The draft is well in our rearview mirrors and we are now meandering all-too-slowly toward training camp. Let’s begin taking a look at where the Vikings stand at various positions starting with wide receiver. Have they improved their talent over last year or will this area still be a big question mark for them come the season? Let’s break down the depth chart as it currently stands.
1. Greg Jennings
Jennings was signed to be the primary target for Christian Ponder (you don’t pay that kind of money otherwise). We understand that he does not really fit the bill as a field stretching weapon. Clearly the Vikings do not intend implementing much of a vertical game this year. Is that a reflection of Ponder’s limitations in terms of arm strength and overall downfield accuracy? Perhaps. What Jennings lacks in field stretching capabilities, he more than makes up for in route-running precision, experience and savvy. He knows how to work himself open. It will be up to Christian Ponder to find him.
2. Jerome Simpson
A lot of people thought this guy would be gone. But the Vikings obviously like what they see in him as a player. So they brought him back and even gave his salary a little goose for reasons that remain obscure. Okay so let’s give the Vikes the benefit of the doubt on this guy. He got off to a bad start last year because of the suspension. Then he got hurt. He just never got on track. This year will be different. He’ll be focused and ready to roll from the start. This year we will see what Jerome Simpson can really do. Convinced yet? Yeah me neither. I’ll have to see it happen on the field before I believe this guy is anything other than a turd with Berrian-like hands.
3. Jarius Wright
#1 on everyone’s list of Vikings Who Will Emerge as Stars in 2013. But that’s wishful thinking more than anything else. Yes he showed flashes last year. But realistically what will this guy ever be? He is not going to be Percy Harvin. The fans should not expect that. The Vikings don’t expect that either or they would not have traded up for Cordarrelle Patterson. Depending on how/how much the Vikings use Patterson, Wright may not even have a very big role in the offense. I liked what I saw from Wright last year but if Patterson comes on quick he’ll be no better than the #4 man on the depth chart.
4. Cordarrelle Patterson
I don’t really know what to make of Patterson. Lots of people love his talent. But I’m continually being told he is not really a #1-type receiver. He is too raw right now to be much of an outside threat. His value early is as a return guy and a Percy Harvin between-the-hashes x-factor. And even then there are questions about his hands. We’ll have to see what Bill Musgrave’s plan is for this guy before we can get a fix on his actual place in the pecking order. Obviously the Vikes want him to be a major factor. They gave up multiple picks to move up and get this guy. You don’t do that unless you think you’ve got a potential Pro Bowl guy on your hands. It’s just a matter of working with this very raw player and finding a role for him early and then hopefully, over time, getting him to where he can be that #1-type receiver you so sorely need. Is he going to help out Christian Ponder that much early on?
5. Stephen Burton
He’s great at catching fluke TDs off deflected passes. And other than that? I don’t know. Really he’s a camp body/practice squadder. If he sticks around on the active roster again this year it’s because someone got hurt or something didn’t work out. Only when Burton is gone will I consider this an improved receiver corps.
6. Greg Childs
He is working his way back from a double knee blow out in camp last year. It is admirable the way he is busting his hump to return and I am rooting for him. I hope that he is able to one day come in and contribute in a meaningful way to the Vikings. But I am not putting any money on that ever happening. This guy’s heart may be huge but his knees are made of glass. You need working knees to play receiver in the NFL. And by the way, even if he is well enough to play, we still don’t know if he is a viable NFL receiver. He has proven nothing so far. Memo to fans: It’s easy to invest faith in a guy you’ve never seen fail.
7. Joe Webb
You might as well get his bust ready in Canton. He will go to the Hall of Fame as a wide receiver. Before it’s over people will talk of him as the greatest Viking receiver ever. The list will go Joe Webb, Cris Carter, Randy Moss, Anthony Carter, Ahmad Rashad. Sorry Sid Hartman, I forgot Jerome Simpson. Webb, Simpson, Carter, Moss, Carter, Rashad. Okay?
Gotta be a diamond somewhere in that rough. But can any of them beat out Joe Webb for a job in camp? That’s the question.
Improvement over 2012?
Difficult question to answer. You did lose your best receiver in Percy Harvin. You did replace him with Greg Jennings, who is better at some things than Percy but is certainly not a better all-around weapon. Whether this turns out to be a truly improved receiver corps depends on certain individual guys being better in 2013 than 2012. Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright are the top 2 on that list. If those guys take a jump up, then this is a better array of receivers. And then there’s Cordarrelle Patterson who is a giant unknown right now. Too many question marks here to make a real judgment. The potential is there for this to be a decent corps but it’s just potential right now. Jennings is the only known quantity. If Patterson doesn’t find a role right away and Simpson and Wright flatline? It could be another ugly offensive season.