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Looking Ahead: Wide Receivers in the 2008 NFL Draft

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The 2008 NFL Draft is only a few months away.  All we need to wait for is the end of the season. . .and the combine. . .and free agency. . .but after that, it's all about the draft, baby!

So where should the Vikings be looking in this year's draft?  Even though that question can't well and truly be answered until after free agency, it's never too early to start taking a look around at where the Beloved Purple might be going with the #17 overall pick, and four total picks on the draft's first day (thank you, Denver).  

What we're going to do here is look at a different position on the field every day or two, taking a brief look at the available players that could potentially help the Vikings out.  We'll start with the spot that I, personally, feel that the Vikings need the most help. . .wide receiver.

The Troy Williamson experiment should be coming to an end any day now, and with that there are only three receivers that are guaranteed roster spots in Minnesota for 2008. . .Sidney Rice (the official wide receiver of The Daily Norseman), Bobby Wade, and Aundrae Allison.  The free agency class at WR is a little thin. . .when Bernard Berrian is the "best available guy," it's time to start ignoring the WR list.  (And please, don't give me Randy Moss. . .there's a better chance of you or I playing for Minnesota next year.)  So, once again, the Vikings need to look to bolster their WR corps.

Fortunately, there are a lot of talented WRs available in this year's draft, and the Vikings could do much worse than grabbing one. . .or two. . .on the draft's first day.  Let's take a look at a few of them here, and where the Vikings should be able to target them as of now. . .remember, the combine and other events will probably change those things as we go along.

DeSean Jackson, California (first round)
-Vitals - 6', 172#, 4.45 40-yard dash

Malcolm Kelly, Oklahoma (first round)
-Vitals - 6'4", 219#, 4.55

Limas Sweed, Texas (first/second round)
-Vitals - 6'5", 219#, 4.50

Early Doucet, Louisiana State (first/second round)
-Vitals - 6', 207#, 4.50

James Hardy, Indiana (first/second round)
-Vitals - 6'7", 220#, 4.60

Andre Caldwell, Florida (second round)
Vitals - 6', 200#, 4.40

Mario Manningham, Michigan (second round)
-Vitals - 6', 178#, 4.45

Adarius Bowman, Oklahoma State (third round)
-Vitals - 6'4", 220#, 4.55

Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt (third round)
-Vitals - 6'1", 202#, 4.55

Harry Douglas, Louisville (third round)
-Vitals - 5'11", 17#, 4.40

In most circles I've seen around the Interweb thus far, DeSean Jackson seems to be rated as the #1 available wide receiver prospect, and it's not without reason.  He's got outstanding speed, he's an outstanding return specialist, and he would give the Vikings an honest-to-goodness legitimate deep threat.  However. . .he's not a big guy, so the questions about his ability to beat press coverage are going to be there, particularly from a team that plays in a division with guys like Al Harris, Charles Woodson, and Charles Tillman playing corner.  With his size, his likelihood of getting dinged up would also, more than likely, increase.

That's why I believe that if the Vikings are going to draft a wide receiver early, they'd be better served to go with someone with a bit more size.  I like Malcolm Kelly a lot, and he seems a bit like Sidney Rice to me.  Had Rice stayed in college this year rather than coming out early, he could easily be getting talked about as the #1 WR in this draft class.  If Kelly were to have stayed in college, he could have been the best WR in the 2009 draft class.  I like Limas Sweed's ability, too, but I'd like him a whole lot more if he hadn't missed so much of the 2007 season with an injured wrist.  Still, he'd make another solid young receiver for the Beloved Purple, which is good enough for me.

The guy that's sort of a wild card in this whole mix is James Hardy.  As you can see from his stats above, dude is HUGE.  It's pretty hard to get pushed around by opposing DBs when you're 6'7".  Since Indiana isn't exactly a football factory or anything, most non-Big Ten fans probably don't know a whole lot about him, but I think he's going to be outstanding at the next level.  He's got great size, great hands, runs very good routes. . .the only problem is that he has some character flags, which might cause the Vikings to shy away (unless he got caught with marijuana, in which case he's a lock for Minnesota at #17).

As we get closer to the draft, we'll take a closer look at all of these guys, and many others.  This is just an initial look at some guys to keep in mind for that last weekend in April.

Next time, we'll take a look at some defensive backs.  Until then, have a pleasant rest of your Friday, folks!