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Best Vikings draft fits, Part 3: Wide receivers

During the lead up to the NFL draft, we will be looking at the players from each Minnesota Vikings position of need who would be the best fits in the first or second round plus one sleeper pick who might be available later in the draft. The fit is based on playing style, production, NFL Combine results and realistic possibility of being selected…for Part 3, we look at wide receivers: 

Part 1: Cornerbacks can be read here

Part 2: Offensive linemen can be read here

Best case scenario pick: Baylor, Denzel Mims

Few players came away from the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine raising their draft stock as much as Mims, who caught 66 passes for 1,015 yards and 12 touchdowns at Baylor this season. Per PFF, he was a monster when it came to contested catches, ranking second in the nation and pulling in 20 of his 66 receptions in a contested situation. While Baylor used short passes a great deal, Mims did his most damage on intermediate and deep throws, catching 43 of 66 with the  ball traveling past 10 yards. At the Combine, he proved that his athleticism is a cut above with a 4.43 40-yard dash and blazing three-cone drill to go along with a 38.5-inch vertical jump.

Adding an outside receiver who is a legitimate deep and intermediate threat would help fill the void left by Diggs, who gained nearly 19 yards per catch last season serving as the team’s downfield receiver. With three years under his belt of at least 90 targets, Mims could be expected to make a difference right away.

Clemson, Tee Higgins

While he only caught 59 passes for the Tigers last season, he made the most of those receptions, gaining 19.8 yards per catch with a completion percentage of 67.8% on passes thrown his way. Another outside receiver, Higgins tied for the eighth most deep passes in the country, per PFF and pulled in 15 of 23 balls traveling over 20 yards. Listed at 6-foot-4, 207-pounds, Clemson’s top receiver has graded in the top 10 by PFF on back-to-back years.

He did not participate in the Combine, which has the potential to hurt his draft stock but Higgins’s performance against high quality competition should have done enough to get him on the radar for teams aiming to find an outside receiver who can make plays downfield.

LSU, Justin Jefferson

Photo credit: Justin Jefferson

With the Tigers last season, Jefferson was one of the most dominant receivers in the country, catching 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns from likely No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. He crushed opponents in the intermediate passing game, catching 31-of-40 passes that traveled between 11-20 yards in the air and grabbed seven touchdowns.

Unlike Mims and Higgins, the LSU star lined up 78% of the time in the slot, per PFF. That might bring into question his fit with a team that routinely only uses two receivers but Gary Kubiak’s offense will also deploy tight splits and give receivers and two-way go off the line of scrimmage, allowing a player like Jefferson to get off the line of scrimmage and make plays. He was similar to Mims in his outstanding contested catch rate and at the NFL Combine he did not disappoint with a 4.43 40-yard dash. PFF’s draft guide compares him to Marvin Jones Jr.

TCU, Jalen Reagor

Reagor’s production slipped with the quarterback play at TCU in 2019, so draft experts point more toward his 71-catch 2018 season and his testing at the Combine as proof he belongs among the elites in this receiving class. Usually lack of production is concerning but per PFF only 30% of passes thrown his way were accurate last year. Despite being only 5-foot-11, he has explosiveness through the roof. Reagor jumped an NBA-level 42 inches in the vertical and ranked above the 90th percentile in 10-yard split and broad jump.

Reagor’s explosiveness opens the door to  being used as a playmaker even if he isn’t fully developed right away in the NFL.

USC, Michael Pittman Jr.

Teams entered the Combine wondering if Pittman would test well at 6-foot-4, 223-pounds but he backed his production with quality athletic scores. He ran a solid 4.52 40-yard dash and registered a 36.5-inch vertical. At USC, he racked up 101 receptions for 1,269 yards 11 touchdowns and was difficult to take down with 14 broken tackles, per PFF. Pittman proved he could be used on quick throws in order to gain yards after catch just as much as deep throws that utilize his size. The son of a former NFL player, he’s known to have high football IQ and a professional mentality that is expected to translate quickly.

Sleeper: Minnesota, Tyler Johnson

He isn’t a sleeper to Gopher fans, who watched Johnson maul his competition over the last two years to the tune of back-to-back 1,000-plus yard receiving seasons but his draft stock has been hard to pin down especially since he didn’t go through testing at the Combine. Johnson has great instincts for the position, winning contested catches and excelling with high quality route running. Those things generally translate to the NFL. Similarly to Justin Jefferson, he did the majority of his damage out of the slot, with the fifth most yards in the country coming after he lined up inside. The Vikings could draft a receiver high and potentially land Johnson later on with hopes that his ball skills and route running translated quickly. PFF compares him to Davante Adams.


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