This ESPN Insider piece on the Minnesota Vikings' offseason crystallized a plan we've discussed in abstract terms. Former NFL scout Gary Horton figures the Vikings like only two of their returning receivers, and because Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright are both best-suited to play the slot position, there is probably an offseason need for "two quality edge receivers with some speed," Horton writes.
In that scenario, the Vikings could seek one of those receivers in free agency and another in the draft. To that end, Insider reporter Field Yates recommends pending free agent Mike Wallace, and not Greg Jennings, as the free agent the Vikings should target.
Yates: "Wallace possesses rare speed, and though his production tapered off in 2012 compared to his previous two seasons, he remains one of the most dangerous downfield threats in the league. For an offense that is centered around pounding the football with [Adrian] Peterson, adding an explosive edge receiver in Wallace would effectively take the top off of defenses and create further lanes for Peterson to run."
Wallace ran a 4.33 in the 40 during his combine test in 2009 and would be an obvious downfield upgrade over Michael Jenkins, who could be released, and Jerome Simpson, a pending free agent. The question is whether the Vikings will want to get involved in negotiations that probably will use as a benchmark the five-year, $55 million contract that Vincent Jackson received last spring from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
As for the draft, let me pass along Mel Kiper's top five receivers, a list he updated after last week's combine:
West Virginia's Tavon Austin
Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson
Cal's Keenan Allen
Tennessee's Justin Hunter
Louisiana Tech's Quinton Patton.
Austin has elite speed and playmaking ability, but at 5-foot-9 and 174 pounds, he projects at the same position as Harvin and Wright. Patterson (6-foot-3), Allen (6-3), Hunter (6-4) and Patton (6-2) are built more like edge receivers.
Patterson ran a 4.42 in the 40 at the combine, Hunter a 4.44 and Patton a 4.53. Allen did not run.