1 Receiver Has Been Unstoppable at OTAs

Source: New Starting RG Emerges as Vikings Frontrunner
Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive linemen perform drills during mandatory mini camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

One of the strong suits of the Minnesota Vikings is their wide receiver group, especially after making a couple of moves in the offseason. The Vikings replaced aging veteran Adam Thielen with the selection of Jordan Addison in the draft’s first round.

1 Receiver Has Been Unstoppable at OTAs

In addition to Addison, the Vikings, of course, employ Justin Jefferson, who has not been present for OTAs for a good reason. He is waiting to sign a huge contract extension and doesn’t want to get hurt to jeopardize that. It should be mentioned that the presence at OTAs is not mandatory.

Jefferson is arguably the best receiver in the league. He has been leading the NFL in receiving yards since his draft in 2020 and was the league leader in receptions and receiving yards in 2022 as the youngest player ever. Every group that includes a player like that is fantastic.

K.J. Osborn is drawing praise from coaches and teammates. He has the opportunity to earn a larger role in the offense with Thielen no longer in the picture, but it won’t be easy to keep the talented Addison off the field.

1 Receiver Has Been Unstoppable at OTAs
Keenan McCardell and Jalen Nailor at Vikings camp in the summer of 2022. Nailor was a 2022 rookie from Michigan State University.

A fourth receiver is turning heads at OTAs and could be a surprising contributor to the Vikings in 2023. Second-year receiver Jalen Nailor has been a common highlight reel on the Vikings’ social media pages. On Friday, the Vikes released the following video of him running past top cornerback Byron Murphy:

The caption of the post says it all. Speedy is Nailor’s nickname, and it sums up his game pretty well. He is an explosive player, and his game is to run past defenders to make the big play, something the Vikings could use in their offense, as they didn’t have a real deep threat since Aldrick Robinson in 2018, and he made a big difference when he caught six TD passes.

It could take some pressure off Jefferson, who is functioning as the short-yardage receiver and the deep threat all by himself. When he is double-teamed, there won’t be safety help over the top when Nailor is doing his thing.

2023 Win Forecast
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell (left) and wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) before an NFL International Series game against the New Orleans Saints at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

While that was just one video, and highlight plays in shorts without contact shouldn’t be overvalued, it was not his first highlight video. The Vikings have posted more of them. It was also a wonderful dime from quarterback Kirk Cousins which is further proof of Nailor earning the respect of coaches as he is playing with the first team. Building chemistry with the starting QB is an easy way to make the lineup.

In the first significant chance he received in his 2022 debut season, Nailor fired up 89 yards on 3 catches and even recorded a touchdown in the Week 17 loss against the Packers in Lambeau Field. The rookie was one of only a couple of bright spots on that day. His overall numbers in the 2022 campaign were 9 catches for 179 yards and that one score.

Only 3 Vikings Played Well vs. GB
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) rushes for a touchdown as Green Bay Packers cornerback Corey Ballentine (35) defends during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

He is re-creating that same level of speed combined with route-running he showed that day in the offseason. Leading up to the draft, Vikings’ wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell pounded the table for the Michigan State prospect. That is common NFL language for when a coach really desires the selection of a specific player, and it is usually a good sign, as coaches mostly know a thing or two about football.

To claim the WR4 spot, Nailor will have to fight off the likes of Jalen Reagor, who was benched by the same coaching staff last year, veteran punt return specialist Brandon Powell, and unproven guys Trishton Jackson, Blake Proehl, Thayer Thomas, Malik Knowles, Lucky Jackson, Cephus Johnson, and Garett Maag.

Considering that not every rookie wideout comes into the league as hot as Justin Jefferson did in 2020, there is a chance that Nailor could be a starter over Addison early in the year and maybe even make life uncomfortable for Osborn if he continues to turn heads in the next three months leading up to the season opener on September 10. Especially decent performance in training camp will be vital for him.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt