One of the major parts of the Minnesota Vikings' roster that most people can agree needs some upgrading is the wide receiver position. With a young quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater, the team needs to supplement him with wide receivers that can get open. . .and, for the most part, that didn't happen in 2015. With the likely release of Mike Wallace coming before the start of the new league year, the Vikings are going to have some openings at the position, and with the weak crop of options in free agency, they will likely have to focus on the 2016 NFL Draft for an upgrade.
With that, it's time to take a look at who some of those upgrades might be. A lot of the players we're going to look at this time around will be players the Vikings will likely have to take early on in the process if they're interested in them, but there are plenty of wide receivers in this year's class that we won't touch on that could provide value as well. If you feel that we've missed any, you can discuss them in the comments section.
Laquon Treadwell, Mississippi
Treadwell is the consensus top pick at the position this year, and from a physical standpoint it's easy to see why. At 6'3" and about 230 pounds, Treadwell is one of the big-bodied types of receivers that NFL teams want, and established himself as a significant red zone threat for Ole Miss during his career. He might also be the best run-blocking wide receiver in this class. . .a trait that we know wouldn't be wasted in Minnesota.
Like DeAndre Hopkins, both players should be defined by their talent, ball skills and consistency of production over pure speed numbers. Treadwell is at his best when he has a clean, two-way go off the line of scrimmage and he could be a challenging size matchup from the slot. While Ole Miss used him underneath quite a bit, he runs quality downfield routes and has the ball skills needed to become a more vertical receiver than underneath, possession guy.
The biggest knock against Treadwell is his speed. He's probably not going to tear things up in the 40-yard dash or anything like that whenever he runs it (the rumor is that he won't be doing so at the NFL Scouting Combine), but that's really not the biggest part of Treadwell's game. He's a player that can get open, make catches, and find the end zone. The Vikings need that in their offense right now every bit as much as they need a deep threat. Opinions vary significantly on Treadwell. . .some draft experts think he's going to be a Top 10 selection, while others don't think quite that highly of him.
Michael Thomas, Ohio State
In this early stage of the pre-draft process, there are quite a few places that are projecting the Buckeyes' star to be selected by the Vikings. He didn't put up huge numbers in Columbus this past season, but Ohio State had some inconsistency at the quarterback position, so that really isn't his fault. He still managed nine touchdown receptions despite all of that, so he can find the end zone.
Arif has already put together a scouting report on Thomas. His conclusion?
I would compare Michael Thomas to Marvin Jones. Their mutual ability to run off-speed (or on-speed) pair well with their natural craftiness both before and during the route. They have mutual problems at the release, but more than make up for it throughout the process. They have similar issues (especially for Jones coming out) at the catch point, aren't amazing with contested catches and have good hands otherwise. They have a similar track record extending for the ballâwhich is to say occasional issues, but generally with a good catch radius. They track the ball in similar ways and create after the catch despite what many thought was limited speed and athleticism (and both share underrated agility).
. . .
Thomas not only shows (to me) excellent athletic ability, but can refine his game to be a high-level receiver. That he shows consistent improvement throughout his career is proof that a development curve can be wide-ranging, and Thomas may be able to hit the upper end of that.
Thomas might be one of the more well-rounded prospects in this year's class at the wide receiver position. He isn't the flashiest name out there, but that doesn't mean he couldn't immediately come in and make an impact for our favorite football team.
Josh Doctson, Texas Christian
A player that was bitten by the injury bug this past season, Doctson still put up a pretty decent season for the Horned Frogs. At TCU, he showed the ability to run good routes and get open, and while he may not have dazzling top-end speed, he can get himself open and make contested catches.
The big knock on Doctson is going to be his size. He's listed at 6'3" but just 195 pounds, giving him a pretty thin build. Because of that, he's going to have to show that he can get off of press coverage against bigger, stronger cornerbacks than he faced in college. He's being projected as a first round pick, with some experts even mocking him to Minnesota. Arif has a bit of a disagreement with that.
There are enough warts on Josh Doctson's evaluation for me to wait until the second round, but I wouldn't mind trading up in the second to get him around pick 45. His intuition, ball-tracking and ability to win in contested catch situations intrigue me, but not enough to overlook his build, technical receiving and route issues as well as concerns about physical play.
Doctson's stock might hinge on how he shows at the Combine. If he's put on some bulk without sacrificing anywhere else, his stock could move up a little bit. For now, though, he's probably a second round pick, as Arif says.
Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
When you break freshman records that were held by some guy named Larry Fitzgerald, that's a pretty good sign. That's just what Boyd did in 2013, and he continued to be a productive receiver in 2014 and 2015 despite the extra attention he received from the defenses the Panthers faced. He holds the Pitt records for receptions and receiving yards, a testament to how productive he was despite the Panthers' quarterback situation being sub-par (and that's a generous assessment).
Boyd runs very good routes, has outstanding hands, and demonstrated good body control in his three years at Pitt. Like some of the other receivers in this class, he doesn't have blazing speed, but has the ability to be a solid NFL receiver pretty early on. Here's what USA Today has in their scouting report on him:
I'm confident Boyd can continue to become technically proficient enough to gain separation against man coverage despite his lack of elite physical tools, but I don't think he can carry a passing game in the NFL. He's an adept number two receiver who can thrive in the right offense, especially if he stays focused on the game and doesn't let off-the-field distractions seep in.
That "off-field" comment has to do with a 2014 DUI arrest that Boyd had, one that caused him to be suspended for Pitt's 2015 season opener. If the Vikings are interested in him, I'm sure that Rick Spielman and company will have done their homework, so I don't know how much that should worry people.
De'Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State
As far as "big" wide receivers go, nobody in this draft class fits that bill better than Wilson. At 6'5", the former basketball star has shown the ability to be a threat in the red zone, as well as showing a willingness to go over the middle of the field. However, because he hasn't played a lot of football, he's fairly unrefined at this point. Can the Vikings refine him and make him a more versatile threat?
Our friends at Big Blue View did a scouting report on Wilson. Here's the conclusion they came to:
You don't often see receivers his size that can be described as "quicker than fast" (one of my favorite Mayockisms). That's not a bad thing, though; if you can put them in position to win, unique players are the ones that win games.
At the very least, Wilson's height, hands, willingness to take a hit, and quickness all combine to make him an intriguing player in short yardage or red zone situations. If the Giants can develop those tools, he could make a good value depending on how the draft shakes out.
Wilson, like Boyd, had some off-field issues as well. He was arrested for marijuana possession and possession of drug paraphernalia this past March. As it stands now, he's probably a guy the Vikings could get in the third round, but might be available on Day 3 of the draft.
There are a lot of receivers that could, potentially, make an early impact for the Minnesota Vikings. . .we've only taken a look at five of them. Do you have any favorites in this year's draft class that you'd like to see our favorite team go after?