Spotlight - WR Travis Taylor, Minnesota Vikings
Posted 8/15 by Jason Wood and Chris Smith,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
Randy Moss is now a Raider, and the mantle of the Vikings top receiving post sits unquestionably in the hands of Nate Burleson. But, as talented as Burleson may be, it's not likely we'll be seeing a "Nate Ratio" in Minnesota, and the Vikings are assuredly going to spread the ball around more in 2005 and beyond.
Luckily for Vikings fans, Daunte Culpepper remains the team's offensive linchpin. Culpepper has been one of the league's more productive QBs since becoming a starter in 2000, however last season he reached a new echelon. Culpepper's 2004 totals (4,717 yards, 69% completion and 39 TDs) would've been MVP numbers were it not for Peyton Manning's 49-TD onslaught.
So when you have an MVP candidate capable of throwing 4,000+ yards and completing 65%-70% of his passes, there is a LOT of yardage to go around beyond Burleson. The Vikings have three viable candidates to fill the other starting slot: veteran incumbent Marcus Robinson, free agent addition Travis Taylor, and top 10 rookie selection Troy Williamson.
I can't pretend to tell you exactly which of these receivers will end up being Minnesota's 2nd best receiver, but I can handicap the field based on my own observations of their talent and potential.
Marcus Robinson -- Robinson migrated to the Vikings last season after a one-year stint in Baltimore (and five seasons in Chicago before that). As a part time starter, Robinson caught 47 passes for 657 yards and 8 touchdowns. Robinson is now 30 years old and lacks some of the deep speed that made him so explosive early in his career, but as his 8 TDs in 47 catches shows, he's still able to gain separation and use his size in the red zone. With a full season under his belt, expect Robinson to play a major role. I would expect he'll be the opening game starter, if for no other reason than his experience in the offense.
Troy Williamson -- Troy Williamson, like Marcus Robinson, is a South Carolina Gamecock. Unlike Robinson, he comes into the league as a highly regarded prospect (7th overall) and certainly is the Vikings choice as the long-term answer at the position. But just because rookies like Anquan Boldin and Michael Clayton have burst onto the scene in recent years, one must remember that it's VERY rare for rookie receivers to make a significant impact. Williamson's best asset, his speed, is apparent immediately. But he is very raw, needs polish running routes and adjusting to the ball, and also must work on using his body against defenders in tight coverage. Early reports from training camp suggest Williamson has a steeper learning curve than some might have expected, and for that reason, I don't expect him to be a major fantasy factor barring injury this season.
Travis Taylor -- Judging by their respective ADP, Travis Taylor is the forgotten one among this trio. Taylor is being drafted 66th among WRs, according to Antsports, later than either Robinson or Williamson. While that's not really surprising, is it justified? Travis Taylor, like Williamson, was a highly regarded top 10 overall draft choice coming out of the SEC (Florida). Unfortunately Taylor was inconsistent despite being handed the top spot in Baltimore. In five seasons, Taylor never caught more than 61 passes for 869 yards and 6 TDs. But he also played in a terribly restrictive offensive system, and seems much better suited for the spread vertical passing attack of Minnesota. Would it be smart to bet on Taylor having a breakout year? Certainly not, but since you can draft him with one of your last picks, there's virtually no downside to rolling the dice on him.
- Daunte Culpepper is one of the league's best passers and there will be more than enough targets to assure this trio gets enough touches to make a fantasy contribution
- With Randy Moss out of the picture, the team is likely to favor a spread offensive attack, utilizing six or seven different receiving options each game
- Nate Burleson, a budding young star, will command the attention of opposing defenses' top corners
- Marcus Robinson (age and explosiveness), Travis Taylor (inconsistency despite being a starter) and Troy Williamson (raw rookie) all have major question marks that limit their upside objectively
- New Vikings OC S. Loney has promised a re-commitment to the running game, which could mean fewer targets particularly for the non starters among this trio
Daunte Culpepper needs outlets for his 4,000+ passing yards and 30 (or so) TD passes. Nate Burleson is the top option, but who gets the other starting job? Officially the competition will span the entirety of training camp. Unofficially, I expect that Marcus Robinson will get the opening nod, but Travis Taylor will end up being the starter for much of the season. Troy Williamson is the clear cut target in dynasty leagues, but I would avoid him in redrafts. Draft accordingly.
Chris Smith's Thoughts
The trade of Randy Moss to the Oakland Raiders has left an unsettled receiver situation in Minnesota for the first time since the 1987 season (the year before WR Anthony Carter became a legitimate # 1 receiver). There is no guarantee that 3rd-year receiver Nate Burleson is ready to blossom as the go-to receiver but he is clearly the # 1 receiver and will be one of the starters in week one. However the battle for # 2 is anything but settled and it will be a great battle between Marcus Robinson, Travis Taylor and rookie 1st round pick Troy Williamson.
A Look at each of the 3 receivers
Robinson looked like the next big thing during the 1999 season when he finished with 1,400 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. He was fifth at the receiver position that year and it appeared that the sky was the limit. Unfortunately he ran into serious injury woes and fell off the map for the next three years. He had a couple of good games for the Baltimore Ravens in 2003 including a 131-yard / 4 touchdown performance against the Seahawks and finally put together a good season last year for the Vikings. He only caught 47 passes in 2004 but gained 657 yards and scored an impressive eight touchdowns. He is only thirty years old this season and could surprise with another season similar to a year ago.
Taylor was an early pick for the Baltimore Ravens that never developed into a solid starting receiver. He had games where he displayed his talent such as a two-touchdown performance in 2003 and a couple of 7 catch games over his five year career. By all accounts he has had a tremendous offseason with the Vikings, making great grabs and showcasing surprising quickness. However all of his escapades were done without pads and defenders cracking him hard and his downfall has always been a reluctance to go across the middle and pay a price to make a big catch. His best season was in 2002 when he caught 61 passes for 869 yards and scored 6 times. He finished 23rd overall at the receiver position that year and appeared on the verge of becoming an impact fantasy player. He is hoping to find his ĎAí game with a new club that is known for passing the football and he will finally have a legitimate star at quarterback throwing him the ball.
Williamson has a ton of natural ability and great athleticism but by all accounts, he really isnít ready to step into the starting lineup yet. In an article featured on our News Blogger, Kevin Seifert of the Sporting News talked about the inconsistent first few months Williamson has suffered through. Williamson has the knack for making spectacular grabs look easy and then dropping passes that hit him right between the numbers. His route-running prowess has improved over the months but still isnít at the level it needs to be in order to beat NFL cornerbacks. However his speed cannot be taught and he could emerge in a role similar to what Randy Moss did as a rookie when he stepped onto the field as a third/slot receiver and created mismatches against opposing defenses. He may not start but could catch several long touchdowns in a limited role this season.
- High upside thanks to good athleticism, quickness and size
- Will play within an explosive offensive system for the first time as a professional
- Has shown flashes of talent during his career
- Potential has not equaled production. In fact it hasnít been close. He has caught only 204 passes in five years
- He hasnít scored a touchdown in twenty consecutive games
- He has the reputation of a softy during the game and hasnít been able to make the tough catch over the middle
The starting job opposite from Nate Burleson in 2005 will likely come down to a battle between veterans Marcus Robinson and Travis Taylor however donít be surprised to see Williamson bypass the loser of that battle to come in as the third/slot receiver to give him work in three and four receiver sets. Williamsonís speed alone will create problems for defenses when he lines up in the slot and his lack of polish wonít affect him as much in that role. He could score a few long touchdowns and bring some excitement to the field but donít expect a large number of receptions for him as a rookie.
At this time, I think you have to give the nod to Robinson in 2005. He already has a year with the Vikings under his belt in which he caught 8 touchdowns, he has proven he can get the job done in the past and has a nice mix of skills. Taylor on the other side has lots of potential but has done little over the years with the Ravens. Part of his disappointing career has to go to the poor quarterbacking situation in Baltimore over the years but you canít blame a quarterback when he throws a perfect pass over the middle only to have Taylor Ďalligator armí it in order to avoid a collision. If he can become a tougher player, he could emerge as a nice fantasy sleeper this season. One of these receivers is going to catch 50+ receptions this season and it appears that Robinson is in the best position to do so for the Vikings.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
Williamson, Taylor and Robinson are all fantastic values. Something's not jiving with the rankings of these players relative to the passing yards projected for Culpepper. Even if we give Burleson 1000 yards, there is still another 3000 that Culpepper is supposed to throw somewhere. Either Culpepper's projection is way off or the other WRs are going to greatly outplay their projections.
As someone who has been to every Gator home game the last 6 years or so, I can safely say that I never thought [Travis Taylor] should've been a top 10 pick when he came out. He was a good WR in a great system that saw his draft value skyrocket after one big game (the Citrus Bowl where he and Plax lit it up). Him becoming a huge bust didn't surprise me in the least.
Travis Taylor - Will emerge from training camp as the second wide receiver in the Vikings offense. Pending injuries, Taylor will fend of Marcus Robinson and most likely Troy Williamson.
Marcus Robinson - Apparently the tread is thin and Robinson no longer has the gifts to keep a hungry Taylor off the field. Robinson's true competition will be to hold down the #3 position from Troy Williamson, but Robinson is doomed to fail. He should maintain some looks in the red zone. Robinson is in the last year of his Viking contract.
Troy Williamson - No chance to beat Burleson out of a job and very unlikely to knock Taylor out of a job this season. By default and being a #1 pick, it would make sense that Williamson will get preferential treatment and it will be at the expense of Marcus Robinson.
Travis Taylor Projections
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