NFL DRAFT: Vikings, again, searching for wide receivers
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) Every few years, the Minnesota Vikings have returned to the well in the first round of the NFL draft, seeking the type of game-breaking wide receiver that Randy Moss once was.
Next weekend, they could be back.
''If there's a good one there when we're ready to pick, then I have no problem taking a wide receiver,'' coach Mike Zimmer said. ''The more playmakers you get, the better chance you have of increasing big plays.''
The Vikings are still searching for that dynamic player at this high-profile, sometimes-perplexing position they've missed since Moss first departed by trade more than a decade ago.
Troy Williamson, the seventh overall selection out of South Carolina in 2005, was the first failed replacement.
Percy Harvin, who came from Florida in 2009 at No. 22, was worth the draft slot for on-field production and offensive value even if his skill set differed from the typical go-to wide receiver. Concern about his health and attitude, though, prompted the Vikings to deal him to Seattle.
Cordarrelle Patterson was the 29th pick out of Tennessee in 2013. A raw-at-best route runner, he's a kickoff returner and not much else.
So after upgrading the offensive line with Alex Boone and Andre Smith and adding veteran strong safety Michael Griffin to the defense's most insecure position during free agency, the Vikings will take an obvious need into the No. 23 selection in first round of the draft next Thursday.
Yes, it's wide receiver time again.
After releasing Mike Wallace, the Vikings have just one 1,000-yard man on the roster in Jarius Wright. That's for career totals, not a season. Stefon Diggs produced a promising rookie year and Charles Johnson is a bounce-back candidate, but beyond them? Adam Thielen's role is more for depth and special teams. Isaac Fruechte and Terrell Sinkfield, the only other two wide receivers on the roster beside Patterson, have never appeared in an NFL game.
Here are some key angles to keep an eye on with the Vikings next weekend during the draft:
PASS-CATCHING CANDIDATES: Laquon Treadwell (Mississippi), Josh Doctson (TCU), Will Fuller (Notre Dame), Corey Coleman (Baylor) and Michael Thomas (Ohio State) are the top prospects at wide receiver this year.
Treadwell recovered from a gruesome left ankle injury in 2014 to lead the SEC with 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Doctson recorded a 41-inch vertical jump at the NFL scouting combine, the highest of the wide receivers and third-best overall. Fuller ran a 4.32-second 40-yard dash at the combine, the fastest at his position of those who participated and second overall. Coleman won the Biletnikoff Award for the country's most outstanding wide receiver. Thomas might have the most well-rounded skill set of the group.
DOES SIZE AT WIDE RECEIVER MATTER? Because Diggs (listed at 6-0, 195) and Wright (listed at 5-10, 191) are the two top returning wide receivers, there's an assumption the Vikings need a bigger body or two from this draft. Thomas, Treadwell and Doctson would fit that description. Coleman and Fuller are on the smaller side.
Evaluation isn't as simple as assessing height and weight, though.
''Some guys 5-10 play bigger than that guy who is 6-2, so that's where you have to base it off your evaluation,'' general manager Rick Spielman said. ''One guy in particular has longer arms and bigger hands than a guy who is three inches taller than him, so he plays bigger. What's his catching radius? How does he make plays?''
QUEUED UP: The Vikings have eight picks, including the No. 23 slot in each of the first five rounds plus the seventh. They have the fifth selection of the sixth round, via San Francisco from the trade of linebacker Gerald Hodges. They also have the No. 19 pick in the seventh round from Buffalo for the deal of quarterback Matt Cassel.
The Vikings traded their original sixth-rounder to San Diego for tackle Jeremiah Sirles.
DEEP D-LINE: Led by Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph, the Vikings have a sound defensive line with every starter and backup returning. This is considered a deep pool of rookies at the position, though, so the Vikings might be wise to dip in.
''You can never have enough pass rushers,'' Spielman said.
THREE YEARS AGO: The Vikings had the No. 23 pick in 2013, too, when they selected defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd out of Florida.
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