Ever since Randy Moss left town following the 2004 season, the Minnesota Vikings have thoroughly lacked production at the wide receiver position. Sidney Rice‘s 2009 season and Percy Harvin‘s four-year stint represented bright spots, but other than that, Minnesota has tried to scrape by without much from the group.
That narrative appears to be hanging in the balance as the 2017 season comes to fruition.
Third-year receiver Stefon Diggs flashed brilliance in his sophomore campaign, hauling in seven or more passes in six of the 13 games he suited up for. Additionally, Diggs posted three 100-yard games and 13 catches in two different games.
Diggs’ precise route-running and lightning acceleration paired perfectly with the emergence of Adam Thielen, a former undrafted free agent entering his fifth season with the Vikings. The Detroit Lakes, Minnesota native fell just 33 yards short of the first 1,000-yard receiving season from a Vikings receiver since Rice in 2009.
Thielen added three 100-yard games of his own in 2016, including a 202-yard outburst at Lambeau Field in a Week 16 loss to the Packers that included two touchdowns.
Like Diggs, Thielen also possesses savvy route-running skills and showed a unique ability to make the spectacular catch down the stretch in his fourth season. Together, Diggs and Thielen lead a young corps of receivers oozing with potential heading into training camp.
TRAINING CAMP INVITES
|Name||2016 Stats||College Attended||Years of Experience|
|Stefon Diggs||84 rec, 903 yds, 3 TD||Maryland||2|
|Adam Thielen||69 rec, 967 yds, 5 TD||Minnesota State-Mankato||4|
|Laquon Treadwell||1 rec, 15 yds||Mississippi||1|
|Jarius Wright||11 rec, 67 yds||Arkansas||5|
|Michael Floyd||37 rec, 488 yds, 5 TD||Notre Dame||5|
|Rodney Adams||N/A||South Florida||0|
|Isaac Freuchte||0 rec, 0 yds||Minnesota||2|
|Moritz Bohringer||0 rec, 0 yds||N/A||1|
|Cayleb Jones||0 rec, 0 yds||Arizona||1|
|RJ Shelton||N/A||Michigan State||0|
Minnesota lost its No. 3 and No. 4 receivers from a season ago — Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson, respectively — to free agency this offseason. The departures left some question marks in regards to the depth behind Diggs and Thielen.
Laquon Treadwell will be the center of attention once again in Mankato. The 2016 first-round pick saw very little action as a rookie, whether due to injuries or other reasons. Nonetheless, the loss of Patterson and Johnson suddenly has him poised to be the team’s No. 3 receiver come Week 1, as long as he proves it at camp.
Vikings general manager hedged his Treadwell bet by bringing in Michael Floyd on a low-risk, high-reward deal. Fresh off a Super Bowl title with New England, Floyd is expected to compete with Treadwell for outside reps in Minnesota’s three-receiver sets. Floyd is facing a four-game suspension to begin the 2017 season stemming from a DUI last season and a recent breach of his house arrest.
Jarius Wright appears to be the forgotten man among Minnesota’s pass-catchers. Wright has been a consistent and trustworthy chain-mover throughout his entire career out of his niche slot position. However, both former offensive coordinator Norv Turner and newly-promoted offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur used Wright either sparingly or not at all in the 2016 season.
Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley, two of Minnesota’s selections in the 2017 NFL Draft, figure to compete for a role in the receiver rotation and in the special teams depth chart as return men as the Vikings try to replace arguably the best kick returner of all-time.
The top of the depth chart won’t change much from 2016 to 2017, but all kinds of new faces will settle into new roles behind Diggs and Thielen in 2017.
Adam Thielen: The 2013 undrafted free agent recently signed a 3-year extension with the Vikings in which he can earn $27 million with incentives. His coming out party in 2016 wasn’t a fluke; he has game, and it wouldn’t be a shock if he passed Diggs as the No. 1 option for Bradford in 2017.
Stefon Diggs: The only thing holding Diggs back from becoming a star in the NFL is health. Nagging injuries have affected his availability in each of his first two seasons. When he’s on the field and healthy, Diggs’ production matches some of the top receivers in the NFL. Not a whole lot of doubt about this one.
Laquon Treadwell: He’s a former first-round pick. He’ll be on the roster. Hopefully, he shows more reason than that to keep him on the roster during training camp.
Michael Floyd (following four-game suspension): Minnesota’s support of Floyd during the whole kombucha tea fiasco sends a clear message that the organization will go to great ends to make this work. Barring another royal screw-up, Floyd will be on the roster come Week 5.
Rodney Adams: Cordarrelle Patterson’s departure lifts Adams to “roster lock” status. Adams will enter training camp as the favorite to land the kick returner job; enough reason to keep him on the 53-man roster.
Stacy Coley: The seventh-round pick appears like a perfect practice squad candidate. However, Coley’s size and skillset is quite similar to Diggs’ when he was a rookie in 2015. Coley has the quickness and fluid route-running to mirror that of Diggs. If Coley can put the concerns about his work ethic to rest, he has a real shot to not just make the roster, but find a role in Pat Shurmur’s offense.
Jarius Wright: The veteran slot man is slowly being pushed out of Minnesota. Simply put, his niche style of play is no longer needed. Diggs, Thielen, Adams, and Coley are all quite comfortable working from the slot while offering other contributions on offense. Meanwhile, Wright’s skill set is limited to slot duties, though he has always been effective in that role.
Isaac Fruechte: This is Fruechte’s last chance to make a 53-man roster, whether it be in Minnesota or elsewhere. With Floyd serving a suspension to begin the season, Fruechte’s size and playing style might be a solid fit to fill in as a sixth receiver until Floyd returns.
Moritz Böhringer, Cayleb Jones and R.J. Shelton: Each of these guys are vying for practice squad spots. Böhringer, the incredibly raw but phenomenally athletic German, earned a practice squad spot a year ago.
BATTLE TO WATCH
WR3: Laquon Treadwell vs. Michael Floyd
There are a few solid options for the “battle to watch” out of the wide receiver group, but this matchup will generate the most headlines. Treadwell has arguably the most to prove out of anyone on the roster in training camp this year. Can he stay healthy enough to be a viable option in the offense? Will he show his worth as a first-round pick? Does he have the quickness to beat NFL cornerbacks with consistency?
Floyd, meanwhile, plays the position with the same style as Treadwell. He’s a big-bodied, physical receiver that has produced at a high level on playoff teams. The Cretin-Derham Hall graduate has three 800-yard seasons under his belt.
This battle will likely stretch past training camp and into the regular season, with Treadwell having the last say as Floyd serves his suspension. If Treadwell is unable to produce in those first four weeks, Floyd will swoop in and take the snaps in three-receiver sets alongside Thielen and Diggs.
|No. 1A||No. 1B||No. 3||No. 4||No. 5||No. 6||Suspended|
|Adam Thielen||Stefon Diggs||Laquon Treadwell||Rodney Adams||Stacy Coley||Isaac Freuchte||Michael Floyd|
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