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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Wednesday: running backs
Thursday: offensive line
Friday: defensive backs
Saturday: defensive line/linebackers
|Cleveland||1||Top 9th Inning|
|Cincinnati||1||Top 7th Inning|
|Kansas City||1||Top 7th Inning|
|Washington||1||Top 3rd Inning|
|NY Mets||1||Top 2nd Inning|
|Detroit||2||Bottom 2nd Inning|
|Los Angeles - D. Haren||6:05 PM|
|Pittsburgh - F. Liriano|
|San Francisco - M. Bumgarner||6:05 PM|
|Philadelphia - A. Burnett|
|Texas - Y. Darvish||6:05 PM|
|NY Yankees - D. Phelps|
|Boston - C. Buchholz||6:07 PM|
|Toronto - R. Dickey|
|Miami - N. Eovaldi||6:10 PM|
|Atlanta - E. Santana|
|Tampa Bay - A. Cobb||6:15 PM|
|St. Louis - L. Lynn|
|San Diego - I. Kennedy||7:05 PM|
|Chicago Cubs - T. Wada|
|Houston - B. Peacock||9:05 PM|
|Oakland - J. Chavez|
|Baltimore - C. Tillman||9:05 PM|
|LA Angels - J. Weaver|
|Calgary||7/24/14 8:00 PM|
|Winnipeg||7/25/14 9:00 PM|
|Ottawa||7/26/14 6:00 PM|
|Toronto||7/26/14 9:00 PM|
|Winnipeg||7/31/14 6:00 PM|
|New York||9:30 PM|
|Aug 8 - vs. Oakland||7 pm|
|Aug 16 - vs. Arizona||7:30 pm|
|Aug 23 - at Kansas City||7 pm|
|Aug 28 - at Tennessee||7 pm|
|2014 regular season|
|Sep 7 - at St. Louis||Noon|
|Sep 14 - vs. New England||Noon|
|Sep 21 - at New Orleans||Noon|
|Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta||3:25 pm|
|Oct 2 - at Green Bay||7:25 pm|
|Oct 12 - vs. Detroit||Noon|
|Oct 19 - at. Buffalo||Noon|
|Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay||Noon|
|Nov 2 - vs. Washington||Noon|
|Nov 9 - Bye|
|Nov 16 - at Chicago||Noon|
|Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay||Noon|
|Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina||Noon|
|Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets||Noon|
|Dec 14 - at Detroit||Noon|
|Dec 21 - at Miami||Noon|
|Dec 28 - vs. Chicago||Noon|