Earlier today, we took a quick look at what the Minnesota Vikings currently have at the wide receiver position. The Vikings spent two draft picks on wide receivers last year, and they didn’t exactly pan out the way they wanted. As expected, Moritz Böhringer had no catches and spent the year on the practice squad. Unexpectedly, that was only one less catch than first-round selection Laquon Treadwell mustered all season.
With some question marks at the position beyond Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the Vikings will likely be looking to the draft to get themselves another wide receiving threat. Who are some of the players they might be looking at? Well, let’s take a look at some, broken down by the rounds I sort of expect them to go in. Again, there are going to be some players that I miss, but as I said with the running backs, if I wanted to profile every draft-eligible wide receiver, I’d be here until Christmas.
I don’t expect the Vikings to have any shot at Clemson receiver Mike Williams, Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis, or Washington receiver John Ross. I think they’ll be long gone before the Vikings get on the clock at #48. With that, away we go!
Curtis Samuel, The. . .dramatic pause. . .Ohio State University - Samuel has drawn a lot of comparisons to Percy Harvin, and for good reason. . .both Samuel and Harvin used Urban Meyer’s system to make a name for themselves in college. Samuel isn’t a prototypical outside receiver, but he can do a lot of the things that Harvin could. He’s a “chess piece” that can be used both running the ball and catching passes. He might not have a defined role, but the Vikings need weapons on offense, and Samuel could certainly be classed as that.
Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington - I think Kupp is going to go higher than a lot of people expect. . .most sites I’ve looked around at have him tabbed as a third rounder, but I think he sneaks into the second. It’s hard to argue with Kupp’s production, given that he’s the all-time NCAA leader in receiving yards at any level. He’s not what you’d call a burner, but he is a solid route runner with good hands and the capability to make the big play.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, Southern Cal - How tough is JuJu Smith-Schuster? Five days after having a plate and eight screws inserted into his broken right hand, he went out and caught eight passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. He’s a very good blocking wide receiver, and his size (6’2”, 220) and toughness have drawn comparisons to Anquan Boldin. He’s also got plenty of room for growth. . .he won’t turn 21 until just before Thanksgiving. Smith-Schuster can go out and win contested passes and set a physical tone, which sounds like the kind of receiver the Vikings could use.
DeDe Westbrook, Oklahoma - I don’t want to say that opinions vary on Westbrook, but I have two “dead tree media” draft guides here in front of me. One says that he’s the #5 receiver available this year and a second round pick. The other has him at #20 and has him the Round 4-5 range. I’ll split the difference and put him in Round 3. Westbrook won the Biletnikoff award as the nation’s top wide receiver in 2016, and certainly has the speed to take the proverbial top off the defense. His blocking skills are basically non-existent, and he does have some medical red flags, as well as some off-the-field ones.
Malachi Dupre, Louisiana State - Dupre’s numbers from college won’t exactly jump off the page at anyone, but LSU hasn’t had a decent quarterback behind center since Jamarcus Russell left Baton Rouge, so that’s not entirely his fault. Because of the dysfunction in the LSU offense, there’s a very good chance that he winds up as a better pro receiver than a college one. The athletic ability is certainly there, but he might require some more development time.
Zay Jones, East Carolina - Jones had a huge year in 2016 for ECU, reeling in a whopping 158 receptions. (Seriously, was he their only wide receiver?) That gave him the records for both receptions in a season and the FBS record for career receptions (399). He lined up all over the formation, but projects as more of a slot receiver in the NFL because of his difficulties getting off of press coverage. He is a solid route runner when he shakes loose, though, and does have enough size and strength to make catches over the middle.
Amara Darboh, Michigan - Darboh is another big-bodied receiver (6’2”, 215), but has enough speed to be a deep threat in the NFL. Michigan’s conservative offense limited his output a bit in Ann Arbor, but he could be a contributor right away, I think. I won’t go too deep into this off-field story, but it’s one that’s really worth reading.
Ardarius Stewart, Alabama - I probably have Stewart too low here. Stewart has some issues with his route running and tends to get a case of the dropsies now and again, but he has all the tools to develop into a solid receiver at the NFL level. He might be another guy that projects as more of a slot receiver going forward.
Noah Brown, Ohio State - Often overshadowed by Samuel in the Ohio State offense, Brown has the prototypical wide receiver build for the NFL. He’s going to require a little bit of seasoning before he’s able to contribute, particularly in the route-running category, but if he’s given enough time could end up really developing into something special.
Chris Godwin, Penn State - Another guy that I probably have too low, Godwin isn’t going to wow anyone with his speed, but is an outstanding route runner and someone that would be able to contribute as a blocker in the run game and a potential red zone target.
Later Rounds (Rounds 5-7)
Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech - Ford doesn’t have great size, but does have the ability to do some damage in space. He could end up contributing as a return specialist early in his career, and has the vision to be very good in that role.
Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky - Another player that could end up contributing as a return specialist early on, but definitely has some upside as a slot receiver right away as well. He had 17 touchdowns in each of the last two seasons for the Hilltoppers.
Carlos Henderson, Louisiana Tech - Speaking of players that are dangerous in the open field, Henderson is a player that great playmaking skills and outstanding speed. He had six games in 2016 where his longest reception went for at least 52 yards, so he can make things happen in a hurry.
Those are some. . .yes, some. . .of the receivers that could be options for the Minnesota Vikings in this year’s NFL Draft. Did I leave one of your favorites off the list? You can discuss all of the college receivers here in the comments.