INDIANAPOLIS - With the Super Bowl in the rearview mirror and still nine weeks left before NFL draft weekend, comparison season has exploded across the league. So it was no surprise Friday that as 38 receivers funneled through the NFL combine for media interviews, they each came with parallels.
Cal's Keenan Allen, a prospect who could be an ideal fit for the Vikings at No. 23, likened his skill set to that of Ravens standout Anquan Boldin.
"I watch highlight tape to see what he's good at," Allen said. "And it's his physicalness, that ability to go up and make catches you don't think he's going to come down with. [Joe] Flacco just throws it up there, and he makes incredible catches."
West Virginia's Tavon Austin, a small, explosive and versatile playmaker? He can't go 10 minutes these days without eliciting references to Vikings standout Percy Harvin.
And Tennessee's Justin Hunter could only laugh when told his college quarterback, Tyler Bray, had stamped him as Gumby thanks to his ability to bend and contort to make big-time grabs.
"If the freakish catch presents itself," Hunter said, "I'm there to catch it."
From Tennessee's Cordarelle Patterson (comparison: Demaryius Thomas) to Marshall's Aaron Dobson (Sidney Rice 2.0?), the surplus of receiving talent in this year's draft was apparent Friday.
It will become even more obvious when those playmakers take the field Sunday for drill work plus speed and agility testing. Perhaps most obvious of all, the Vikings are almost certain to dig into this receiver grab bag in late April aiming to upgrade a unit that might have been the league's most ordinary in 2012.
"The depth at wide receiver should help us," Frazier said, "[especially] as we go through this with nine picks."
Consider this: Even after missing the final seven games, Harvin (62 catches, 677 yards) still led Vikings' receivers in receptions by 22 and yardage by 228. Michael Jenkins was second in both categories but is nearing his 31st birthday and might become a contract casualty in the coming weeks.
So, yeah, a talent infusion is necessary. And Frazier asserted Friday that he'll have his eyes peeled for speed.
"We need an all-encompassing guy, a guy who can run by some people, who can make the hard catch for us if he's in a contested situation but hopefully also can get us some yards after the catch. And he has to be a guy who has the smarts to be able to understand game plans from week to week."
So now the question becomes where the Vikings will pounce in a draft in which intriguing receiving talent promises to still be on the board into the third day.
If they're eager to grab a receiver with their top pick, then maybe Allen, a self-professed film junkie, will provide the perfect fit. A knee injury will prevent him from running here Sunday. So the Vikings will have to wait until Cal's pro day March 14 to get a stopwatch on him.
But Allen seems to fit the wish list; he's productive, smart and dedicated even if he might not have blazing speed.
"Where the Vikings are picking, I think that kid's a heck of a value," said Mike Mayock, the NFL Network's resident draft guru. "Here's the deal with Keenan Allen: If you like him on tape, he's Anquan Boldin. If you don't like him, he's speed-deficient."
Baylor's Terrance Williams (think Torrey Smith) and Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton (similar to Reggie Wayne) could also make sense in Round 1.
Yet the depth of this draft class might give the Vikings the patience to look at a pass-catcher with the 52nd and 83rd picks on Day 2 or even into Day 3.
Perhaps Southern Cal's Robert Woods is an option when the Vikings are on the clock in the second round. He may have inside help at Winter Park from former college teammates Matt Kalil and Rhett Ellison.
"They both said they'd put in a good word for me," Woods said Friday.
Kalil and Ellison might also want to use the prevailing Woods comparison, noting how his burst and agility resemble James Jones'.
Just how valid these comparisons turn out to be is anyone's guess. But in a year where the Vikings need receivers, there seem to be plenty of options.
Dan Wiederer • firstname.lastname@example.org