Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Four receivers the Vikings should keep an eye on at the combine

Posted by: under Vikings, Vikings draft Updated: February 22, 2012 - 5:29 PM

With the NFL Combine about to get underway and the Vikings feeling optimistic about the wide receiver talent pool, we’re delivering a quick snapshot of four pass-catching prospects who will be under the spotlight this week in Indianapolis. With some additional thoughts provided by Shawn Zobel of DraftHeadquarters.com, here’s a quartet worth keeping an eye on as the hyper-analysis of the combine begins ...

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

What’s to love: Got four minutes? Do yourself a favor and watch this montage of Blackmon’s 2011 highlights. As a junior last season at OSU, he had 122 catches for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns, capping his college career with a nine-grab, 186-yard, three-TD effort in a Fiesta Bowl win over Stanford. Blackmon was a two-time winner of the Biletnikoff Award because, quite simply, he makes plays. Over and over and over again. He attacks the ball when it’s in the air. He uses his impressive frame (6-feet-1, 215 pounds) well to get open and relies on his almost preternatural body control to provide his quarterback with a high reward vs. risk ratio when the ball is thrown his way.

But … : Does Blackmon have enough speed to flourish at a Pro Bowl level in the NFL? That’s a looming question that might not get answered in Indy. There are reports Blackmon may not run the 40-yard dash at the combine. That will leave NFL teams to wait until Oklahoma State’s pro day on March 7 to truly gauge Blackmon’s speed.

Worth talking about: If the Colts select Andrew Luck at No. 1 and the Rams trade the No. 2 pick to a team intent on landing Robert Griffin III, how much would Blackmon have to show to convince the Vikings to take him at No. 3? Conventional wisdom says general manager Rick Spielman would be foolish to pass on Southern Cal offensive tackle Matt Kalil if he’s available. After all, the Vikings need to bolster their pass protection in a bad way and Kalil would be an immediate starter with Pro Bowl promise. But Spielman himself wondered aloud last week whether an influx of offensive playmakers would have a ripple effect in speeding up the offense and subsequently lessening the responsibility of the offensive tackles.

So don’t be too quick to shoot down the idea of Blackmon wearing purple in 2012, even if he doesn’t post a wildly impressive 40 time at his pro day.

Said Zobel: “Blackmon does everything. He catches the ball over the middle. He catches it in traffic. He extends out and makes acrobatic catches. He’s capable of being a deep threat. He’s capable of doing everything. So say he runs a 4.55 in the 40, that shouldn’t diminish the fact that he can still do everything you look for in an elite No. 1 receiver. So if he does run a little slower, yeah the media will put a ton of emphasis on it. But teams won’t overanalyze that. They’ll understand this is a guy who can be an elite downfield threat who can also work the middle. They’ll know he projects to nearly every offense in the NFL. They’ll look at his athleticism, his great hands and long arms. If he runs half-of-a-tenth of a second slower than expected, I don’t think a flood of NFL people will be overly worried by it.”

Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

What’s to love: Jeffery is a phenomenal athlete, another big-bodied target who has long arms and great hands and the knack for making the circus catch. A year ago, coming off a sophomore season at South Carolina during which he had 88 catches for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns, he was being talked about as a potential top-10 talent.

But …: Jeffery was all too ordinary through stretches of 2011, finishing with 49 catches for 762 yards and eight scores. Quarterback instability certainly played a role. But Jeffery also didn’t prove he has enough quickness to consistently separate from defensive backs. That’s a huge concern for NFL teams, who will be hesitant to invest a high pick in a guy with questionable speed who had a disappointing 2011 campaign. There’s also some curiosity as to whether Jeffery is truly dedicated to staying in shape and taking care of his body.

Worth talking about: Jeffery may have more at stake than any other player at the combine, holding a golden opportunity to remove a handful of the question marks that hover above him. NFL teams can’t wait to get a stopwatch on him and Jeffery can ill afford to run the 40-yard dash in a time of 4.55 seconds or worse. His trip to the scale will also be watched closely. There have been rumors spreading that he may have ballooned up towards 250 pounds in recent months. Other reports say Jeffery may be under 220 when he arrives in Indianapolis.

“People want to know why his speed seems to have declined," Zobel said. "So now he gets his chance. There’s a stigma attached to guys who seem to be big, tall receivers who can catch but can’t run that well. The thought is you can find those guys anywhere throughout the draft. Jeffery can’t allow himself to get that same label. He has to run fast and show that he has unique athleticism and a unique skill set.” Odds are good the Vikings will have a shot to take Jeffery at the top of Round 2. But he has to show he’s worth it.

Dwight Jones, North Carolina

What’s to love: Jones has good size (6-3, 226) and superb athleticism. He’s the kind of receiver who should be available in Round 3 and perhaps even later. And he has more than enough talent to be worth gambling on during those stages of the draft. Jones led the ACC in receptions (85) and touchdowns (12) in 2011.

But …: Jones’ initial path to UNC took a detour when academic issues re-routed him first to Hargrave Military Academy for the 2007-08 school year, then to Valdosta State very briefly in 2008 before he got full clearance to head to Chapel Hill. That’s not a huge stain on Jones’ resume but it’s still an asterisk. Said Zobel: “People will see that inability to qualify out of high school and ask, is it a lack of work ethic? Is there a lack of intelligence?”

Plus, there’s another minor transgression from two months back that Jones has to explain away. He was initially declared ineligible for the Independence Bowl after allowing his name and image to be used to promote a for-profit birthday party in his honor in hometown in North Carolina. Again, not a major indiscretion but still something. Zobel also isn’t sure whether Jones’ instincts are good enough for him to excel at the NFL level.

Worth talking about: Jones’ ability to make big plays after the catch should be considered. He has good strength to shed defenders and has proven reliable at going over the middle and catching the ball in traffic. “Truthfully, he has the ability as a receiver to be a first-round kind of guy,” Zobel said. “But in terms of instincts or speed, he’s not that. So those things knock him down a few rounds.” How far will Jones drop? And if he made it all the way down to the fourth round, might the Vikings use one of their picks there to nab him.

Brian Quick, Appalachian State

What’s to love: Quick had admirable production this past season playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision, nabbing 71 catches for 1096 yards with 11 touchdowns. His athleticism is easy to see. And he’s a big target, measuring somewhere near 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. Plus, he’s relatively new to the game, having started playing organized football in 2006 when he was a high school senior. So that gives him intriguing upside if he’s able to develop quickly and learn the nuances of the position.

But …: Quick is raw. Very, very raw. And at the Senior Bowl last month in Mobile, Ala., he suffered through a flurry of drops in practices attended by NFL scouts and front office personnel. “You really wanted to see him show up and prove that he deserved to be there,” Zobel said. “And in my opinion, he was one of a few guys who did the exact opposite. He appeared a little bit outclassed.”

Worth talking about: The Vikings aren’t opposed to taking raw receivers from smaller schools late in the draft. Last April, in Round 7, they selected Stephen Burton out of West Texas A&M, seeing enough potential to take on the project. Quick? Zobel believes he’s a better prospect with more upside than Burton. And while he almost certainly would not be ready to be a contributor in 2012, the Vikings are almost certainly not ready to be a playoff contender next season. So taking on a bit of a developmental chore wouldn’t be a major risk.

The draft is often about promise and potential and Quick has plenty – so long as he lands with a team that has patience and believes in his ability to sharpen his football savvy. Zobel believes, at best, Quick is a low end No. 2 receiver and “more likely a No. 3 or a No. 4 guy for a decent team.” In Rounds 5, 6 or 7, he might be worth a flier.

“What I like is with his basketball background, he’s shown he’s capable of going up and making difficult catches,” Zobel said. “He’s a great red zone target. He had 31 touchdowns in his college career. Right now, he’s more an athlete who plays receiver than a true receiver with great athleticism.”

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Philadelphia 24 FINAL
Washington 27
San Diego 28 4th Qtr 3:30
San Francisco 35
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Phoenix 99 FINAL
New York 90
Portland 114 FINAL
New Orleans 88
Utah 86 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Atlanta 104 FINAL
Houston 97
San Antonio 93 FINAL
Dallas 99
Indiana 73 FINAL
Denver 76
Milwaukee 52 3rd Qtr
LA Clippers 50
Arizona 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Colorado 5 FINAL
Buffalo 1
Philadelphia 7 FINAL
Toronto 4
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Montreal 4
Washington 4 FINAL
New Jersey 0
Tampa Bay 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 3
Florida 1 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
NY Rangers 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Chicago 2 FINAL(SO)
Columbus 3
Nashville 6 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 5
Calgary 1 2nd Prd 2:49
Vancouver 2
St. Louis 0 2nd Prd 15:36
San Jose 0
VA Commonwealth 68 FINAL
Cincinnati 47
Charlotte 78 FINAL
Georgetown 81
SMU 62 FINAL
Michigan 51
Louisville 76 FINAL
Western Ky 67
Mount St Marys 45 FINAL
American Univ 46
Abilene Christian 33 FINAL
Boise State 77
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
Duquesne 79
South Alabama 65 FINAL
IUPUI 71
Ohio State 74 FINAL
North Carolina 82
Massachusetts 65 FINAL
Providence 85
Syracuse 77 FINAL
Villanova 82
Citadel 61 FINAL
Virginia Tech 64
Belmont 73 FINAL
Fairfield 61
St Bonaventure 69 FINAL
Binghamton 51
Montreat 64 FINAL
Campbell 90
Delaware 74 FINAL
Fair-Dickinson 76
South Florida 62 FINAL
Florida State 75
Vanderbilt 60 FINAL
Georgia Tech 65
SC State 71 FINAL
Houston 63
Missouri 59 FINAL
Illinois 62
Truett-McConnell 55 FINAL
Jacksonville 84
Toledo 83 FINAL
McNeese State 69
Elon 71 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 64
Drexel 68 FINAL
Penn State 73
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Rutgers 68
Albany 64 FINAL
Yale 60
PSU-Beaver 74 FINAL
Longwood 106
Eastern Ill 60 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Indiana 82 FINAL
Butler 73
Marshall 58 FINAL
Arkansas State 67
Lafayette 69 FINAL
Kansas 96
Oral Roberts 63 FINAL
Memphis 78
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Delaware State 70 FINAL
Oregon 83
Fla Atlantic 56 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
Arkansas Tech 57 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 94
Howard Payne 50 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 89
UMBC 66 FINAL
Kennesaw St 53
St Josephs (IN) 54 FINAL
Chicago State 77
Eastern Mich 77 FINAL
Missouri State 65
UCLA 44 FINAL
Kentucky 83
UC Davis 81 FINAL
Air Force 75
Houston Baptist 67 FINAL
UC Riverside 78
Davidson 80 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 68
USC Upstate 53 FINAL
Miss State 51
NC Central 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 60
Illinois State 77 FINAL
Murray State 89
Louisiana 85 FINAL
Northwestern St 89
Oakland 77 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
Detroit 55 FINAL
Rhode Island 69
Presbyterian 60 FINAL
UT Martin 77
Monmouth 74 FINAL
Wagner 66
Southern U 39 FINAL
Wyoming 57
Iowa State 83 FINAL
Drake 54
Wake Forest 50 FINAL
Florida 63
High Point 80 FINAL
James Madison 71
Texas Southern 71 FINAL
Michigan State 64
New Hampshire 60 FINAL
Sacred Heart 73
Northeastern 78 FINAL
Santa Clara 72
Huston-Tillotson 56 FINAL
Texas State 90
Purdue 63 FINAL
Notre Dame 94
Prairie View 44 FINAL
Sam Houston St 61
Xavier 88 FINAL
Auburn 89
Bluffton 53 FINAL
Akron 92
NJIT 84 FINAL
Central Conn St 76
Hofstra 77 FINAL
Columbia 82
Boston Univ 62 FINAL
Dayton 78
Iona 81 FINAL
George Mason 86
Valparaiso 75 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 72
Texas A&M 64 FINAL
Kansas State 71
Morgan State 69 FINAL
Manhattan 73
Saint Josephs 75 FINAL
Marist 58
East Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 66
Richmond 65 FINAL
Pepperdine 63
La Salle 67 FINAL
Towson 53
Incarnate Word 110 FINAL
UMKC 104
CS-Bakersfield 59 FINAL
Idaho State 50
Iowa 44 FINAL
Northern Iowa 56
Milwaukee 56 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 61
Long Beach State 68 FINAL
Texas 78
TX-San Antonio 57 FINAL
TCU 88
SE Missouri St 67 FINAL
Arkansas 85
Lehigh 77 3rd OT 2:45
Arizona State 78
New Mexico 69 FINAL
New Mexico St 67
Oklahoma 67 FINAL
Washington 69
Utah Valley U 61 FINAL
Weber State 73
Jacksonville St 60 FINAL
Northern Colorado 69
St Edwards 55 FINAL
Grand Canyon 81
NC State 63 2nd Half 4:45
West Virginia 71
TX A&M-CC 56 2nd Half 6:12
CS-Northridge 52
Cal Poly 42 2nd Half 7:31
Gonzaga 49
Fresno State 56 2nd Half 3:00
Pacific 62
Montana State 49 2nd Half 7:32
Portland 76
Ball State 38 2nd Half 13:14
San Diego St 50
South Dakota St 49 2nd Half 8:51
Utah State 40
Stanford 20 1st Half 6:18
BYU 28
Utah 10:30 PM
UNLV
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 7 3rd Qtr 12:02
Bowling Green 20
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Livingstone 77 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Dartmouth 70
Georgia Tech 65 FINAL
St Francis-NY 59
Auburn 49 FINAL
St Johns 56
East Tenn St 56 FINAL
Jacksonville St 57
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Detroit 57
Cal-Irvine 42 FINAL
Wright State 80
Gardner-Webb 47 FINAL
Kennesaw St 50
(7) Stanford 40 FINAL
(11) Tennessee 59
Alabama A&M 47 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Central Michigan 45 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 80
Nebraska Omaha 50 FINAL
Creighton 67
FIU 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 83
Houston 65 FINAL
Nicholls 47
St Thomas Aquinas 45 FINAL
Army 70
St Bonaventure 72 FINAL
Niagara 60
Texas State 57 FINAL
Stetson 75
George Mason 65 FINAL
ULM 53
Grambling 38 FINAL
Kansas State 61
Missouri 79 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Robert Morris 59 FINAL
Cornell 70
Air Force 44 FINAL
Abilene Christian 80
Hampton 53 FINAL
James Madison 85
American Univ 64 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 52
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 68
Tenn Tech 49 FINAL
NC A&T 54
Presbyterian 45 FINAL
NC Central 33
Penn 58 FINAL
Drexel 67
Lipscomb 38 FINAL
Xavier 62
Vermont 40 FINAL
Green Bay 60
Charleston Southern 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 80
Ohio Christian 62 FINAL
Akron 97
Jacksonville 62 FINAL
Murray State 80
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Iona 58
Indiana 88 FINAL
Oakland 61
Indiana State 64 FINAL
SMU 55
Denver 51 FINAL
Purdue 65
TX-San Antonio 48 FINAL
Texas Tech 64
UCF 57 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Campbell 66 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 55
Florida A&M 67 FINAL
SE Louisiana 69
Northwestern St 61 FINAL
Jackson State 62
Lehigh 61 FINAL
Arizona State 81
Valparaiso 65 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 77
Liberty 60 FINAL
Minnesota 74
Wofford 60 FINAL
North Florida 68
Montana State 61 FINAL
Washington St 82
Marshall 56 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 69
Morgan State 40 FINAL
Chattanooga 55
Northeastern 65 FINAL
Harvard 67
Furman 51 FINAL
(15) Georgia 58
(18) Michigan State 65 FINAL
(9) Baylor 84
Ohio U 52 FINAL
Massachusetts 59
Prairie View 48 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 86
Toledo 64 FINAL
Southern Ill 48
High Point 57 FINAL
(12) Nebraska 83
Winthrop 20 FINAL
Wichita State 66
William Jewell 59 FINAL
UMKC 51
Louisiana Tech 52 FINAL
Utah 67
Southern Utah 51 FINAL
Gonzaga 70
Hawaii 85 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 76
San Jose St 62 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Northridge 65 FINAL
San Diego State 54
Norfolk State 36 FINAL
East Carolina 65
Saint Peters 49 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 59
Arizona 60 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 72
Northwestern 92 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 44
Oral Roberts 52 FINAL
Wisconsin 70
Florida Atlantic 44 FINAL
New Mexico St 57
La Salle 76 FINAL
Georgia State 68
(16) Oregon State 73 FINAL
Nevada 50
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
Villanova 49
Delaware 59 FINAL
Cincinnati 67
Troy 75 FINAL
Tennessee St 71
Saint Louis 68 FINAL
Utah Valley U 66
Washington 74 FINAL
UC-Riverside 71
Pacific 43 FINAL
Long Beach St 53
Old Dominion 69 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 63
Austin Peay 62 FINAL
Montana 83
Lewis-Clark State 40 2nd Half 2:53
Idaho 73
(21) Miss State 46 2nd Half 17:38
Illinois-Chicago 18
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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