As the 2016 NFL Draft approaches, many fans of the Minnesota Vikings are feeling good about the state of the team. After spending big in free agency and upgrading their offensive line, the consensus throughout the fanbase is that the Vikings need to take a wide receiver with the 23rd overall pick.
Such a move would make sense as the Vikings had trouble moving the ball through the air last fall. They also would benefit from a bigger target for Teddy Bridgewater that could possibly take the team from playoff participant to Super Bowl contender.
But, before everybody starts stitching “Doctson” and “Treadwell” onto a custom-made purple jersey, there needs to be a tale of caution. In the past 15 seasons, there have been 22 receivers selected in the 20s of their respective draft classes. Of that group, there have been far more misses than hits.
At first glance, there are some recognizable names. Roddy White was one of the biggest cogs of the Atlanta Falcons offense for the past decade and DeAndre Hopkins has one of the brightest futures in the league after a breakout 2015 season. Also, the 2010 draft which featured Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas could make you wonder what all the fuss is about. Still, for every stud that’s on the list, there’s about four or five wide receivers that have been full-blown busts or had the dreaded “Yeah, but…” label applied to them.
So what do the Vikings do? Do they trade all their assets to make sure they don’t take a receiver in the 20s? Or do they pray that somebody drops to 30 and take them because they can avoid this curse? Both seem absolutely ridiculous The reality is that there isn’t as much as a curse rather than the inability to analyze a prospect.
The last two times the Vikings invested in a receiver in the 20s, they took a prospect that fell due to concerns. Percy Harvin tested out fine athletically, but his character issues that caused his draft day fall proved to be accurate. Meanwhile, Cordarrelle Patterson fell because of his raw ability on the football field and a concern that he couldn’t absorb a playbook (concerns that also proved to be true).
Even if there aren’t concerns — which is true in the case of Josh Doctson at the moment — with a prospect, it’s all about why they’re even available at 23. It’s not like the teams in front of the Vikings don’t need a wide receiver, and if they were the elite prospects that some believe them to be, why didn’t a team run to the podium to throw them on their roster?
To add fuel to the fire, the team across the river has taken a different approach to building their wide receiver corps. When the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV, they had Jordy Nelson (36th overall in 2008), Greg Jennings (52nd overall in 2006) and Randall Cobb (64th overall in 2011) all of whom were selected in the second round.
The point? It’s important for the Vikings to not fall for the big name that falls into their lap. If they feel there’s a player that could better suit their team, they can’t give into that pressure. Otherwise, the Vikings passing attack could remain stagnant heading into 2016 and beyond.