Friday, February 22, 2008

Vikings' have several wide-receiver options

It's no secret that the Vikings' passing game in 2007 was subpar. Certainly, Tarvaris Jackson was in over his head most of the year, but one can't ignore the inadequacy of his wide receivers, as well. With Coach Brad Childress seemingly committed to keeping Jackson under center, and most potential free-agent replacements probably coming at too high a price (Donovan McNabb) or being not much of an improvement (Rex Grossman), Jackson will probably be the Vikings' quarterback going into 2008. Even if the Vikings spend a high draft pick on a QB, it's unlikely that such a player would be ready to start until at least mid-season, if that early.

Wide receiver, on the other hand, is a different story, both in terms of available veterans and in terms of potential rookie replacements, not to mention the team's probable willingness to replace what they've got at the position already. Of the team's top three receivers from 2007, only Sidney Rice appears to have a long-term future with the team. Robert Ferguson and Bobby Wade were short-term fixes, Aundrae Allison seems better suited to kick-return duties, and the less said about Troy Williamson the better. So, how can the Vikings best bolster their wide-receiving corps?

Some draft boards have Cal's DeSean Jackson going to the Vikings with their #17 pick in the first round. He's fairly small (6', 172 lbs) but has game-breaking speed, which might be a good fit for the Vikings. Jackson could hit him on short passes and watch him turn five-yard gains into 30 yards. Other mock drafts have us taking Malcolm Kelly of Oklahoma with that pick. While not quite as fast as Jackson, he's got great size (6'4", 217 lbs), and his 40 times at the combine could radically alter his draft stock. If the Vikings wait until the second round or later, there are lots of good prospects, like Limas Sweed (Texas), Mario Manningham (Michigan), and Harry Douglas (Louisville), all of whom would look good in purple and definitely bolster a weak receiving corps.

For more immediate help, though, the Vikings will have to turn to free agency or, in one interesting case, a trade. Here are some of the top free-agent wide receivers out there and one non-free agent who's received a lot of talk recently:

Randy Moss (New England). Let's be realistic. Randy Moss is going to get a huge payday, and it won't be from Minnesota. And it probably wouldn't be worth it, considering our quarterbacking situation.

Bernard Berrian (Chicago). Despite not yet owning a 1,000-yard receiving season, Berrian is probably the top free-agent WR on the market the Vikings can realistically expect to land. He's a deep threat (14.7 yards per catch career) and a bit old (27) but represents the best option for an immediate upgrade to the position.

Bryant Johnson (Arizona). Johnson's an interesting case. He's lived in the shadows of Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin for most of his career as a Cardinal but has been very consistent, with seasons of 35, 49, 40, 40, and 46 catches. He would probably put up solid numbers as a starter and might even qualify as the #1 receiver in the Vikings' offense.

Patrick Crayton (Dallas). Crayton emerged as a solid complement to Terrell Owens in Dallas this season, taking over for the injured Terry Glenn. Granted, Tarvaris Jackson is no Tony Romo, and nobody will cover the Vikings' other receivers the way defenders shadowed TO, so if Crayton gets his payday somewhere other than in Dallas, he probably won't put up numbers like he did in 2007 (50 catches, 697 yards, 7 TDs).

Chad Johnson (Cincinnati). Here's the wild card. Does Johnson want to be traded or doesn't he? If he does, I think the Vikings would be wise to inquire about his price. Yes, he's arrogant and at times immature, but the offense could probably benefit from a character like Johnson and, even if Jackson can't get the ball to him regularly, defenders will have to respect his ability, and that will open holes for Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. His age (30) is a concern, and who knows if he'd be willing to suit up for a run-oriented offense like the Vikings', but at least one part of his transition would be smooth -- the Vikings don't have anyone on their roster who wears ocho-cinco.

There are, of course, other free-agent wide receivers to be had, like Muhsin Muhammed, Andre Davis, David Patten, and Drew Carter, but they don't offer much of an improvement over the team's current crop of wideouts. Nearly every season, the team has made one big free-agent splash, from Antoine Winfield to Darren Sharper to Chester Taylor to Fred Smoot, and with room under the cap (as usual), hopefully they'll take a shot at refreshing a badly depleted wide-receiver corps that's in desperate need of a playmaker to take the pressure off the running game.

(Don't forget to answer poll to the right!)


Anonymous said...

What about Jerry Porter? He is still 29 and plenty of talent. Bust him free of football purgatory [maybe even in a trade for Clifford Franklin a.k.a. Troy "Butterfingers" Williamson], and see him explode. He has decent numbers even out of Oakland.

The Vikes are targeting someone and hopefully they will land them this year.

Jason said...

I don't know...I've been hearing for years how Jerry Porter is supposed to be one of the most underrated receivers in the league, and yet he never puts up the numbers to prove it. Granted, he's played for some horrific quarterbacks, but it's not like that'll change too much in Minnesota, and he'll be 30 before the season starts.