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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Baltimore 2 FINAL
Detroit 15
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Northeastern 1 FINAL
Boston 2
Miami-Fla 1 FINAL
Miami 7
Pittsburgh 8 FINAL
Toronto 7
San Francisco 4 FINAL
Oakland 9
Cleveland 0 FINAL
Cincinnati 10
Boston College 0 FINAL
Boston 1
Arizona State 0 FINAL
Arizona 4
Boston 79 FINAL
Cleveland 110
LA Lakers 103 FINAL
Charlotte 104
Sacramento 124 FINAL
New York 86
Houston 96 FINAL
Atlanta 104
Utah 74 4th Qtr 8:28
Memphis 68
Washington 67 4th Qtr 10:14
Chicago 79
Milwaukee 47 2nd Qtr 5:56
Denver 40
Nashville 1 FINAL
New Jersey 3
Calgary 3 FINAL(OT)
Philadelphia 2
Washington 5 FINAL
Columbus 3
Buffalo 0 3rd Prd 6:12
Tampa Bay 3
Toronto 2 3rd Prd 17:41
Florida 2
Ottawa 2 3rd Prd
Minnesota 2
NY Islanders 1 2nd Prd 9:57
Dallas 0
Anaheim 1 2nd Prd
Arizona 0
Los Angeles 0 1st Prd 12:12
Edmonton 0
San Jose 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Ole Miss 82 FINAL
Alabama 74
Eastern Mich 67 FINAL
Ball State 60
Kent State 81 FINAL
Bowling Green 80
Ohio 66 FINAL
Buffalo 93
Georgetown 60 FINAL
Butler 54
Toledo 77 FINAL
Central Mich 85
Rhode Island 59 FINAL
Dayton 75
Youngstown St 67 FINAL
Detroit 77
North Carolina 81 FINAL
Georgia Tech 49
Loyola-Maryland 45 FINAL
Holy Cross 62
Iowa 77 FINAL
Indiana 63
Akron 63 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 70
Army 52 FINAL
Navy 56
Maryland 60 FINAL
Rutgers 50
Kennesaw St 54 FINAL
USC Upstate 90
Jacksonville 63 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 81
Lipscomb 76 FINAL
Northern Ky 73
Stetson 67 FINAL
North Florida 81
Wright State 57 2nd Half 0:06
Ill-Chicago 60
Western Mich 58 2nd Half 3:17
Northern Ill 59
Nebraska Omaha 80 FINAL
North Dakota 78
Houston Baptist 71 FINAL
Abilene Christian 83
NC State 20 2nd Half
Clemson 21
Texas A&M 23 2nd Half
Florida 26
Kentucky 23 1st Half 3:33
Georgia 24
West Virginia 38 1st Half 2:25
Kansas 22
Auburn 30 2nd Half
Missouri 30
Michigan 34 2nd Half
Northwestern 27
Villanova 12 1st Half 5:02
Creighton 19
Longwood 55 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 63
Charleston Southern 39 FINAL
Presbyterian 47
Coastal Carolina 54 FINAL
UNC-Asheville 68
NJIT 51 FINAL
UMass Lowell 60
West Virginia 55 2nd Half 0:29
Kansas State 57
TCU 45 FINAL
Texas 79
Fresno State 30 2nd Half
Air Force 24
San Jose St 28 2nd Half
Boise State 48
Nevada 24 2nd Half
Colorado State 37
UNLV 18 2nd Half
San Diego State 26
Wyoming 29 2nd Half
Utah State 28
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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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