Two years ago, the Vikings wide receiver corps was a hot mess. The best player at that position, Percy Harvin, forced his way to Seattle with a trade, leaving the Vikings with...nothing, really. That changed a bit when Minnesota signed Greg Jennings in free agency and drafted Cordarrelle Patterson in the draft, but there were some unknown quantities for both players heading in to last year.
For Jennings, he was coming off an injury that saw him play in only eight games in 2012, and Patterson was a raw rookie, with little experience at the receiver position. Some of those unknowns became known, as Jennings played well and seemed to click with Matt Cassel, and Patterson began to breakout as a legitimate threat the second half of the season. But with all the personnel issues in other positions on the Vikings roster, it might seem WR would be a dumb move here.
Of course, that's what a lot of us thought in 1998, too.
Why Sammy Watkins? You can't have too many playmakers on an NFL offense these days. Although the Vikings wide receiver corps is in pretty good shape, all things considered, adding Watkins gives Minnesota the best young WR tandem in the NFL when you throw in Cordarrelle Patterson. Add in a quality veteran like Greg Jennings, and you have a receiving corps that's going to pose a lot of matchup problems for opponents.
Why he'd be perfect for the Vikings: If you believe in the 'best player available' strategy when it comes to the draft, Watkins may be said BPA when the Vikings go on the clock. Depending on what mock draft you believe on what day, the three headed quarterback of Bormanwater will be off the board, as will the two top defensive prospects, Khalil Mack and Jadaveon Clowney. Assuming the other two picks could very well be offensive linemen, Watkins will be the most talented football player on the board.
Now, when I made my reference to the Moss draft of 1998, I am in no way saying Sammy Watkins is or will be as good as Randy Moss. But what Moss did was transform a good offense in to an all time great offense. Watkins has the ability to take a mediocre offense and transform it in to a very good one. A lot of it will depend on the play of the quarterback, but once the Vikings settled on Matt Cassel, the passing game was downright respectable, and Cassel developed a rapport with both Patterson and Jennings.
There's no reason to believe he couldn't do the same with Watkins.
Look, the main problem with the Vikings passing game the last couple of seasons has been consistency, and that lack of consistency has been a combination of poor quarterback play and a wide receiver corps that had trouble getting open. A three wide set of Watkins, Jennings, and Patterson would alleviate the latter, which goes miles in diminishing the effect of the former.
Is it foolproof? No, of course not. But with two established veterans ahead of him, and the human pass interference penalty in Jerome Simpson thrown in, Watkins won't have a ton of pressure on him, much like Patterson last year. Patterson had no immediate expectations placed on him, and by the end of the season he was Minnesota's biggest threat on offense.
But unlike Patterson, if he flashes some sweet skills early on, I don't think the new coaching staff will be as reticent to play him as the previous regime was to play Patterson, other than on special teams. At the NFL Combine, GM Rick Spielman famously said that new offensive coordinator NORV! Turner had specifically designed ten plays for Patterson, and I can only imagine what Turner would be conjuring up for a Patterson/Watkins/Jennings triumvirate.
Part of me really wants to find out.
You can also talk me into the fact that with free agency, the Vikings have addressed enough immediate needs on defense that if Clowney and Mack are gone, they can wait to address defense until the second round, where they can get more value for their picks. I'm not saying that the Vikings defense is set for 2014, but right now, they're good enough to pass on a defensive player in the first round if a guy with the offensive pedigree of Watkins is sitting there at eight, and the remaining defensive guys don't equal the playmaking ability that Watkins does.
That does two things for the Vikings--it keeps them from reaching for a guy that might or might not pan out at a position of need on defense which could set that position back a few years, and it immediately upgrades the overall team.
Sammy Watkins gives the Vikings, potentially, one of the most dynamic offenses in the NFL. And you have to think that with the upgrades on defense, combined with the acumen of Mike Zimmer, the Vikings defense will be much better. Assuming that's the case, Minnesota is almost in a position of luxury, because they don't NEED to draft a specific position, like they have in recent seasons, and it gives them flexibility.
A lot of people feel (and I'm one of those a lot of people) that if all the QB's, Khalil, and Clowney are off the board, the Vikings need to trade out of the number eight pick, accumulate more picks, and draft later in the first round. There's nothing wrong with that line of thinking, but it assumes that Minnesota would have a dance partner, and that's not always a given. If they can find someone willing to give them a good deal, or someone they could fleece (is Cleveland in the house?) then sure, make the deal and don't look back.
But don't trade just to make a trade, and don't underestimate what a player the caliber of Watkins could bring to the Vikings. When the draft throws you a curve, you have two choices:
Let it buckle your knees and then walk back to the dugout with your head hanging, or be patient, sit on the pitch, and then turn your hips.
Let's hope the Vikings turn their hips and hit a home run.