PHOENIX -- The Minnesota Vikings' rebuild of their receiver position now includes a top-end free agent (Greg Jennings), the return of one incumbent (Jerome Simpson) and high hopes for a 2012 rookie (Jarius Wright). With the veteran market dwindling (best available here on ESPN.com's Free Agent Tracker), it's fair to ask what's next.
Speaking here at the NFL owners meeting, quarterback Christian Ponder said, "I'm sure we'll take a guy or two in the draft." And the most protest we could muster from the notoriously evasive Rick Spielman, the Vikings' general manager, was that the receiver(s) won't necessarily be taken in the first round.
"The one thing I think that the signing of Jennings and getting Simpson back does for us," Spielman said, "is that it does not force us to take a receiver in the first round if we don't feel comfortable with that. According to how we get our board finalized and how it's set, we'll have a specific game plan going into place."
The Vikings have the No. 23 and No. 25 overall picks in the first round, positions that should give them the opportunity to consider all but perhaps one or two receivers in the draft, based on current media analysis. On his most recent Big Board, Mel Kiper rates West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin as his No. 14 prospect and Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson at No. 19 overall. Meanwhile, Scouts Inc. considers Austin as the 17th-best prospect and puts Cal's Keenan Allen at No. 20.
Those rankings figure to change over the next month or so, and I suppose it's possible the Vikings' outlook would look different if they sign several more free agents. But here's what I think we can say with some confidence: It would be an upset if the Vikings don't take at least one receiver in the first two rounds of the draft.