Who Will Win Vikings’ WR3 Battle? 8 Outcomes.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings begin training camp in 25 days and the regular season in about 10.5 weeks.

Who Will Win Vikings’ WR3 Battle? 8 Outcomes.

The team finished 7-10 in 2023 and will hope to improve on that mark with some combination of Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy at quarterback.

The club has an open spot at WR3 after K.J. Osborn left in free agency for the New England Patriots. And there are roughly eight outcomes for the WR3 in 2024. These are the options listed in ascending order (No. 1 = most likely WR3 outcome).

8. An Undrafted Free Agent on Current Roster

Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports.

Arguably one of the most fun outcomes on the list — because it would have meant that an unsung receiver sprang out of nowhere — a relative unknown thrives this summer and grabs the job.

These are the contenders:

  • Trishton Jackson
  • Lucky Jackson
  • Thayer Thomas
  • Malik Knowles
  • Ty James
  • Jeshaun Jones

Some Vikings-themed voices are high on Jones, so keep an eye on him in July and August.

7. Trent Sherfield

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

According to The Athletic’s Alec Lewis, Sherfield didn’t seem like a WR3 type at minicamp, a theory that checks out because he’s never really owned a WR3 job in his previous four stops. Lewis sized up all 90 Vikings players last week and opined on Sherfield, “Big-bodied but not fleet of foot. It’s hard to see him sliding into the No. 3 receiver role.”

Perhaps Vikings fans have been wrong on this one: Sherfield may be the WR4, not WR3.

6. A Trade

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Treylon Burks (16) is introduced before a game against the Atlanta Falcons at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Treylon Burks is the theory here, a man utterly buried on the Tennessee Titans’ depth chart and relegated to special teams. He’s the Tennessee version of Lewis Cine.

If Burks isn’t outright released in two months, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could send a 7th-Rounder to the Titans for Burks’ services and give him a look as WR3. Remember — the bar to clear for WR3 isn’t insurmountable. The Vikings just need a man to tabulate around 650-700 yards and move the sticks on the 3rd Down.

Adofo-Mensah was coworkers with Titans general manager Ran Carthon from the San Francisco 49ers days.

5. Adding a Free Agent in the Next Few Weeks

Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports.

One might be tempted to think this one should be higher on the list, but wouldn’t the Vikings have added an extra free-agent wide receiver by now if that was the plan?

The WR market is down to names like Hunter Renfrow, Michael Thomas, and Julio Jones, among a few others. Akin to Dalton Risner last month, perhaps Minnesota is merely late to the party and will add someone like Renfrow before too long.

4. Jalen Nailor

Explained: The 7 Big Takeaways from Vikings Win over NE
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Kevin O’Connell recently said via ESPN about 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.”

That sounds like a man with an honest-to-goodness shot at winning WR3.

3. Adding a Free Agent after Roster Cutdown Day

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports.

In about two months, 700 players will hit free agency after 32 teams shave rosters to 53 players. And, yes, that 700+ number even accounts for practice squad assignments.

So, after roster cutdown day, receivers like these could be available on the open market:

  • K.J. Hamler
  • Mecole Hardman
  • Isaiah Hodgins
  • Isaiah McKenzie
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster
  • Kadarius Toney
  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling
  • Robert Woods

This could be the Vikings’ plan all along — see how the summer goes at the position and nab a free agent if internal business doesn’t heat up at WR3.

2. Brandon Powell

for Vikings WR3 in
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports.

According to the Pioneer Press, Powell, who doubles as the Vikings’ punt returner, could be in the driver’s seat for the gig.

Dane Mizutani wrote two weeks ago, “Who is going to take the spot up for grabs behind Jefferson and Addison? It looks like shifty receiver Brandon Powell is the leader in the clubhouse based on his amount of reps with the starters.”

Powell joined the Vikings last offseason as a free agent from O’Connell’s Los Angeles Rams days. He’s a tried-and-true playmaker who helped Minnesota knock off the Atlanta Falcons on the road last November thanks to a game-winning touchdown. Overall in 2023, he banked 29 receptions for 324 receiving yards and the famous Atlanta paydirt.

Last month, ESPN’s Kevin Seifert analyzed Minnesota’s offseason and 2024 trajectory, and when asked about the team’s biggest surprise on the horizon, he name-dropped Powell. “Wide receiver Brandon Powell. During the O’Connell era, the Vikings’ base offense has been 11 personnel, which generally means three receivers. So unless O’Connell is going to dramatically change that approach in his third season, there is a significant need for a third player to complement Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison in the receiving corps,” Seifert explained.

Seifert added, “Powell filled that role well last season when Jefferson missed time with a hamstring injury, and he has a strong chance to earn a more permanent role there in 2024.”

Maybe Powell as the third wideout was the plan all along.

1. WR3 by Committee

Called On for Pro
Minnesota Wide Receivers Coach Keenan McCardell addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. McCardell joined the Vikings in 2021 as wide receivers coach and is credited with helping to develop Justin Jefferson and others.

Folks have spent weeks and months deciding the frontrunner for WR3, and to a degree, rightfully so.

But perhaps the Vikings will simply employ a committee. That is — Powell, Sherfield, and Nailor split targets equitably. It would explain why no big-name WR3 joined the depth chart.

This could be the likeliest outcome, mainly because Minnesota’s WR room is so top-heavy. Plus, when T.J. Hockenson eventually returns, by default and target share, he’s the WR3.

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 MIN obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, Basset Hounds, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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