By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
— When the Minnesota Vikings traded Percy Harvin to Seattle in the offseason, it left a huge void at the position. The Vikings had 166 receptions by its receivers, 62 of which came from Harvin.
Jerome Simpson, hardly a dependable option, and promising rookie Jarius Wright remained on the roster. Stephen Burton didn’t impress last season, and Greg Childs is still recovering from two knee surgeries. Greg Jennings was signed as a free agent, certainly a nice step toward bolstering the position, but injuries have kept him off the field too much in the last two seasons.
However, there’s still a glaring need for more quantity and quality.
That’s why the Vikings should use some combination of the 23rd and 25th picks in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday to add another receiver, potentially locking down that position for the next few years.
The Vikings have many choices if they want select a receiver. West Virginia’s Tavon Austin seems to have moved to the top of the receiving list, but at 5-feet-8 and 174 pounds, he seems better suited to the slot, not the downfield threat the Vikings lack.
Both Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins and Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson could be available when the Vikings pick. Hopkins seems like the more polished receiver and safer pick, while Patterson is more explosive and risky.
Cal’s Keenan Allen appears to have slipped a little, in part because of an ankle injury suffered late in the season. Before last season, USC’s Robert Woods was considered among the best college receivers and could easily turn out to be the best pro of this bunch.
The draft has excellent depth at receiver, which could allow the Vikings to wait on this position, but the team needs a high-end pass catcher.
It would be unrealistic to expect another 2,000-yard season from running back Adrian Peterson, though certainly nothing he does would surprise anyone. Tight end Kyle Rudolph is emerging as a reliable target in the middle of the field, leading the team with nine touchdown receptions
Christian Ponder needs more weapons at receiver, and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave must have the confidence to allow his quarterback to take more chances down the field.
The Vikings scored only 34 touchdowns in 16 regular-season games, a number that must increase if the team is to match or exceed last season’s success. Another weapon at receiver takes some of the pressure off the running back and quarterback, keeping defenses from bunching all 11 players near the line of scrimmage.
Chad Courrier is a Free Press staff writer. To contact him, call 507-344-6353, e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his local sports blog at www.mankatofreepress.com or follow his Twitter feed @ChadCourrier.