An old adage is "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
The first two picks of the Vikings 2007 NFL draft bucked this sentiment as Minnesota sought high-impact but possibly high-risk playmakers.
Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and University of South Carolina wide receiver Sidney Rice may be the second coming of Eddie George and Randy Moss. Or they may end up reminding Vikings fans of oft-injured Ravens back Willis McGahee and the enigmatic Troy Williamson.
That's the risk and reward the Vikings took in this year's draft.
Taking a page out of last season's Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints, the Minnesota Vikings drafted Peterson with the seventh pick of the draft to go with a two-man backfield.
Firsthand perspective on Sidney RIce
"Sidney Rice is a great player. I don't know what happened to make him drop him drop so far. He was by far and away one of the top players in the SEC last season. He's big, tall and smooth. It's hard to shut him down. And he's not a product of Steve Spurrier's system. South Carolina wasn't a good team, but Rice had NFL talent."
Perry Williams, LSU and SEC fan
Firsthand perspective on Adrian Peterson
"When I saw Adrian Peterson take on Texas, I saw somebody special. Until he got hurt, I thought he was a once-in-a-decade type college running back. I can definitely see the health concerns, but I think once he learns how to handle contact better and gets lower to the ground, he'll be become a top-five running back in the next couple years in the NFL."
Faizan Subhani, University of Texas and Big 12 fan
Peterson will compliment running back Chester Taylor who showed signs of wear in his first year as a starter.
"Most teams in this league get in the playoffs have two first-class running backs," said Rick Spielman, Vikings vice president of player personnel.
Despite issues stemming from a collarbone injury Peterson suffered Oct. 14 vs. Iowa State, Spielman felt Peterson's health was not an issue after the Vikings had done their medical evaluation before the draft, including an X-Ray and CT scan.
"We had guys we had taken off the board from a medical standpoint. But as you can see, he wasn't one of our concerns," Spielman said.
"You know, my collarbone, I would say it's 90 percent healed," Peterson said. "I don't see it stopping me from being prepared for the season."
Vikings coach Brad Childress is excited about having a two-back field.
"It is important to change-up with the defense, show different talents, different speeds, particularly when they settled on the tempo of one guy," he said. "And you keep guys fresh and are able to sustain that throughout the game."
Peterson ranks third in Oklahoma school history in rushing yards with 4,045 yards, but a better barometer is that in three bowl games, Peterson has averaged 22.7 carries, 81 yards, one touchdown and 1.67 receptions per game.
Against top-25 opponents, including bowl games, Peterson averaged 25.3 carries, 126 yards, one touchdown, 0.7 receptions per game and no fumbles. In fact Peterson has never fumbled in his college career.
He has gained more than 70 percent of his total yardage after contact. But his running style has come under fire for being direct and upright.
Both Childress and Peterson shrug off criticism.
"Is he a tall-runner? By nature he's in the six-foot area," Childress said. "Can he get his hands down more? He can do that."
"People had their knocks on Eric Dickerson running upright. (My style) is the exact same, and if you pull up his name, he is one of the greatest running backs to hit the field," Peterson said.
In the second round, the Vikings traded their 41st pick for Atlanta's 44th pick and a fourth-rounder. Instead of choosing a consensus pick like University of Southern California's Dwayne Jarrett or Steve Smith, the Vikings took Rice.
"The way we had our board stacked, we had five players we would be happy with no matter what. We stacked them in order. As it came down, we decided we could move back," Spielman said. "We knew Indy and Detroit weren't going to take a receiver so we were able to pick up another fourth rounder, knowing we're going to have our choice of receivers. We felt Sidney Rice was the best receiver on the board.
"He has explosiveness when he goes up for deep balls in the red zone."
Being from South Carolina, Rice draws immediate comparisons to receiver Troy Williamson, who was drafted in the first round by the Vikings from South Carolina in 2005.
Childress and Spielman describe Rice as being a multi-position receiver, running a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash at 6-foot-3 and possessing a 38 1/2-inch vertical jump.
In comparison, Williamson, 6-1, ran 4.38 in the 40-yard dash and had a 37-inch vertical jump before his NFL career.
Never teammates, Rice met Williamson briefly on a campus visit in 2004. They have maintained a close relationship, to the point of Williamson calling him recently to wish him good luck with the draft.
Rice played only two seasons of college football before coming out for the draft. He was motivated to go pro in order to support his mother who broke her back in 1991 lifting furniture.
"I'm going to give it 100 percent," Rice said about joining the team. "I'm going to fight for a starting position."
When asked about his strengths, Rice responded about being able to make plays on the ball and likened his receiving style to Arizona wideout Larry Fitzgerald.
In two bowl games, Rice averaged 10 receptions, 165 yards and one touchdown per game. Against top-25 opponents. including bowl games, he averaged 6.37 receptions, 96 yards, .55 touchdowns and no fumbles. Like Peterson, he never has fumbled in his college career.
The knock on Rice is that he is a product of Steve Spurrier's passing system.
Childress is not concerned, inexplicably likening Rice to New England Patriot and former Florida wide receiver Reche Caldwell, whose career high in six NFL seasons is 760 receiving yards and who dropped several key passes in last year's AFC Championship game.
As evidenced in the Under Armour commercial that played countless times during the NFL draft, Viking fans have to wonder if Childress was on the line when Spurrier is talking on the phone and says, "Hello. This is head ball coach. He ran a what? Hey, I told you he could really go. Yeah. Click-Clack."
While Peterson may have health issues and Rice will have to shake the label of being the beneficiary of the Spurrier system, a major asset in the Vikings' favor is that both will come extremely motivated to play.
Peterson will want to prove, like Reggie Bush last year, that he was deserving of a higher spot in the draft. And as Rice came out early to support his mother, it is in his best interest to give every other Vikings' receiver a run for their money and establish himself as a premier receiver.
TREVOR WILLIAMS, sports copy editor, may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5866.
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