Pertinent Purple Topics: How Many Receivers Can Minnesota Keep?

Oct 31, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) reacts with wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) after scoring on a 20 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins (not pictured) as Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown (30) looks on during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Forced to guess, I’d say I’m in the minority in my prediction that Minnesota will only keep five receivers.

The very top of the receiver group is quite clear; Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and K.J. Osborn are going to be on this team. After those three, it’ll be a pretty intense competition for roster spots. Guys will need to show that they can be strong contributors on either offense or special teams (or, ideally, both).

To my mind, the leader for the WR4 job is Ihmir Smith-Marsette. So much of my rationale rests in my overall understanding of the offense. Jefferson, Thielen, and Osborn can (and do) challenge defenses deep. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t be quite right to say any of them primarily function as deep threats. Smith-Marsette can take on this role. If successful, he’ll help clear room for the more prominent skill players. Though it’s written in pencil, I’ve got Smith-Marsette on the Vikings’ 53-man roster as the #4 option.

After him, it’s going to be a true competition between Jalen Nailor, Albert Wilson, Bisi Johnson, Dan Chisena, Myron Mitchell, and several others.

It seems that many people think the veteran Wilson has the upper hand since he has accomplished the most at the NFL level. Perhaps this is the correct opinion, but it’s not one that I hold. Clearly, Wilson couldn’t have been too much of a priority since he was only signed well into the offseason. If he truly believed Wilson would have a role in this offense, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would have signed the receiver much sooner.

Plus, the Vikings don’t exactly have a strong track record when it comes to getting production from their FA receiver signings. Recent history suggests that their draft picks – Diggs, Thielen (UDFA), Jefferson, Osborn, etc. – are the ones who end up contributing.

With that in mind, I’m mostly leaning toward Nailor as the team’s WR5. He’s only a sixth-round pick, so it’s not like he’s locked into a spot. Rather, he’ll need to show during training camp and the preseason that he’s capable of contributing in a limited role and that he has strong potential. Being able to offer some help in the return game would be a major bonus.

Let’s assume that things go as I’m anticipating. Jefferson, Thielen, Osborn, Smith-Marsette, and Nailor are the receivers who secure roster spots in Minnesota. Will K/O and the rest of the staff carve out room for one more? Chisena, perhaps, could be kept since he’s incredibly fast. Maybe they end up liking the veteran Wilson more than they anticipated. We could even see one of the true longshots force their way into the debate for the final spots. If any of these things occur, then the Minnesota coaching staff will need to think long and hard about how they’ll find room for 6 or more receivers.

Editor’s Note: This series considers a variety of questions that Minnesota will be looking to answer during training camp and the preseason. The point is simply to provide concise discussions of pertinent purple topics. We’ll do one per day leading up to training camp, which begins on July 24th.