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.


Torry Holt says Justin Blackmon likely to be 'an instant asset' in the NFL

Posted by: under Quarterbacks, Vikings, Vikings draft Updated: April 9, 2012 - 10:34 AM

As Rick Spielman immerses himself this week in the final stages of planning for his first draft as Vikings general manager, he’ll have his hands full with the prioritization of the wish list. With 10 draft picks overall, including the No. 3 selection and six more in the top 140, Spielman will have a chance to scour the draft market for potential difference makers to help on both sides of the ball.

At No. 3? Spielman has said since the first week he took over at GM that he would consider trade offers. The chance to accumulate multiple first-round selections in exchange for the No. 3 pick would certainly be intriguing. Yet if the Vikings stay put? The consensus seems to be that they’ll make the surest selection out there for them, scooping up Southern Cal left tackle Matt Kalil.

But what if the Vikings wanted to really add some firepower to their offense? Wouldn’t drafting Justin Blackmon with their top pick and pairing him with young quarterback Christian Ponder be an ideal formula to energize the passing attack for years to come?

Last month, I spoke with NFL Network analyst and former perennial Pro Bowl receiver Torry Holt and asked him to dissect Blackmon’s game and the challenges that come with emerging as a reliable playmaker on the next level. Here are four notable things Holt had to say.

1) Blackmon’s physicality is impressive. Pair that with his aggressive mentality to make plays after the catch and he has a chance to make a major impact early in his career.

Holt spoke recently with Steve Keim, Arizona’s director of player personnel, and the two came to an agreement. Blackmon, they believe, seems to be a cross between Terrell Owens and Anquan Boldin in a lot of ways.

“There were some questions about his speed,” Holt said. “But I think he put that to rest at his pro day at Oklahoma State. And personally I was never concerned with that. What I always take a look at is how fast does a kid play at game time. Jerry Rice wasn’t a 4.2 or 4.3 guy in the 40. But he played at a speed that no other guy could play at for four quarters. And if Justin Blackmon can play at the speed I’ve seen this kid play at for four quarters, it’s going to be a problem. He’s going to be an instant asset to some organization right now.”

2) Holt believes the early keys for Blackmon will be landing with a team that has an engaging wide receivers coach, who will foster the young playmaker’s growth early.

Blackmon will have plenty to work on to polish up his route running. And he’ll also have to remain self-motivated. But the catalyst, Holt believes, will come from uniting with a passionate coaching staff and a driven group of fellow receivers.

“I think he has an ability to step onto the scene his first year and have a tremendous impact,” Holt said.
“Man, he plays big. He’s not a 6-3, 6-4, 6-5 type of guy. But he plays tall. He plays big in terms of his stature. He’s muscular. But he plays a lot bigger than what his measurements are. Big-time player.”

3) Holt, drafted No. 6 overall by St. Louis in 1999, knows Blackmon will shoulder a lot of pressure as a top 10 pick expected to energize the offense of a struggling team.

“I was coming to the Rams, a team that was 4-12 the previous year before I got drafted,” Holt said. “To go top 10 in the draft, they thought I was going to come in and provide instant instant success. You feel that pressure. And then there’s the pressure you put on yourself. For me, going No. 6 overall, I wanted to go out and prove every day that I was worthy of being picked No. 6. So I carried a little bit of that pressure with me. That can be dangerous and can be hard on you as a young player if you have too much of that.

"But I think ultimately it was good pressure because it pushed me to go out and practice and get the information I needed and to watch the film and to ask the questions that I needed to improve my game on a regular basis. But yeah, I know I felt that pressure significantly as a receiver. I can only imagine what that must be like with the young quarterbacks.”

4) All young receivers need to understand that breakthroughs on the NFL level are very rarely instant.

Holt, despite catching 52 passes for 788 yards as a rookie and 82 more for 1,635 yards the next year, didn’t fully feel comfortable and unwaveringly confident until the end of his third season in 2001. For starters, the speed of the game and the level of competition was eye opening.

“It’s amazing the adjustments that defenses make, the adjustments that elite corners can make depending on what you do well and what you don’t do well,” Holt said. “And just the constant competitiveness play after play after play. In college you may run into a decent cornerback in two or three games during a season. … Then you get to the NFL and a lot of those guys were standout No. 1s at their universities. They knew how to compete on a consistent basis. And getting used to the competition level every single play was eye opening.”

Plus, supplementing God-given talent with an understanding of the game was another big hurdle.

“Particularly in my fourth season, I started to come into my own,” Holt said. “I wasn’t relying all the way on my athletic ability and just my natural skills. I was starting to think. I was seeing defenses differently. I had a great understanding of the concepts of what we were doing offensively and how I fit in and what I had to do to get open. And I started learning how to manipulate corners and safeties, setting them up.

Though I had been playing receiver all of my life, I still didn’t feel comfortable in terms of really going out and doing my thing. I would say it was going into that fourth year that I was really ready to roll.”
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 12/18/14 7:25 PM
Jacksonville
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
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
Atlanta 6:00 PM
Cleveland
Phoenix 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Dallas 6:30 PM
Detroit
Utah 6:30 PM
Miami
Orlando 6:30 PM
Boston
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Toronto
Memphis 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
Portland
Houston 9:30 PM
Denver
Indiana 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Ottawa 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Boston 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Langston 65 FINAL
North Texas 78
Delaware State 42 2nd Half 17:20
St Francis-NY 30
James Madison 6:00 PM
Ball State
SIU Edwardsville 6:00 PM
Campbell
St Francis-PA 6:00 PM
Duquesne
North Florida 6:00 PM
Florida State
Catawba 6:00 PM
George Mason
Ferrum 6:00 PM
High Point
Hampton 6:00 PM
Illinois
Gardner-Webb 6:00 PM
Jacksonville
Longwood 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Miss State
Tennessee 6:00 PM
NC State
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Ohio State
Manhattan 6:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Robert Morris 6:00 PM
Toledo
Char Southern 6:00 PM
Wofford
Kennesaw St 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Barber-Scotia 6:00 PM
NC Central
Detroit 6:30 PM
UCF
Liberty 6:30 PM
UNC-Wilmington
TX A&M-CC 7:00 PM
Denver
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
Houston
UT Martin 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Milligan 7:00 PM
Louisiana
Abilene Christian 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
USC Upstate 7:00 PM
Memphis
Alcorn State 7:00 PM
Murray State
Central Mich 7:00 PM
Northwestern
Georgia State 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
TX-Pan American 7:00 PM
Saint Louis
Ill-Chicago 7:00 PM
SMU
Texas State 7:00 PM
Stephen F Austin
SC State 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Chicago State 7:00 PM
Western Ky
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Green Bay
Northern Colorado 7:00 PM
Nebraska Omaha
Winthrop 8:00 PM
Auburn
New Mexico St 8:00 PM
Baylor
San Diego St 8:00 PM
Cincinnati
Eastern Mich 8:00 PM
Michigan State
Loyola Marymount 8:00 PM
Stanford
Incarnate Word 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Northeastern 9:00 PM
Cal Poly
Central Arkansas 9:00 PM
New Mexico
Howard 9:00 PM
Pepperdine
Portland 9:30 PM
UNLV
CS-Northridge 10:00 PM
Oregon
Grambling St 10:00 PM
Washington
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
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
Western Carolina 79 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 66
(21) Miss State 66 FINAL
Louisiana 51
(25) DePaul 109 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 84
Liberty 64 FINAL
NC State 67
Elon 77 FINAL
Campbell 51
Akron 29 1st Half 6:07
UCF 18
Richmond 37 1st Half 6:07
UNC-Wilmington 22
Montana 4:00 PM
Seattle
(7) Stanford 5:00 PM
Chattanooga
Florida A&M 5:30 PM
Southern U
Oklahoma 5:30 PM
(13) Duke
Savannah State 5:30 PM
Auburn
Northern Colorado 6:00 PM
South Florida
Youngstown St 6:00 PM
Robert Morris
Siena 6:00 PM
Sacred Heart
Vermont 6:00 PM
St Francis-NY
(1) South Carolina 6:00 PM
Hampton
Fla Gulf Coast 6:00 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Texas Southern 6:00 PM
Houston Baptist
Northwestern 6:00 PM
UNLV
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Appalachian St
NC Central 6:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Drexel 6:00 PM
Quinnipiac
Cincinnati 6:00 PM
Northern Ky
Alabama State 6:00 PM
Georgia Tech
Morehead St 6:00 PM
USC Upstate
Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Kent State
American Univ 6:00 PM
Manhattan
UNC Greensboro 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
Arkansas-Monticello 6:30 PM
Northwestern St
Prairie View 6:30 PM
Sam Houston St
McNeese State 7:00 PM
(3) Texas
Yale 7:00 PM
Wagner
Oakland 7:00 PM
TX A&M-CC
Eastern Kentucky 7:00 PM
Alabama A&M
SIU-Edwardsville 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
McMurry 7:00 PM
TX-Arlington
Portland 8:00 PM
Eastern Washington
North Texas 9:00 PM
San Francisco
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite pro sports coach in the Twin Cities?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT