It's been pretty well publicized that not many of the "experts" out there like Minnesota's receivers very much. They seem to base their dislike largely on previous production instead of potential, which is understandable. But at this point in time, nobody really knows what the Vikings' WR depth chart is going to look like yet. Assuming that the Vikings will carry six receivers, let's see who the candidates are. We can divide them up into 3 categories.
Troy Williamson - Everyone's favorite punching bag enters the season as the #1 guy on the depth chart, some would say by default. But if Troy Williamson is going to be a bad WR in the NFL, it certainly won't be because he hasn't worked his ass off at every opportunity. He spent this off-season at the Nike Training Facility getting his eyes fixed after learning that one of his eyes was weaker than the other, and has caught (by some estimates) 20,000 passes since the end of the '06 season.
Keep in mind. . .it wasn't that long ago that we had a guy by the name of Jake Reed that went through similar events. He turned out to be pretty darn good after he got his eyes fixed. Williamson has much more physical talent than Reed, in my opinion. Williamson has never had a problem getting open. . .he's proven on more than one occasion that he can get separation. If his eyes were the only thing holding him back, then he could come on big time this year.
Projected Role - #1 WR, looking towards a breakout year in '07
Sidney Rice - Anyone that's watched Rice play knows he has outstanding hands and outstanding body control. They also know that he's extremely raw and doesn't run routes as crisply as he probably should. Rice's physical ability is undeniable, and his shortcomings should improve with the reps he'll get in camp and the tutelage of WR coach George Stewart. I, personally, see no limit to his upside. . .but I'm biased.
Projected Role - Will start the season as the #3 WR, but should be starting by November at the latest
Bobby Wade - A lot of people laughed at the Wade signing when it was made, but hey. . .in a market where Kevin Curtis can get $6 million a year, how could any WR signing be considered terrible? Don't get me wrong, Wade's not the second coming of Cris Carter or anything, but he had a decent year in 2006 for a team with some terrible QB play. (Before any Titan fans start sending hate mail. . .Vince Young's a great athlete, but he isn't there as a passer yet. That's what I'm saying.)
Is Wade a starting-caliber receiver in this league? Under most circumstances, no. In this offense? Yes. . .for now. But I'd expect that to change sooner rather than later.
Projected Role - He'll start the season as the #2 guy, but will be passed by (at least) Sidney Rice at some point
BEST OF THE REST
Aundrae Allison - I wanted to put Allison in the "mortal lock" category, but it's hard to guarantee a fifth-rounder a spot, so he starts out our second category instead. Allison has outstanding speed and has been impressive in all of the Vikings' team activities to this point, and seems to have a pretty good hold on a roster spot. He could also be used as a kick or punt returner, the latter of which may depend more on the status of Mewelde Moore than anything else.
Projected Role - #4 WR to start with, with a good chance of moving up
Martin Nance - Nance intrigues the heck out of me. He's a big target, and looked alright in the limited time he got against St. Louis in the season finale. He was Ben Roethlisberger's go-to guy at Miami of Ohio, and was on track to being highly drafted before knee injuries derailed his college career. He's, allegedly, a favorite of Brad Childress, too, which only helps his case.
Projected Role - #5 WR, possible return guy
Billy McMullen - I give McMullen a hard time on this site, but he's another Childress favorite, so I'd have to think the odds of him making the roster are pretty good. He's a semi-decent possession guy, if nothing else.
Projected Role - #6 WR
Jason Carter - The last couple of off-seasons, people have seemed to be enamored with this kid. He's alright, but he's still going to have a hard time cracking the roster.
Justin Surrency - Did time in NFL Europa this summer, where he played relatively well. I don't think it's going to be enough, though.
Chandler Williams - Pretty good candidate for the practice squad, and could possibly sneak in as a return guy, but I wouldn't anticipate that.
Cortez Hankton - Brought in more for his special teams skills than his receiving prowess. He might make the roster, but it will probably be exclusively as a special teams guy.
Todd Lowber - The potential wild card in the whole receiver scenario. Believe me. . .nobody would like to see this guy make it more than I do. His size and speed are outstanding. But the guy's never played organized football before, and can't possibly be ready to contribute at the NFL level at this time. I'd LOVE to see him on the practice squad, though, even ahead of Chandler Williams.
So there you have it. . .the epic battle for the spots on the Vikings' wide receiver depth chart has started. It will definitely be one to keep an eye on for the next few weeks.