Promising Vikings WR Continues to Be Absent

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Wide receivers remain in the news in Minnesota’s annual mandatory minicamp. Justin Jefferson finally returned to the team after signing his record-breaking contract that will pay him $35 million per season for four years. Behind him, the Vikings have a fascinating competition for the roles on the wideout depth chart.

Promising Vikings WR Continues to Be Absent

That competition will apparently not include New England’s former first-rounder N’Keal Harry, who is surprisingly in the mix to earn a roster spot as a tight end.

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Still, the Vikings employ many receivers to battle for the jobs behind top duo Jefferson and sophomore Jordan Addison. Brandon Powell, last year’s emerging weapon, should be considered the favorite for the WR3 position. He is primarily challenged by free-agent addition Trent Sherfield and third-year player Jalen Nailor.

The latter, however, can’t stay on the field. Injuries have slowed him down throughout his career, and now illness is affecting his availability. Alec Lewis (The Athletic) reported on Wednesday on the app formerly known as Twitter: “Vikings WR Jalen Nailor has not been at mandatory minicamp the first two days. Has been sick. Had looked great through the first few OTAs.”

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Looking great in some portions of the offseason has been a major theme surrounding Nailor. Following great performances in OTAs and minicamp, he was supposed to be last year’s breakout star. Early in training camp, folks started to chat about him finally emerging until a soft tissue injury kept him sidelined for an extended period.

Nailor showcased his skills in his debut season on two separate occasions. The first one was a fake punt versus the Saints in London. Punter Ryan Wright threw the ball in his direction, and he made a leaping grab. Later in the season, he torched Green Bay’s secondary in a blowout loss. Both teams had begun to give their replacements some run, and Nailor scored a touchdown and caught three passes for 89 yards.

The following week, Nailor caught four passes for 64 yards in the season finale against the Bears. After that strong finish to his rookie season, expectations were high entering his second year, and with Adam Thielen’s departure, there was an opening.

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While the offseason hype suggested he could compete with Addison and K.J. Osborn, he played in only six games in the entire season and caught three passes for 29 yards. Calf and hamstring injuries and a concussion limited his time on the field drastically.

He also struggled to stay on the field at Michigan State, where he only played 26 games over four seasons. A healthy (and productive) training camp can change the narrative quickly, but availability is crucial for the 25-year-old at some point.

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Jefferson, Addison, and Powell are almost guaranteed a roster spot. Besides them, veteran Sherfield is an option, and one of Trishton Jackson, undrafted sophomores Malik Knowles and Thayer Thomas could emerge, just like undrafted rookies Jeshaun Jones, Devron Harper, and Ty James.

Players can rarely rely on their organizations’ patience, and Nailor must contribute sooner rather than later. He has shown his explosiveness, but that only helps if he is on the field.

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