Monday, August 6, 2012

Should Rick Spielman have opted to upgrade at safety or WR early in April's draft?

Did Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman err in selecting wide receiver Greg Childs in the fourth round, a player who was a clear injury risk?

Many Vikings fans are debating that as Childs went down Saturday night, tearing the patella tendons in both his knees. But for those moaning about the pick, ESPN 1500's Tom Pelissero writes that Childs is the kind of risk team's typically take in the fourth round of the NFL draft.

And while that's true, one can still question whether the Vikings should have waited until the fourth round to address a very weak wide receiving corps.

Remember that the Vikes traded away their second round draft pick in April's draft to Baltimore - 35th overall - to get back into the first round and draft safety Harrison Smith 29th overall.

Did the Vikings need a safety? Yes they did. But they also needed a big wide receiver who could get deep, use his size to win balls in the air and be a viable red zone threat - in other words, the kind of stuff Sidney Rice did in 2009.

As it happens, there were three wide receivers picked in the second round after the Vikings would have selected at #35 who fit that description (all of them profiled as potential Vikes targets pre-draft by our very own TBird): NFL combine workout warrior Stephen Hill (Jets - 43rd overall); the talented but allegedly lazy Alshon Jeffrey (Bears - 45th overall) and the skilled but raw Rueben Randle (Giants - 63rd overall). But by trading up and choosing Smith (also profiled pre-draft by TBird as a Vikings draft target), the Vikings made their choice - upgrading the safety position was more important than upgrading the wide receiving unit. Or they liked Smith more as a player than Hill, Jeffrey and Randle. We'll learn - to some degree - in 2012 how wise that choice was.

Opportunity knocks
The concern could be washed away if someone already on the Vikings roster steps up their game and becomes the player the team hoped Childs would be in 2012. The three candidates who stand to benefit from Childs being out for all of 2012 are Devin Aromashodu, Emmanuel Arceneaux and Stephen Burton.

Aromashodu we know pretty well. He had 26 catches for 468 yards and one TD catch last year - his best year ever. However, it took a lot of snaps for him to compile those paltry numbers, he doesn't separate well on routes and he's 28. It appears he is what he is at this point in his career. And what he is is a fourth or fifth receiver, not a guy you start.

Arceneaux is a mystery to me. I root for him because he got his pro start in the Canadian Football League, and he's had a strong training camp from what I've been reading, but I doubt he can become  a key contributor to the Vikings passing game in 2012 or perhaps ever.

Burton is the guy that intrigues me. He can run well and he's got very good size (listed at 6'1 and 224 pounds). He'd been looking good in OTAs (for what that is worth). And I liked what I saw in the one game he got on the field last year (two catches for 38 yards against Denver before hurting his knee). I'm interested to see what he can do in preseason.

It's also possible Spielman will bring in a veteran who is unemployed. Seahawks castoff Mike Williams is looking for work. So is the recently released Antonio Bryant. And Plaxico Burress needs a job. None of those guys fit the "we're going young" rebuilding strategy Spielman is using right now. I doubt you'll see those guys wearing purple and gold in 2012, and I'm more than OK with that.


  1. I really wanted Hill. I think he's the guy the Vikings should have targeted with their second pick. That being said, I'm not worried about who replaces Childs this year. This is a development year, especially considering how rarely first year receivers contribute. Where the injury hurts is next year, since the Vikings either have to start over with a new rookie receiver or sign someone to upgrade the position.

    1. I had talked myself into Jeffrey at that spot because I thought Hill would go earlier than he did based on his combine numbers. Yes, A.J. Green type years are rare for rookie WRs, so Childs probably wasn't going to have much of an impact this year. If Simpson comes through (and the Vikings are able to resign him) that could solve some things. I'm not holding my breath on that though.

  2. I was surprised when they didn't go WR in the first couple of rounds, but I got excited when I heard about how good Childs was before his injury and that he had a decent chance to bounce back. Buy low, right?

    I don't blame the Vikings for taking the risk they did, but I sure wish Childs hadn't gotten himself hurt. Would've been satisfying to get good production out of a 4th round pick.

    1. Peter:

      You're being too levelheaded about this. Please be a bit more irrational.

    2. Let's bring back Moss!