With the NFL Draft and free agency having passed, rosters around the league are generally set. As the Minnesota Vikings OTAs and mini-camps have concluded ahead of training camp, players at every position are working hard to stand out. While they are still running around without pads, the players who can make a good impression now put themselves in better positions to succeed. We will be analyzing each player at each position, from veteran stars to unheralded occasional free agents. Today, the focus is on the wide receivers.
Minnesota Vikings Wide Receiver Depth Chart Projections
Looking Back on Last Season
The Vikings have not had a 1,000 yard receiver since 2009 when Sidney Rice was catching passes from Brett Favre. From 2009 through 2015, only one player reached 900 receiving yards– Percy Harvin in 2011. Last season, the Vikings had two wide receivers reach the 900 yard mark. Former fifth round pick Stefon Diggs earned 903 yards and three scores despite missing three games and playing injured in several more. Adam Thielen, a former DII player and undrafted free agent, led the team with 967 yards and was second with five touchdowns.
It is ironic that a former fifth round pick and an overlooked undrafted free agent would lead the wide receivers despite there being two first round picks in the room. Both Laquon Treadwell and Cordarrelle Patterson did not live up to expectations after being drafted in the first round in 2016 and 2013 respectively. Treadwell was expected to be a number one target, yet struggled adapting to the NFL and was injured late in the season. He only managed one catch for 15 yards.
After a spectacular rookie season, Patterson fell out of favor in Norv Turner‘s offense over the next two seasons. Luckily for him, after Turner’s resignation midway through last season, he saw more usage. New coordinator Pat Shurmur used Patterson to great effect in the short passing game. He had one of his best seasons, with 453 receiving yards and two touchdowns as the third receiver. Patterson also continued his dominance as a kick returner, but it was not enough for the team to resign him. He now will play for the Oakland Raiders.
Charles Johnson, who showed playmaking potential in 2014, was a practical non-factor in the offense. The team tried to involve him early on, but his inability to make contested catches limited his use. After massing just 232 yards, he was not tendered as a restricted free agent. He will now play for the Carolina Panthers.
Jarius Wright had his worst season as a pro. The former fourth round pick in 2012 had only 67 receiving yards and one touchdown in a meaningless week 17 game. After being a mainstay for several years, he seemed to fall out of favor in the offense.
Moritz Böhringer, the first player drafted directly from Europe, seemed to struggle in adapting to the NFL. He reportedly threw up in his first NFL practice and did not have a single catch in pre-season. He spent the year on the practice squad.
Local product Isaac Fruechte was activated from the practice squad late last season. He saw one target and made a single special teams tackle.
The Roster Today
While the Vikings have kept most of last year’s receiving room intact, they have brought in several new players who will be fighting for a roster spot. Thielen and Diggs still headline the group, and Treadwell seems to have the inside track to being the number three receiver. After these three, the group is almost entirely up in the air. Up to three more players will likely earn roster spots, and up to two more can find work on the practice squad. The biggest change to this group is likely the loss of longtime coach George Stewart. Stewart was with the Vikings for ten seasons, but will now coach special teams for the LA Chargers. Former Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell will now lead the group.
Stefon Diggs is very fun to watch. If beautiful routes, superb athleticism, and swagger were the way success is measured in the NFL, Diggs might be the top receiver in the game. As it stands, Diggs is still a top 15 talent as a pass catcher. Given targets, he can explode, as he did last season with three games of 100+ receiving yards and two games with 13 catches. Diggs is dynamic. He can play in the slot or out wide.
His biggest problem is a seeming inability to be healthy for 16 games. Diggs played in 13 games last year. If he had been healthy in all 13 he would have been a 1,000 yard receiver. But after week four, he admitted to struggling for the rest of the year. He has recommitted himself to staying healthy but only time will tell if the former fifth round pick can stay healthy for a complete season.
Adam Thielen has defied expectations every year of his NFL career. A local DII player, walk on, practice squad player, special teamer, occasional contributor, and eventual full blown star, Thielen earned a new contract this off-season. Like Diggs, Thielen can play both inside and outside. His has shown great ability to make contested catches along the sideline and has great hands. He is also bigger and faster than he is given credit for.
Players, coaches and fans have doubted his abilities his whole career. Now, still with a chip on his shoulder, Thielen has a chance to be one half of the next dynamic duo to take the NFL by storm.
After one of the worst rookie seasons in recent memory, Treadwell was an afterthought to many fans this off-season. No one doubted his work ethic or drive, but his limited speed and ability to separate seemed to limit his potential.
So far this offseason, Treadwell has impressed coaches, fans, and players. He seems to be more confident, in better shape, and ready to contribute to the offense however he can.
Treadwell is still young, just 22 years old, and he still could be recovering from a gruesome leg injury suffered in college. This season is his chance to prove his critics wrong. While he will likely not be a number one target, he still be a solid contributor.
At this point it seems Jarius Wright may be the number four wide receiver by default. The longest tenured Vikings receiver, Wright still can contribute as a slot option. After gimmick use over the last two years, there is the question of whether the team wants to use him. However, until someone else steps up to take his spot, Wright cannot be placed any lower than this.
A fifth round rookie from UCF, Rodney Adams is a great athlete who returned kicks and ran a limited route tree in college. He is long but light, and will probably need to bulk up at the next level.
Adams was very impressive in Vikings spring workouts and practices. He showed route running ability he rarely used in college, especially deep. Adams should be able to contribute right away in special teams and as a diminishing player on offense. He could quickly earn himself a larger role with a strong preseason and training camp.
Michael Floyd is on the roster today, but it is anyone’s guess if he still will be tomorrow. The Minnesota native has had a troubled career as he has struggled with alcohol abuse. The former first round pick had a great career with the Arizona Cardinals before being cut following a DUI last season. He played briefly for the New England Patriots, and was signed by Minnesota after the draft.
Floyd was able to get his house arrest transferred from Arizona to Minnesota so he could participate in team activities. He is reportedly living with former Notre Dame teammate Kyle Rudolph and was impressing this spring.
Unfortunately, late last week, Floyd tested positive for alcohol. The team has made a statement but has not addressed the issue with a press conference or roster move. Floyd is claiming he failed the test due to drinking large amounts of Kombucha tea drinks, which contain traces amounts of alcohol.
The validity of his claims are unknown, but right now it seems unlikely Floyd will be on the roster at the start of training camp.
A seventh round pick this year, Stacy Coley has been plagued by work ethic questions throughout his college career. He is very talented, but after already missing practice several times this off-season, he is already behind in integrating himself into the offense.
If Coley can prove that his is able to work for a roster spot, he could be a solid contributor. At this point though, a practice squad spot seems more likely.
Best known as the brother of the Buffalo Bills second round pick, Zay Jones, Cayleb Jones is still relatively unknown to Vikings fans. A big receiver at 6’2″, Jones has shown good ability to high point passes in the off-season. Of all the receivers at the bottom of the roster, it is Jones who has stood out the most. He has regularly been featured on Vikings.com official content, both in highlights and photos.
Jones is still a long shot to make the Vikings roster, but football is clearly in his blood. Even if he does not earn a spot on Minnesota’s 53 man roster, he could earn a chance with another team or on a practice squad.
The Vikings have three other receivers on the roster. Moritz Böhringer and Isaac Fruechte were on the practice squad last season, and R.J. Shelton is a rookie from Michigan State. Böhringer is a fan favorite due to his unconventional path to the NFL and fantastic measurables, but has a long way to go to prove he belongs in the NFL. Fruechte is also well known in the community after growing up in the state and playing collegiately at Minnesota. He has shown flashes of talent but struggled with drops last preseason. Shelton increased his production every season in college, but he has been out with injury for much of the offseason workouts.
Every fan and analyst can agree that which three of the Vikings 11 wide outs are locks to make the roster. After that, everyone has their own favorite combination of players. Many fans overlook or overrate certain players for little or no reason. Local players are always fan favorites, and a good story will always draw in Vikings fans.
Luckily, whichever way the wide receiver corps is finalized, the Vikings are in a better position than they have in recent years. They have two emerging stars, some solid veterans, and every player has a chip on their shoulder. Whether by accident or design, this is a group which will be playing every game to prove someone wrong. There is no better mindset for finding success in the NFL.