Next time we’ll look at defensive tackles.