NFL draft preview: wide receivers and tight ends

  • Updated: April 20, 2012 - 11:57 AM

Today kicks off the Star Tribune’s position-by-position preview for the NFL draft April 26-28.

Today: tight ends and wide receivers

Stop us if you've heard this one before: The Vikings badly, sorely, desperately need a playmaking wide receiver to add a vertical threat to their passing game. General Manager Rick Spielman acknowledges as much. Coach Leslie Frazier continues to pound that wish home. And offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave truly believes his attack can become prolific if the Vikings can install that one major cog.

So why might the Vikings let Justin Blackmon, the best playmaking wide receiver in the 2012 draft class, slip past them when they draft at No. 3 overall?

Yes, the near certainty that Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil will be an immediate NFL difference-maker might be a big part of it, a safe pick too good to pass up. But it's also worth noting that the draft pool at wide receiver seems deeper right now than it has been in years. That in itself gives the Vikings some much-needed comfort to know that if they pass on Blackmon at No. 3, there still will be ample opportunity to land a dynamic receiver at the start of the second round or even into the third.

Given the quality of this year's receivers, the Vikings won't be the only ones tempted to skip over a true pass-catching threat in Round 1. As teams skim the cream off the top of other positions early in the draft, a handful of promising receivers could fall and the quality of pass catchers available at the start of Round 2 should remain impressive. That's food for thought that Spielman and his coaches are digesting.

THE FRONT-RUNNER

Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State (above)

On his way to winning the past two Biletnikoff Awards, Blackmon terrorized opposing defenses with 232 catches for 3,304 yards and 38 TDs. Some see him as a cross between Terrell Owens and Anquan Boldin. He has average size (6-1, 207 pounds) but plays bigger. And he answered questions about his speed by running a 4.41-second 40-yard dash at his pro day.

THE CONTENDERS

Michael Floyd, Notre Dame (left)

There's growing buzz that if you ignore Floyd's alcohol-related transgressions during college and evaluate his skills only, he would rate above Blackmon. He's taller, faster, has similarly superb hands and is a polished route runner.

Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech

Two months ago, no one knew how to evaluate Hill's 2011 production (28 catches, 820 yards, five TDs) within a Georgia Tech offense that ran the ball 77 percent of the time. Then he posted a turf-scorching time of 4.36 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, followed with a superb pro day and is now considered a borderline first-rounder.

Coby Fleener, Stanford

The top tight end prospect this year, Fleener could be an immediate starter. At 6-6 and 247 pounds, he's a big target with speed and a knack for going up to get the ball.

THE SLEEPER

Dwight Jones, North Carolina

Jones began his college career at UNC being mentored by Hakeem Nicks. He finished it in 2011 with an ACC-best 85 catches for 1,196 yards and 12 TDs. Jones has intriguing size, deceptive speed and admirable fearlessness.

Coming this week, draft previews and Access Vikings video:

Tuesday: quarterbacks

Wednesday: running backs

Thursday: offensive line

Friday: defensive backs

Saturday: defensive line/linebackers

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Pittsburgh - WP: B. Morris 8 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: S. LeCure 7
Atlanta 0 Postponed
Philadelphia 0
Chicago Cubs 0 Postponed
NY Yankees 0
Tampa Bay 0 Postponed
Baltimore 0
Cleveland 0 Postponed
Detroit 0
Washington - LP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - WP: T. Koehler 11
Pittsburgh - LP: G. Cole 5 FINAL
Cincinnati - WP: M. Leake 7
Seattle - LP: B. Beavan 0 FINAL
Texas - WP: R. Ross Jr. 5
St. Louis - WP: S. Miller 6 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: M. Estrada 1
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 1 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: D. Webb 2
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 4 FINAL
Houston - LP: L. Harrell 2
Toronto - WP: A. Loup 9 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: P. Hughes 3
NY Mets - WP: J. Mejia 9 FINAL
Arizona - LP: B. Arroyo 0
Oakland - WP: J. Johnson 10 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: Y. Herrera 9
Colorado - WP: J. Nicasio 3 FINAL
San Diego - LP: R. Erlin 2
Los Angeles - LP: B. League 2 FINAL
San Francisco - WP: Y. Petit 3
New York 109 FINAL
Brooklyn 98
Denver 105 FINAL
LA Clippers 117
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2013 preseason     
Aug 9 - vs. Houston 7 pmX27-13
Aug 16 - at Buffalo 6 pmX20-16
Aug 25 - at San Francisco 7 pmX34-14
Aug 29 - vs. Tennessee 7 pmX24-23
2013 regular season     
Sep 8 - at Detroit NoonX34-24
Sep 15 - at Chicago NoonX31-30
Sep 22 - vs. Cleveland NoonX31-27
Sep 29 - vs. Pittsburgh (in London) NoonX34-27
Oct 6 - Bye
Oct 13 - vs. Carolina NoonX35-10
Oct 21 - at. NY Giants 7:40 pmX23-7
Oct 27 - vs. Green Bay 7:30 pmX44-31
Nov 3 - at Dallas NoonX27-23
Nov 7 - vs. Washington 7:25 pmX34-27
Nov 17 - at Seattle 3:25 pmX41-20
Nov. 24 - at Green Bay Noon26-26
Dec 1 - vs. Chicago NoonX23-20
Dec 8 - at Baltimore NoonX29-26
Dec 15 - vs. Philadelphia NoonX48-30
Dec 22 - at Cincinnati NoonX42-14
Dec 29 - vs. Detroit NoonX14-13

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