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Projecting the Vikings' 53-Man Roster: Wide Receivers

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Okay, back into the swing of the roster projection here.  Thus far we've filled 9 roster spots out of our 53.  Here's who's in so far:

QB Tarvaris Jackson
QB Gus Frerotte
QB John David Booty
HB Adrian Peterson
HB Chester Taylor
HB Maurice Hicks
FB Thomas Tapeh
FB Naufahu Tahi
FB Jeff Dugan

And yes, I did debate whether to put Dugan in the FB category or the TE category.  I finally placed him with the FBs because I think that's more or less what his role is.  Unless my memory is bad, I seem to remember him lining up in the backfield more frequently than as an in-line blocker, but it's entirely possible that I'm wrong there.

Now we get to a position that might actually have some intrigue involved with it, the Minnesota wide receivers.  We'll start with the wide receivers.  Here's a quick little riddle for everybody.  What do Troy Williamson, Koren Robinson, Travis Taylor, Billy McMullen, Bethel Johnson, and Marcus Robinson have in common?

Give up?  I'll accept one of two answers:

1)  They were the wide receivers that the Vikings had when Brad Childress took the reins before the 2006 season.
2)  None of them are drawing a paycheck from the Minnesota Vikings any more.

In fact, here's everyone that IS currently getting paychecks from the Beloved Purple at the WR position:

Number Name Height Weight Experience College
11 Jaymar Johnson 6' 175 R Jackson State
13 Nate Jones 6'1" 195 R Texas
15 Martin Nance 6'3" 210 1 Miami (Ohio)
16 Brent Little 6'0" 185 R Southern Illinois
18 Sidney Rice 6'4" 200 2 South Carolina
19 Bobby Wade 5'10" 185 6 Arizona
82 Darius Reynaud 5'9" 200 R West Virginia
84 Aundrae Allison 6'0" 200 2 East Carolina
85 Justin Surrency 5'11" 180 1 Northern Iowa
86 Daniel Davis 5'9" 165 R Texas Southern
87 Bernard Berrian 6'1" 185 5 Fresno State
89 Robert Ferguson 6'1" 220 8 Texas A&M

Now, the intrigue isn't so much at the top of the depth chart in this case as it is at the bottom.  But, naturally, we'll start out at the top.

Obviously, the Vikings didn't bring Bernard Berrian in at the money they gave him so that he could "compete for playing time."  Berrian is going to be a big part of establishing the legitimacy of the Minnesota passing game in 2008.  When one takes into consideration what he was surrounded by in Chicago, it's pretty amazing that Berrian was able to compile the sort of numbers that he did in 2007 (71 catches, 951 yards, 5 TDs).  Now, if teams decide they're going to try to stuff 8 or 9 guys into the proverbial "box" to attempt to slow down Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor, it's going to be Berrian's job to make them pay for it.  Hopefully Tarvaris Jackson has been working on the accuracy of his deep passes, because I've got a sneaky suspicion that #87 is going to be open a lot in 2008.

The next name on the depth chart should be equally obvious.  That name is Sidney Rice, the official receiver of The Daily Norseman.  Rice led the Vikings in touchdown receptions in 2007 with. . .ummm, 4.  Yeah, not spectacular, but also not bad for a guy that just reached the legal drinking age a week before the season opener.  Watching Rice on the field (when he's healthy), it's very hard to not be impressed with his physical skills.  He's got outstanding size and leaping ability, as well as nice, soft hands.  The Minnesota passing game suffered significantly when Rice wasn't on the field in 2007, and I certainly hope that he can stay healthy in 2008 so he can show us what he's truly capable of.

The third and final lock for a roster spot from this group is Bobby Wade.  You have to love the effort that Wade put forward in 2007 when he led the Beloved Purple in both receptions and receiving yards, but he was also the definition of a #3 WR masquerading as a #1 option.  Now, with Berrian and Rice set up on the outsides, he can play the role he's best suited to. . .that being a slot/underneath option with the ability to create yardage after the catch.  As the Vikings' returning receiver from last year, you can bet that he already has a decent rapport with Tarvaris Jackson, as was evident in his two TD catches in the season finale against Denver.  That will only make him a bigger asset to the offense in 2008.

This is the point where things get a little murky.  This is going to depend on whether or not Brad Childress decides that he's going to keep 5 or 6 wide receivers on the roster this season.

In my little world where I have the final say, the next receiver on the depth chart is Aundrae Allison.  I love Allison for his return abilities as much as I love his potential as a receiver, but I think that he should get an increased look on offense based on what he showed last year.  He's got some serious speed, as we saw in his contributions to the return game in 2007, but he's also got decent hands and some shiftiness, too.  He's listed at 200 pounds, which makes him about 10 pounds heavier than I thought he was, and he might end up being a bigger version of Bobby Wade.  I like the guy's potential, though.

Next up would probably have to be the old graybeard, Robert Ferguson.  Anyone that's followed the site knows that I really wasn't a big proponent of the Ferguson signing when it took place, and I'm still not sure how great a receiver he is. . .but, boy howdy, the guy can block downfield better than darn near anybody in the league, and that's HUGE in this offense.  He was second on the Vikings last season in receptions (32, one more than Sidney Rice, who missed numerous games with injuries), but I hope we won't have to rely quite as heavily on his pass-catching skills in 2007.  His blocking skills and his ability to be a sort of mentor to a relatively young receiving corps should be enough to get him a roster spot.

For now, I think I'm going to keep six receivers on board. . .though I reserve the right to "cut" one later if I feel a roster spot is better used elsewhere.  (These are the decisions I have to make, people.)  Fighting for that #6 spot in our scenario here is a collection of rookies, undrafted free agents, and practice squad players.  When Mr. Cheer or Die was at the Vikings' mini-camp last week, he seemed to be very impressed by the pure speed of Jaymar Johnson, one of Minnesota's sixth-round selections in the 2008 Draft.  From the highlights I've seen of him, I can't argue with him about Johnson's speed, but it does come with the tradeoff of being very thinly built, at least as far as I can tell.  He's got an adjustment to make to the speed of the NFL game, but he's a pretty intriguing prospect.

Quick, who was the leading receiver for the University of Texas in 2007?  If you said Limas Sweed, you are. . .completely and totally wrong.  It was, in fact, Nate Jones, who the Vikings signed as an undrafted free agent shortly after the conclusion of the 2008 Draft.  After Sweed went down with an injury, Jones stepped up and led the Longhorns in both receptions (70) and receiving yards (795) while tying for the team lead in TD receptions (5).  He's got decent size, but he has his work cut out for him if he's going to fight for a spot on this roster.

As will another high-profile UDFA. . .or as high-profile as UDFAs can get, anyway. . .Darius Reynaud out of West Virginia.  Reynaud was considered by many sources to be the best receiver not to be selected in the 2008 Draft.  He's a short, quick receiver with some pretty good return abilities.

As for the rest of the people listed. . .I don't see any of them really having an impact or having much of a chance to make the roster.  I know that I, along with frequent commenter UncleBillyBonz, have been on the Martin Nance bandwagon for a while, but that ship has either sailed or is never going to get out of port. . .I'm not sure which.  (I'm Air Force, not Navy.)  Justin Surrency has spent a couple of years on the practice squad, and Brent Little and Daniel Davis are pretty much just there to play the fourth quarter of the first pre-season game before getting cut.

I think that, in the end, the Vikings are going to end up being just intrigued enough with the pure speed of Jaymar Johnson that they'll keep him around on the final roster.  Which would leave the wide receiver depth chart looking like this:

Starters:  Bernard Berrian, Sidney Rice
Backups:  Bobby Wade, Aundrae Allison, Robert Ferguson, Jaymar Johnson
Practice Squad Candidates:  Nate Jones, Darius Reynaud
Buh-Bye:  Brent Little, Daniel Davis, Justin Surrency, Martin Nance

What do you think, everybody?  Do any of you out there have any more info on guys like Nate Jones or Darius Reynaud or anyone else that I've missed or that you think could sway the decision process one way or another?  I thought about including the tight ends here, too, but after further review I think they deserve their own post.

We'll get to that post tomorrow. . .until then, enjoy the rest of your Thursday night, everybody!