The Minnesota Vikings agreed to trade wide receiver Troy Williamson to the Jacksonville Jaguars in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. With Williamson gone, the Vikings quickly moved to address their need at the position by signing a six-year deal with free-agent wide receiver Bernard Berrian (Chicago Bears).
Williamson was the Vikings' first-round draft pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, out of the University of South Carolina. Williamson had his worst year in 2007, with only 18 receptions for 240 yards and only one touchdown. He is one of the fastest receivers in the league, but he has been plagued by dropped passes throughout his career.
The addition of Berrian should give the Vikings a go-to receiver, something the team has been lacking since receiver Randy Moss (New England Patriots) was traded after the 2004 season. Berrian is coming off his best season as a pro, with a career-high 71 receptions for 951 yards and five touchdowns. Berrian will join a receiving corps that includes former Bears teammate Bobby Wade and promising second-year wideout Sidney Rice. Wade had a decent season in 2007 and Rice showed flashes of talent for upside in the future. Last season, Wade had a team-high 54 receptions for 647 yards and three touchdowns, while Rice hauled in 31 passes for 396 yards and four scores. Berrian is expected to become the team's No. 1 receiver with his ability to make big plays downfield.
The Vikings are serious about bolstering their receiving game and balancing it with their already potent running game. "We have the running game where we want, and you don't want to be one-dimensional in this league because they can gang up on you whether you're only passing it or running it, so this will help us average that out," head coach Brad Childress said. The Vikings led the league in rushing in 2007 but have not had even a 700-yard receiver since the 2004 season.
The pickup of Berrian might not be the last receiver the team adds to strengthen their offense. The Vikings could target another free-agent wide receiver on the market, or select one in the upcoming 2008 NFL Draft.
The list of capable free-agent wide receivers is rather thin. Some possible options for the Vikings include receivers D.J. Hackett (Seattle Seahawks), Bryant Johnson (Arizona Cardinals) and Eric Moulds (Tennessee Titans). They also have the option of re-signing unrestricted free-agent wide receiver Robert Ferguson.
Hackett could be a good fit with the Vikings offense if he can remain healthy. Moulds is well past his prime and could be forced to retire if he doesn't find work soon. Hackett seems like the best possible fit of the current options. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Vikings re-signed Ferguson because of his downfield blocking abilities coupled with the team's dominant running game, as well as his special teams play. In 2007 with the Vikings, he had 32 reception for 391 yards and one touchdown. Johnson could be looked at, too. He hasn't garnered a lot of attention on the open market, so he could come on the cheap at this point.
Minnesota also has the choice of selecting a young receiver in the 2008 NFL Draft, although it is highly unlikely until the later rounds. The Vikings most pressing need at the moment is defensive line and defensive back help. With nearly all the effective defensive lineman already plucked from free agency, it seems highly possible the Vikings will select a defensive end in the first round of the draft.
If the Vikings pick up another solid wide receiver via free agency, they will almost certainly address their needs on defense in the draft. On the other hand, they could target a wide receiver as early as the second round. A few candidates could be University of California wide receiver DeSean Jackson or Michigan State wide receiver Devin Thomas. Jackson's speed would give the Vikings some added downfield help, and he would be an upgrade to their return game. The pickup of Thomas in the early rounds of the 2008 NFL Draft could also make the Vikings' passing game much more consistent.
Berrian's fantasy value could drop a bit in his new home. He figures to get more looks, but quarterback Tarvaris Jackson remains a big question mark. Jackson has not proven himself to be a consistent passer in the NFL. The Vikings' West Coast offense and emphasis on the running game could also hurt Berrian's fantasy value. At this point view him as a solid No. 3, but don't count on him to build on last year's numbers. Beyond Berrian, Rice could be a borderline No. 4 receiver with some upside - particularly in touchdown-only leagues. As for Wade, he's someone to monitor on the waiver wire, and he could get a bit of a bump in point-per-reception formats.
About Keith Hernandez
Keith, an editor with KFFL, joined the team as a Hot off the Wire analyst in 2008 and has been playing fantasy sports since 2005. He is involved in MLB, NFL and NASCAR content. He graduated from the University of California-San Diego in 2005 with a B.A. in Communications and was a four-year starter as a member of the baseball program.
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