4 Risers on Vikings’ Roster before Training Camp

Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
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Minnesota Vikings training camp gets underway in about three weeks, and the regular season is exactly 10 weeks away.

The team is expected to win about seven games, miss the postseason, and finish last in the NFC North.

4 Risers on Vikings’ Roster before Training Camp

But a handful of players are on the rise after organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp. These are those men listed in alphabetical order.

1. Blake Brandel (OG)

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Brandel shined this spring, so much so that ESPN called him the team’s standout player. “You wouldn’t expect a former backup offensive lineman to be the talk of Vikings practices, and it’s not as if Brandel was on the tip of the tongue of every coach and player this spring. But it was exceptionally notable to watch how events played out at the left guard spot. After four years as a backup guard and tackle, and increasingly unsolicited raves from coaches, Brandel opened the spring as the first-team left guard,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert opined last week.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell revealed at minicamp that his team would feature a threeway training camp battle at guard between Brandel, Ed Ingram, and Dalton Risner. There are no frontrunners, meaning the OG battle will be among the Vikings’ most fascinating next month.

Seifert added about Brandel, “He remained there even after the Vikings re-signed 2023 starter Dalton Risner. Coach Kevin O’Connell indicated that Risner will compete with both Brandel and right guard Ed Ingram, a strong sign the Vikings will give Brandel every opportunity to elevate into a starting role.”

It’s been a good offseason for Brandel, who has an honest-to-goodness chance to start in September.

2. Jalen Nailor (WR)

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ESPN also uplifted Nailor after minicamp. “Nailor, a sixth-round pick in 2022, struggled with injuries throughout 2023 and into the 2024 offseason. He missed mandatory minicamp because of the flu. But in limited playing time during his first two NFL seasons, and more importantly in practice, he has proven a slippery target that defenders have trouble tracking,” Seifert wrote. “In two seasons, he has taken a total of 160 snaps and run routes on 72 of them. Vikings quarterbacks have targeted him on 20 of those routes, and he has caught 12 for 208 yards and a touchdown.”

Seifert then referenced Kevin O’Connell’s musings on Nailor: “Jalen has always been a guy that when he’s healthy and on the field, he shows up on every single opportunity he’s gotten. That’s our challenge to him. Sometimes things are out of your control and we understand that, but for him to take that next step, we’re going to need to see him out there a lot as part of that group.”

A productive Nailor — with no injuries — would assuredly solve Minnesota’s current WR3 debate. The man is faster than a gazelle, and Minnesota could use some speed in the WR room. Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison, of course, possess noteworthy speed, but Nailor is a burner’s burner.

Don’t look now, but Nailor could win the WR3 job outright.

3. Will Reichard (K)

will reichard
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Reichard has wowed everyone since joining the team in April’s draft. His leg is booming, and his accuracy is consistent. Parker Romo also lives on the current roster, but this job probably already belongs to Reichard.

Minnesota is desperate for a kicker of its own, akin to Blair Walsh before his career tumbled and never recovered. Reichard is well on his way to winning the kicker job and will hopefully remain a Viking for a long time.

4. Robert Tonyan (TE)

Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan (85) runs for a first down on a reception against the Minnesota Vikings in the fourth quarter during their football game Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Dan Powers/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. Apc Packvsvikes 0101231412djp

The Athletic‘s Alec Lewis wrote about Tonyan after minicamp: “Would not be blown away if he was the No. 3 most targeted Vikings pass catcher until Hockenson returns. This spring, he was that frisky.”

Minnesota will need tight end production until T.J. Hockenson is fully healed from an ACL tear, and Tonyan can be precisely that. He did not disappoint at minicamp, and Minnesota just so happens to have a roster opening at TE1, albeit temporary because of the Hockenson injury.

Tonyan may be on the field during the Vikings’ first offensive possession at the New York Giants.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.