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 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.”


Atlanta 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Houston 6
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Miami 1
Baltimore 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
NY Yankees 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 1
Chicago Cubs 6 FINAL
San Francisco 8
Los Angeles 6 FINAL
Chicago WSox 1
San Diego 4 FINAL
Seattle 9
Cleveland 9 FINAL
Cincinnati 3
Milwaukee 2 FINAL
LA Angels 3
Oakland 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 2
Texas 4 FINAL
Kansas City 5
Colorado 3 FINAL
Arizona 4
Washington 5
Boston 8 FINAL
Minnesota 9
Toronto 0 FINAL
Baltimore 5
Oklahoma City 105 FINAL
Chicago 108
Dallas 75 FINAL
Portland 94
Calgary 4 FINAL(SO)
Boston 3
St. Louis 1 FINAL
Philadelphia 3
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Washington 1
Toronto 2 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Dallas 4 FINAL(SO)
Florida 3
NY Islanders 4 FINAL
Nashville 3
Vancouver 2 FINAL(SO)
Arizona 3
Montreal 3 FINAL(SO)
Los Angeles 4
Morgan State 76 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 89
Niagara 54 FINAL
Siena 71
Holy Cross 83 FINAL
Bucknell 90
Western Ky 88 FINAL
Charlotte 84
Navy 62 FINAL
Colgate 72
Temple 70 FINAL
East Carolina 56
Fla Atlantic 62
Boston Univ 64 FINAL
Lafayette 89
American Univ 68 FINAL
Lehigh 62
Wisconsin 76 FINAL
Minnesota 63
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Saint Peters 63
Arkansas 78 FINAL
South Carolina 74
Morehead State 76 FINAL
UT Martin 65
USC Upstate 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 62
Lipscomb 57 FINAL
North Florida 71
Southern Ill 55 FINAL
Missouri State 48
Texas State 64 FINAL
Appalachian St 67
SC State 62 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 72
Delaware State 104 FINAL
Coppin State 92
Middle Tennessee 54 FINAL
FIU 59
Texas-Arlington 64 FINAL
Ga Southern 76
Norfolk State 80 FINAL
Hampton 69
NC Central 69
Savannah State 57 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Southern Miss 61 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 72
Marshall 50 FINAL
Old Dominion 67
Rice 76 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 74
South Alabama 81 FINAL
Arkansas State 76
Alabama State 78 FINAL
Grambling St 46
Alabama A&M 54 FINAL
Jackson State 72
Sam Houston St 67 FINAL
Lamar 61
Georgia State 58 FINAL
ULM 50
Central Arkansas 70 FINAL
Nicholls 77
Portland State 51 FINAL
Northern Ariz 58
Southern U 77 FINAL
Prairie View 73
Alcorn State 73 FINAL
Texas Southern 94
Houston Baptist 72 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 85
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Louisiana 75
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
New Orleans 85
California 60 FINAL
Arizona 99
Memphis 54 FINAL
Connecticut 53
VA Commonwealth 55 FINAL
Davidson 82
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Sacramento St 65 FINAL
Southern Utah 69
Northwestern St 66 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 92
North Texas 60 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 83
Colorado 64 FINAL
Washington 47
Idaho 63 FINAL
Weber State 74
Abilene Christian 52 FINAL
Incarnate Word 64
Eastern Wash 85 FINAL
Idaho State 81
Marist 80 FINAL
Quinnipiac 74
Eastern Ill 64 FINAL
Belmont 97
Bradley 52 FINAL
Drake 50
Cal State Fullerton 62 FINAL
UC Irvine 68
CS-Northridge 58 FINAL
Long Beach State 69
UC Riverside 59 FINAL
UC Davis 61
Stanford 62 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Utah 67 FINAL
Washington St 59
Monmouth 68 FINAL
Canisius 56
Wake Forest 85 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 79
Saint Louis 65 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 58
Saint Peters 62 FINAL
Rider 54
UNC-Asheville 51 FINAL
Liberty 59
UNC Greensboro 44 FINAL
(17) Chattanooga 78
Michigan State 69 FINAL
Michigan 49
Arkansas 72 FINAL
Ole Miss 61
Manhattan 51 FINAL
Niagara 57
Massachusetts 63 FINAL
Richmond 67
Virginia 52 FINAL
Miami-Florida 62
Jacksonville St 45 FINAL
Belmont 55
Morgan State 65 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 50
Campbell 65 FINAL
Winthrop 52
Furman 65 FINAL
Samford 54
Oregon 64 FINAL
Washington St 66
Indiana 52 FINAL
(23) Rutgers 63
Pepperdine 67 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 68
Auburn 47 FINAL
(18) Texas A&M 57
Morehead St 66 FINAL
Tennessee St 81
George Mason 43 FINAL
Saint Josephs 71
Western Carolina 53 FINAL
East Tenn St 73
Arizona 62 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 79
Texas State 55 FINAL
Appalachian St 61
TX-Arlington 66 FINAL
Georgia Southern 41
SC State 57 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 56
Delaware State 51 FINAL
Coppin State 80
Portland 58 FINAL
Santa Clara 66
Norfolk State 49 FINAL
Hampton 64
Florida Atlantic 56 FINAL
UAB 59
NC Central 46
Savannah State 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 51
Virginia Tech 51 FINAL
Pittsburgh 45
Central Arkansas 43 FINAL
Nicholls 53
Houston Baptist 48 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 73
Gardner-Webb 70 FINAL
Radford 56
Georgia 75 FINAL
Missouri 64
Old Dominion 67 FINAL
Marshall 55
Ark-Little Rock 68 FINAL
Louisiana 66
South Alabama 60 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Georgia State 66 FINAL
ULM 61
Sam Houston St 73 FINAL
Lamar 92
SE Louisiana 75 FINAL
New Orleans 84
Northwestern St 45 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 56
Alabama A&M 58 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Alabama State 68 FINAL
Grambling 62
Southern U 78 FINAL
Prairie View 50
Alcorn State 55 FINAL
Texas Southern 73
Ark-Pine Bluff 0 Postponed
Miss Valley St 0
Wofford 54 FINAL
Mercer 75
Abilene Christian 72 FINAL
Incarnate Word 62
La Salle 60 FINAL
Rhode Island 65
Illinois 71 FINAL
Nebraska 86
TX-San Antonio 60 FINAL
Rice 49
Valparaiso 55 FINAL
Oakland 70
Missouri State 65 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Georgia Tech 64 FINAL
(15) North Carolina 84
Charlotte 72 FINAL
Western Ky 80
Texas-El Paso 69 FINAL
North Texas 61
Wichita State 77 FINAL
Evansville 63
Loyola-Chicago 64 FINAL
Northern Iowa 69
Bradley 70 FINAL
Drake 86
Presbyterian 62 FINAL
High Point 75
Vanderbilt 61 FINAL
(12) Kentucky 67
Colorado 75 FINAL
USC 63
San Francisco 74 FINAL
Pacific 64
Idaho State 58 FINAL
Eastern Washington 62
Weber State 42 FINAL
Idaho 71
Purdue 78 FINAL
Minnesota 82
Cal-Irvine 54 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 66
Long Beach St 60 FINAL
CS-Northridge 77
Hawaii 60 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 36
UC Davis 56 FINAL
UC-Riverside 61
Northern Ariz 79 FINAL
Portland State 62
Southern Utah 73 FINAL
Sacramento St 107
Utah 64 FINAL
Washington 75
St Marys-CA 64
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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 NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9




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