The Minnesota Vikings have a limited number of roster spots available when the regular season starts. Since this is the case, there are a plethora of players who are on the fringe of making the team. Indeed there is also a ton of question of whether these same fringe players will see playing time once the season starts. So, we’re here to try to profile some of these players, tell you why they will/will not make the final cut, and give our thoughts on their chances. First up, wide receiver Brandon Zylstra.
I can see why Zylstra has received the love he has from Vikings fans. The New London-Spicer product played his college ball at Augustana and then Concordia College. He went undrafted in 2016 and made his way to the Candian Football League where he exploded in 2017. In his 2017 season he led the CFL in receiving by over 200 yards, and was an all-star. Last season he made it through camp and was a consistent player for the Vikings special teams, amassing over 250 special teams snaps according to Pro Football Focus.
Why he will make the team:
Because he’s already been on the team for a full season and is a great story. Zylstra has been playing professional football since 2016, granted two of those seasons were in the CFL, and continued to stick around. This says something about his work ethic and ability to do what’s asked of him. His story is very reminiscent of Adam Thielen’s path to relevance in the minds of Vikings fans. Thielen played a lot of special teams in his first few years with the Vikings, in fact his first career touchdown came on a blocked punt, and only really found his footing as a receiver in year three. If Zylstra can do something similar, it would not only be great to have another solid receiver, but it’s very easy to sell the hometown kid aspect, but he needs to make an even bigger impact on special teams. Minnesota fans eat that up and the NFL is an entertainment product in the end.
Why he will not make the team:
Because he’s not Adam Thielen, yet at least. Thielen is a rare exception of unnoticed talent who put it all together. What Thielen has the Zylstra does not is his ability to run crisp routes, catch anything thrown his way, and speed. Most notably when he ran at the NFL regional combine in 2016, he ran a 4.64 40-yard-dash, where Thielen ran a 4.45 when he participated in the regional combine. Zylstra doesn’t have his whole game put together and that makes him a question mark as an NFL receiver.
The Vikings also have a ton of talent and potential at the receiver position. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs are obvious locks, Jordan Taylor has taken almost all reps at WR3 this offseason, Treadwell is dead money that might be compelling management to keep him, Chad Beebe might be the best of the rest, the Vikings spent two seventh round picks on receivers, Jeff Badet might be the fastest player on the team, and there are a couple other intriguing options on the roster for now. Zylstra needs to be essentially on par with Chad Beebe or better to guarantee his spot. Of course a lot rests on what the team wants to do with Treadwell and if they want to invest in potential or take guys that they know what they’re getting.
I wanted to come into this article and write off Zylstra. His tape in limited NFL action isn’t that impressive. He doesn’t look especially fast or seem to have incredible route running, but it’s hard to argue with his ability to stay on the field. Add this consistency to hang onto a roster, good looking CFL tape, and his hometown kid story and you’ve got a recipe for a surprise star. Ok, star maybe a bit of a reach, but he should be able to hang around as the Vikings fifth receiver, unless they see a lot of potential from another unexpected source that they feel they can’t stash on their practice squad.