Marcus Robinson Impact report
After a last second heartbreak against the Arizona Cardinals in the 2003 season finale, head coach Mike Tice and the Minnesota Vikings have spent much of the 2004 offseason overhauling their 23rd ranked defense. Offensively the Vikings have been one of the most explosive teams in the NFL over the past few seasons and 2004 should be no exception. However, since future Hall-of-Famer WR Cris Carter retired the Vikings have struggled to find a consistent weapon to play opposite of All-World WR Randy Moss.
Other than Moss, the wide receiving corps was almost invisible in 2003. No wide receiver other then Moss recorded more than 29 receptions, with only RB Moe Williams (65) and TE Jim Kleinsasser (46) doing so. The huge disparity in receptions between Moss and the rest of the receiving corps made finding a consistent No. 2 wide receiver a top offseason priority. The Vikings may have finally found a player with the ability to complement Moss in WR Marcus Robinson.
During the brief period when the Baltimore Ravens believed they had obtained Pro Bowl WR Terrell Owens from the San Francisco 49ers, the Vikings caught the Ravens sleeping. The Vikings signed Ravens WR Marcus Robinson to a four-year, $9.4 million contract with a $2 million signing bonus.
Robinson, originally a fourth-round selection of the Chicago Bears in the 1997 NFL Draft, signed with the Ravens in May 2003 shortly following his release from the Bears in early April. After a rocky start in Baltimore, he started to regain confidence and display the talent that earned him a Pro Bowl berth following the 1999 season with the Bears. At first glance, his 2003 production for the Ravens appears average (31 receptions for 451 yards and 6 touchdowns), but upon closer inspection it is easy to see that his production increased down the stretch (22 receptions for 375 yards and 6 touchdowns over the final five regular season games). For the season, Robinson saw action in 15 games, including five as a starter. His best game by far was the miraculous 44-41 comeback victory over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 12. During the game, Robinson recorded 7 receptions for 131 yards (18.7 yards per catch) and 4 touchdowns. More importantly for Robinson, he finished the season without major injury.
The 6-3, 215 pound Robinson burst onto the scene in 1999 for the Bears, after two seasons of injury and inactivity where he only saw action in only three total games. During that season, the talented Robinson developed into one of the NFL's most effective deep threats. Using his great combination of size and speed, he exploded for 84 receptions, 1,400 yards (16.7 ypc) and 9 touchdowns. He was voted to his first Pro Bowl and the Bears rewarded their Pro Bowler with a lucrative contract extension. Unfortunately he was never able to regain the form he displayed in 1999 primarily due to injuries.
Injuries not only plagued Robinson during his tenure at Chicago, but a lack of a superstar QB throwing to him also hurt his value. Names of QBs Jim Miller, Cade McNown and Shane Matthews do not resound as Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks. QB Chris Chandler, a Pro Bowl QB in 1997 and 1998 with the Atlanta Falcons, arrived in Chicago in 2002. However, by that time, Robinson was the No. 4 receiver behind WRs Marty Booker, Dez White and David Terrell, with the demotion having a strong effect on his overall numbers and the aforementioned injuries.
The Vikings have been searching for a wide receiver to compliment Moss since the end of the 2001 season. In 2002, the Vikings signed free agent WRs Derrick Alexander (Kansas City Chiefs) and D'Wayne Bates (Chicago Bears). Neither wide receiver was able to become a consistent threat opposite Moss and have since been released. If Robinson can stay healthy, he and Moss could form one of the most dynamic wide receiver tandems in the NFL.
The Vikings are high on WR Nate Burleson, a third-round selection in the 2003 NFL Draft, but he may not be ready to assume the position opposite Moss in 2004. He is a polished route runner and talented receiver; with a little more experience he could eventually develop into an effective No. 2 receiver. His 29 receptions in 2003 ranked fourth on the Vikings. The explosive Kelly Campbell is a perfect slot receiver. He is lightning fast but is limited by his diminutive 5-10, 171-pound frame. WRs Keenan Howry and Kenny Clark round out the Vikings' receiving corps. The addition of Robinson gives the Vikings a deep group of wide receivers that have the ability to develop into one of the best in the league.
"It gives us an opportunity to stretch the field more with a veteran who has done it before in this league at a high level," Vikings head coach Mike Tice said of Robinson. Tice, who labeled Robinson as the best wide receiver available this offseason, was ecstatic about the signing of Robinson and the Vikings' offseason thus far. The team re-signed TE Jim Kleinsasser, a vital part of their offense, and was also able to land CB Antoine Winfield (Buffalo Bills) as an unrestricted free agent.
Considering the lack of a consistent No. 2 receiver and a rash of injuries to different skill position players, Moss had an incredible 2003 campaign, recording career highs in receptions (111) and yards (1,632) while matching his rookie number of 17 touchdowns.
Vikings QB Daunte Culpepper returned to form in 2003, having arguably his best season in Minnesota despite missing two games after he fractured three transverse process bones in his lower back early in the season. The five-year veteran showed great leadership throughout the 2003 season and is clearly one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL. Much traveled QB Gus Frerotte played well during Culpepper's absence and is firmly entrenched as the No. 2 quarterback for the Vikings in 2004.
Frerotte is a consummate reserve, capable of stepping in and playing well when necessary, but not the type of player who would create any type of quarterback controversy. Frerotte relieved Culpepper in Week 3 and led the team to three straight victories. Frerotte played great in those games and his performance gives the team some security, should Culpepper get hurt again.
The Vikings have done a good job this offseason addressing their defense, which has been their Achilles' heel over the past few seasons. Coach Tice replaced defensive coordinator George O'Leary, who left to become head coach at the University of Central Florida, with former Buffalo Bills and New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.
After acquiring prized CB Antoine Winfield and S Tyrone Carter (New York Jets) as free agents to solidify their secondary, the Vikings struck it rich during the 2004 NFL Draft. Highly regarded DE Kenechi Udeze from the University of Southern California, who most experts considered a sure-fire top-10 selection, slid to the Vikings at No. 20 due to concerns over a shoulder injury. His selection was followed closely by the selection of LB Dontarrious Thomas in the second round. Both players possess big play potential and should immediately help upgrade the Vikings' porous defense in 2004.
Although he has lost some explosiveness at this stage of his career, Robinson may be the perfect No. 2 receiver for the Vikings. His stats and the contract he signed certainly indicate he will fall into the starting receiver spot opposite Moss. As a No. 2 wideout, Robinson will finally have a Pro Bowl-caliber QB throwing to him in Culpepper.
In fantasy leagues, Robinson's stock jumped after his four-TD game against the Seahawks last year. While he failed to equal those marks - and quite frankly, what receiver could? - Robinson became more consistent following his career game.
Robinson's stock now is worthy of a No. 3 spot on fantasy rosters simply because of the offense he's joining in Minnesota. If Robinson and Culpepper can stay healthy, the trio of Moss, Culpepper and Robinson could be productive.
When it s all said and done, you ll have to admit we re number 1!