Mankato’s annual training camp is where the Minnesota Vikings (and their fans) converge to shape their roster and formulate a plan of attack for the coming season. This year, like every other, a bevy of questions remain unanswered and Vikings Territory attempts to identify 10 of the biggest questions and give you a chance to predict how things will shake out.
CAMP QUESTION #3 – STACKING THE WIDE OUTS
These questions are not being presented in any particular order of importance. If they were, this one might have been a candidate to be at the top of the list.
Much has been made about the potential, attitudes, weaknesses, and production displayed by Minnesota’s relatively young and unproven group of pass catchers. Nearly all of the names come with an interesting enough story, and the creation of the depth chart at the position is sure to provide us with plenty of preseason drama.
For now, here is the current group simply listed in alphabetical order:
- Böhringer, Moritz
- Diggs, Stefon
- Fruechte, Isaac
- Johnson, Charles
- Michel, Marken
- Patterson, Cordarrelle
- Sinkfield, Terrell
- Stoudermire, Troy
- Thielen, Adam
- Treadwell, Laquon
- Wright, Jarius
For those keeping score at home, that is 11 names, and at least five of them will not make the opening day active roster… very possibly six of them. The numbers game alone makes certain that some very tough (and interesting) decisions are coming soon to a transaction report near you.
For the sake of this article, I am (perhaps foolishly) going to dismiss a few names as serious contenders for an opening day job in Minnesota: Fruechte, Michel, Sinkfield and Stoudermire. I’m not saying they don’t have dark horse potential, but I’m willing to assert that each is a very long-shot as things stand in June.
Now, for the sake of this article, I am (perhaps foolishly) going to declare a few guys as locks to make the roster pending terrible preseason injuries: Diggs, Treadwell and Wright. Of course, nobody’s NFL job is 100% secure, but there are literally zero reasons right now to believe any of these three guys won’t be Vikings in 2016.
That leaves two or three vacant roster spots for Böhringer, Johnson, Patterson, and Thielen to compete for. Now we’ll take a closer look at each of them.
Since we’ve already established that this article is openly heavy on “group think” assumptions and mainstream narratives, Böhringer’s unprecedented path to the NFL makes him the easiest of the remaining group to cut, without a doubt.
Böhringer is one of the rawest prospects ever to be drafted (get to know him HERE), but his combination of size, speed and athleticism as displayed on YouTube is as rare as any receiver prospect in this year’s crop. The hype machine certainly has a great number of us believing he could turn into something special, but he could just as easily end up being a footnote in NFL history books.
An early fan favorite to follow, for sure, but Mr. MoBo has a lot to prove before he’ll be crowned Mr. Mankato.
When Norv Turner went into sly-mode in 2014 and swiped Johnson away from his former team in Cleveland, the results initially seemed quite positive. His second season with Minnesota didn’t go nearly as well, however, and the popular fantasy “sleeper” choice faded into irrelevance by mid-season.
This offseason, however, Johnson attempted to purge away some of the mystery surrounding his disappearing act by revealing that an early broken rib made it too painful to even sneeze until November.
As long as the delayed injury disclosure is based in fact, and isn’t just a convenient excuse, then Johnson is primed for a comeback that provides reason for optimism. His health should significantly help Johnson maintain his roster spot, and maybe even a starting role, but his lack of true special teams value puts him at a disadvantage over some of his primary competition.
Perhaps no other non-rookie has received more offseason coverage here at Vikings Territory than Cordarrelle “Flash” Patterson.
We’ve discussed whether or not Mike Zimmer has given him a fair shake, who he has trained with, who he didn’t train with, just how valuable his return abilities make him, and we even talked directly to his trainer about him.
We’ve discussed him on a great many other occasions, too. Heck, we’ve even passed on plenty of opportunities to discuss him at great length as the local beat is just as obsessed with his commitment level this offseason as we are.
Personally, I think Patterson is plenty worth his salary this season, even if he continues to be nothing more than a kick return specialist. However, if he can’t make the leap as a wide out, then the Vikings could very well opt to move on (perhaps even woo some trade partners) and give someone showing more polish a chance to play in 2016.
If Patterson’s special teams prowess means he deserves a job, then Thielen is certainly owed the same level of respect on that front. At age 25, it was a no-brainer for the Vikings to retain Thielen as an exclusive rights free agent this year, but future decisions concerning his status may prove more difficult for Rick Spielman and company.
A great local story isn’t the only reason Thielen has beat the odds and stuck with the Vikings since 2013. He’s fantastic on special teams, has underrated speed and consistent hands at wide out, and arguably has just as much potential for a breakout as anyone on the roster.
Thielen caught 12 passes for 144 yards in 2015.
CAMP QUESTION #3
I’m fairly confident that Böhringer would win in a landslide had this poll read: “Which of these guys is least likely to win a roster spot?,” so I am going to go with the exact opposite: