Thursday, November 8, 2007

Don't Sleep on the Kid

"As with all the top receivers in the draft, the Vikings could be in the running for any of them. And while fans shudder at the thought of another semi-inexperienced South Carolina wideout, Rice could be a good fit at the top of the second round. He'd give the team a red zone threat and a quality player that should develop."

-Adam Doctolero from KFAN dot com's 2007 Draft Page

Lost in the hysteria that is Adrian Peterson has been the emergence of rookie wide receiver Sidney Rice as the legitimate threat the Vikings have been searching for ever since saying goodbye to superstar receiver Randy Moss.

Sure Peterson deserves the headlines for single handedly carrying the Vikings to two of their three wins, but I think most people would be surprised to know that Rice is tied for third among all rookie wideouts in catches with 18.

The guy he's tied with? None other than super-freak Calvin Johnson, the consensus "best player available" in the 2007 NFL Draft and second overall pick by the Detroit Lions. In all, six wide receivers were taken before Rice in the 2007 Draft

Rice's 212 receiving yards also place him fourth among rookie pass catchers and his two touchdowns trail only Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe for the rookie lead.

What's most impressive about Rice's performance thus far has been his ability to adjust and adapt to what has been a revolving door at quarterback for the Vikings. Trust me, going from the rocket arm of Tarvaris Jackson to the wet noodle of Brooks Bollinger is no easy task, but Rice has taken it all in stride.

We shouldn't be too surprised however that Rice has been able to succeed despite not knowing who will be throwing him the ball. In his two seasons at the University of South Carolina, Rice caught passes from five different quarterbacks and yet managed to haul in 23 touchdowns and 2,233 total receiving yards.

Somewhat surprising has been Rice's quick adjustment to the physical nature of the NFL. Coming out of college after his redshirt sophomore season at South Carolina, Rice has answered the questions about his toughness and slight stature and has drawn rave reviews from his coaches for his downfield blocking that has helped to spring Peterson for long gains.

Of course it hasn't been all good for the 21-year-old Rice who has struggled at times with dropping some very catchable balls and at times running less-than-stellar routes which has occasionally made it tough for him to get open.

To his credit though, the team's youngest player seems to making the adjustments necessary to take advantage of his big time skills. His 40-yard touchdown catch last week was the longest of the season for the rookie and showed off his ability to make plays down the field; a trait seemingly lost on the Vikings' other receivers.

Having already emerged as the team's best and most explosive option at the wide receiver position, Rice's continued development alongside Peterson should give Vikings fans plenty to look forward to in the coming years.

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