Vikings go hog wild at wide receiver

  • Article by: MARK CRAIGMCRAIG@STARTRIBUNE.COM
  • Updated: April 29, 2012 - 12:05 AM

Longtime friends Greg Childs and Jarius Wright were taken in the fourth round out of Arkansas.

Greg Childs

Photo: April L Brown, Associated Press

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Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman headed to Indianapolis for the scouting combine armed with the question that ultimately helped paint just enough leaguewide doubt as to what he would do with the third overall pick.

"Is the left tackle that important or is it more important to have playmakers on offense?" he asked then and at numerous other times over the next two months.

If actions speak louder than words, Spielman's answer was emphatic. The playmaking receivers were trounced in a landslide.

On Saturday, three rounds and 114 picks after he selected Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil, Spielman finally turned his attention to the receiver position. Within 16 picks in the fourth round, Spielman grabbed University of Arkansas teammates Jarius Wright (118th) and Greg Childs (134th).

By that point, however, 16 additional receivers had been drafted since Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon -- one of the two other players Spielman feigned strong interest in the first round -- was taken fifth overall.

Now it becomes a matter of whether this receiver class is truly as deep as Spielman claimed it was. Of course, the pressure for that answer to be yes isn't as great as it was before Spielman covered himself by signing former Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson in free agency two days before the draft. Simpson has the attributes to be the potential No. 1 receiver the Vikings lack and is young enough (26) that he's virtually another draft pick.

"That was huge," Spielman said. "That was a big sign for us to get Jerome in here."

But that doesn't mean the expectations are low for Wright and Childs. Friends since third grade and teammates since junior high in Warren, Ark., Wright and Childs come to Minnesota with a common background and different skill sets that might be able to help one of the worst receiving corps in the league last year.

"Jarius and I talked about what if we end up going to the same NFL team?" Childs said. "It would be crazy. We are moving on in life and we still are together."

Wright is a 5-10, 182-pound slot receiver who's similar in build and style to Percy Harvin. He also has return ability and will compete for the punt return job, Spielman said.

As far as a receiver, Wright comes with a résumé that includes Arkansas career records for receptions (168) and receiving yards (2,934). Against Texas A&M last year, Wright had school records for receptions (13) and receiving yards (281) while Spielman was in attendance.

"He's a very explosive playmaker," Spielman said. "We felt very fortunate to get Jarius at the time we got him because not only can he help on offense, but also as a potential as a big-play returner, and that's one of the things that we definitely wanted to look at."

Childs, meanwhile, is a 6-3, 219-pounder who lines up outside and "can go up and get the ball in the red zone," Spielman said. Childs caught 94 passes, including 13 touchdowns, as a sophomore and junior, but tore the patella tendon in his knee in October of 2010. He tried to come back too soon from the injury and caught just 21 passes for 240 yards while playing at less than 100 percent in 2011.

Childs claims he's now 100 percent. A pro day that included a 4.41 40-yard dash and a 41 1/2-inch vertical jump supports his case.

The Vikings will settle for the kind of performance that Childs had against then-Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins, a second-round pick this year, in 2009. That day at Florida, Childs beat Jenkins with four receptions for 135 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown.

"Overpowering the defender [is my strength]," Childs said. "Making plays on the ball, catching the ball at its highest point. "

Wright and Jenkins join a receiving corps that includes Harvin, Simpson, Emmanuel Arceneaux, Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton, Bryan Walters and Michael Jenkins. It'll be tough making an impact as a fourth-rounder, but not impossible.

After all, the Bears recently acquired a Pro Bowl receiver in Brandon Marshall, who was a fourth-round pick in 2006.

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