What Could the Vikings be Getting with a First-Round Receiver?

Please Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In the wake of the Stefon Diggs trade, many are beginning to wonder what the Minnesota Vikings will do at wide receiver in 2020. With just Adam Thielen, Bisi Johnson, Chad Beebe and new free-agent acquisition Tajae Sharpe, the Vikings have an obvious need for depth and could tap into a highly-touted draft class to add some.

One potential solution for the Vikings is to add a top-end talent by using either the 22nd or 25th overall selection to add one of the better prospects to their roster. The downside to this is that many draft experts have the wide receiver pool picked over by the time Minnesota will be on the clock.

To figure out what the Vikings could be getting if they stood pat and took a receiver with the 22nd overall pick, I glanced over a handful of post-free agency mock drafts to see what could be available. With most notable experts yet to release a recent mock draft, here were the results from what was out there.

Draft Analyst (Site) Number of WR taken before 22
Charlie Campbell (Walter Football) 4
Walter Cherepinsky (Walter Football) 4
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports) 5
Kyle Yates (Fantasy Pros) 3
Mel Kiper Jr. (ESPN) 5
Jordan Reid (The Draft Network) 3

By an average of this group of mock drafts, the Vikings will be selecting with four receivers off the board. This means if the Vikings want to select a receiver, they would be looking at the fifth-best available. Looking back at the past 10 seasons, such a strategy has had mixed and often disappointing results.

2010: Golden Tate (60th Overall by Seattle)

The 2010 NFL Draft was high on projects as several players with upside went ahead of Tate. While Demaryius Thomas (22nd overall by Denver) and Dez Bryant (24th overall by Dallas) were home runs, Dexter McCluster (36th overall by Kansas City) and Arrelious Benn (39th overall by Tampa Bay) were swings and misses.

The Seahawks waited on their choice and land Tate late in the final picks of the second round. In a full decade of work, Tate has amassed 7,890 yards and 44 touchdowns while being a key target during Seattle’s Super Bowl-winning season in 2013.

It should be noted that later in this draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted two other standouts in SMU’s Emmanuel Sanders and Central Michigan’s Antonio Brown.

2011: Torrey Smith (58th overall by Baltimore)

This year’s draft class had more top-end talent as A.J. Green (fourth overall by Cincinnati) and Julio Jones (sixth overall by Atlanta) came off the board early. They were followed by a pair of busts as Kansas City reached for Jonathan Baldwin at No. 26 and Detroit took Titus Young, who basically kicked himself out of the league, at No. 41.

While Smith never reached his ceiling during his career, he was still a valuable asset for the Ravens. With 5,141 yards and 41 touchdowns, Smith isn’t a complete bust and it’s fair to wonder how his career would have turned out if Joe Flacco didn’t overthrow him by two steps on most of his go routes.

2012: Brian Quick (33rd overall by St. Louis)

A majority of this class is a precursor to what could have been. Both Justin Blackmon (fifth overall by Jacksonville) and Michael Floyd (13th overall by Arizona) had the talent to succeed but came apart thanks to their own undoing. The other two first-round receivers suffered the same fate as Kendall Wright (17th overall by Tennessee) and A.J. Jenkins (30th overall by San Francisco) never came close to their expectations.

That left the Rams to select Quick with the first pick of the second round. As a product of Appalachian State, he was a bit of a project for the Rams that got hampered by shoulder injuries. In seven seasons in the league, Quick never exceeded 600 yards in a season, leaving a hole in the Rams’ offense.

The later rounds of this draft proved to be more fruitful with names like Alshon Jeffery (No. 45 by Chicago), Mohamed Sanu (83rd overall by Cincinnati), T.Y. Hilton (92nd overall by Indianapolis) and Marvin Jones (166th overall by Cincinnati) going on to have productive careers.

2013: Robert Woods (41st overall by Buffalo)

This draft saw receivers fly off the board early and often as Tavon Austin (eighth overall by St. Louis) led the way and DeAndre Hopkins (27th overall by Houston), Cordarrelle Patterson (28th overall by Vikings) and Justin Hunter (34th overall by Tennessee) followed.

The Bills would upgrade their receiving corps with one of the most polished receivers in the draft in Woods, but he would take some time to get going. A move to Los Angeles wound up sparking the USC product and in three seasons with the Rams, he’s caught 232 passes for 3,134 yards and 13 touchdowns.

2014: Kelvin Benjamin (28th overall by Carolina)

In what may be the most successful wide receiver class of all-time — and one that is compared to this year’s class — the likes of Odell Beckham Jr. (13th overall to New York), Mike Evans (seventh overall by Tampa Bay) and Brandin Cooks (20th overall by New Orleans) highlighted the first round. Even Sammy Watkins (fourth overall by Buffalo) has had a mercurial career but still has produced at a high level.

Benjamin had just a short career in the NFL, but it doesn’t mean he didn’t have success. As Cam Newton‘s primary target, Benjamin collected 20 touchdowns during his six-year career but tailed off due to his lack of work ethic and conditioning concerns. Carolina could have done better by selecting Allen Robinson (61st overall by Jacksonville) or Davante Adams (53rd overall by Green Bay), but still got enough out of Benjamin to make it a worthwhile selection.

2015: Breshad Perriman (26th overall by Baltimore)

This class was filled with traps outside of Amari Cooper (fourth overall by Oakland) and Perriman was one of the bigger busts in the draft. As a fast-riser in the process leading up to the draft, scouts were enamored by Perriman’s size and speed combination, which saw the UCF product surge into the first round.

The results were disappointing as Perriman couldn’t stay on the field due to a series of knee injuries. Perriman rejuvenated his career in a late-season stint with Tampa Bay last season, but projects more as a role player than a legitimate starter.

2016: Sterling Shepard (40th overall by New York Giants)

Shepard is the final member of the group that went ahead of Michael Thomas (47th overall by New Orleans) in this draft. As the Vikings pounced on Laquon Treadwell (23rd overall) in the first round, Shepard would have been the better pick considering he’s had a productive if not spectacular career.

While Shepard has yet to record his first 1,000-yard season, he’s been more consistent than the group of Treadwell, Corey Coleman (15th overall by Cleveland), Will Fuller (21st overall by Houston) and Josh Doctson (22nd overall by Washington).

2017: Curtis Samuel (40th overall by Carolina Panthers)

In a draft where Corey Davis (fifth overall to Tennessee), Mike Williams (seventh overall to San Diego) and John Ross (ninth overall to Cincinnati) all went in the top 10, it can be argued that Samuel might wind up having the best career out of the top five receivers taken.

The group, which also includes Zay Jones (37th overall to Buffalo), has been largely an injury-riddled disappointment, but Samuel started to show his upside even with a shaky quarterback situation. If Teddy Bridgewater can get the ball in his hands, this pick could look much better in the coming seasons.

2018: Christian Kirk (47th overall by Arizona)

This class has plenty of intriguing candidates for a breakout in 2020 including D.J. Moore (24th overall to Carolina), Calvin Ridley (26th overall to Atlanta) and Courtland Sutton (40th overall to Denver). Kirk’s name can be added to this list coming off a pair of seasons where he looked the part of a consistent target in Kliff Kingsbury‘s offense.

With DeAndre Hopkins in the mix and Larry Fitzgerald lacing it up for at least one more season, Kirk may never put forth eye-popping stats. But he has enough potential to be a reliable target for years to come.

2019: Mecole Hardman (56th overall by Kansas City)

Drafted as a contingency plan for Tyreek Hill, Hardman was a sparingly used part of the Chiefs offense once Hill’s off-the-field issues were sorted out. When Hardman got on the field, however, he was able to make electric plays with six touchdowns on just 26 receptions while also making the Pro Bowl as a kick returner.

Playing with Patrick Mahomes is always a great way to enhance your career, but it will be interesting to see how Hardman develops moving forward. If he’s used as a gadget receiver, he may wind up being a rich man’s Cordarrelle Patterson opposite Hill. If he refines his ability to be a receiver, he could be a superstar in the making.

With the Vikings still looking to win games in 2020, they’ll need to find a wide receiver that can contribute as soon as possible. Over the past 10 years, the fifth receiver in the draft has produced several solid receivers, but not anyone who is currently carving out a bust in Canton.

Playing into the Vikings favor is the depth of this draft class and the availability of a player like Justin Jefferson, who may be older, but might be more developed than a prospect such as Denzel Mims. Taking a receiver in the first round also isn’t considered a given as the Vikings have busted on players such as Treadwell, but have struck gold later with players such as Theilen (UDFA in 2014) and Diggs (146th overall in 2015).

So what’s the right answer? The Vikings need to decide that for themselves. It’s possible to find a contributor if they’re looking for the fifth receiver on the board, but if they want to enhance their chances of finding a player like Diggs, their best bet may be to trade up the board.

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