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Overloading on offense

  • Article by: Kevin Seifert
  • Star Tribune
  • April 30, 2007 - 8:28 AM

This much was apparent Sunday as the NFL draft concluded: If the Vikings did not improve their offense over the weekend, it won't be for lack of trying.

After a low-octane showing in 2006, the Vikings selected offensive skill players with five of their eight draft picks. The haul included three wide receivers, the most they have taken in a single draft since 1969, along with a blue-chip running back and an intriguing quarterback prospect.

Coach Brad Childress tried hard to hide his pleasure -- "I'm not a real 'carried-away' guy," he said with a smile -- but it was clear the Vikings had approached their top shortcoming with aggression and zeal.

"I like these guys, but they're going to be rookies," Childress said of running back Adrian Peterson (Oklahoma, first round); receivers Sidney Rice (South Carolina, second), Aundrae Allison (East Carolina, fifth) and Chandler Williams (Florida International, seventh); and quarterback Tyler Thigpen (Coastal Carolina, seventh).

"There are going to be learning curves," Childress said, "but that's with everybody. I just like how they play the game. They're good football players. They've got good numbers. They're good people and they have a chance to help us."

Continued Childress: "I think as a team you embrace those people. ... If they're a part of helping us win games, they'll be welcomed with open arms."

In his first draft as vice president of player personnel, Rick Spielman pledged to "stay true to our board" with each pick. He insisted the team did not consider its acute need for receivers when prioritizing its wish list; it should be noted, however, that the Vikings never had taken more than two receivers since the draft shrunk to seven rounds in 1994.

The last time the Vikings took at least three came during the 17-round affair in 1969.

"Our philosophy was just to stack the board as to how they were ability-wise," Spielman said. "For us to get an Allison-type athlete in the fifth round, we thought that was an unbelievable deal. Why would you pass up somebody like that, that you have that high on your board?"

Having bid farewell to veterans Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor, the Vikings have only one established NFL receiver on their roster: free agent acquisition Bobby Wade. They have searched far and wide for replacements, from signing a player who sat out the 2006 season -- Randy Hymes, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens -- to signing one who has never played football, Division III high jumper Todd Lowber.

The additions of Rice, Allison and Williams give the Vikings 13 receivers on their roster -- also the number of NFL touchdowns for the collective group.

That number could change if Rice, who is 6-4 and has a 39½-inch vertical leap, proves to be as effective in the red zone as the Vikings hope. Another possibility for more scoring is Allison, who caught 11 touchdown passes in 22 games for East Carolina the past two seasons.

Projected by some services as a second-round pick, Allison was slowed last season because of an ankle sprain. But he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds at the February scouting combine, and Childress said: "When we turned him on, we saw some of the same explosion as some of those upper-level wide receivers."

After speaking with Vikings coaches Sunday, Allison said he believes he can make an immediate impact.

"[They] just want to help get the receiving corps back at the high level they were when Randy Moss was there and [also] Cris Carter," he said. "I am just going to go in there and try to make plays. I'm glad to have this opportunity."

Kevin Seifert • kseifert@startribune.com

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