An Opportunity for a Vikings Rookie

Why You Should Watch the Vikings Final Preseason Game
Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State wide receiver Jalen Nailor. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

We aren’t too far removed from Chad Beebe playing a major role within the Minnesota Vikings offense. During that time, one injury to a wide receiver spelled disaster. If you look at that wide receiver room compared to the current one, though, it’s night and day. The Vikings currently employ one of the deepest receiver rooms in all of the NFL. It is highlighted by Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and KJ Osborn, who is eying an even bigger breakout in 2022.

Similarly, an injury to Ihmir Smith-Marsette is far less damning to the depth. The 2021 fifth-round pick had bright moments within the Vikings offense last season, but a lower leg injury has kept him out of practices. In the wake of the injury, Minnesota signed veteran wideout Albert Wilson.

It must be stated that ISM’s injury is not expected to be a long-term problem. Holding him out of spring seems more precautionary than anything else. Wilson obviously takes most of the practice snaps that the second-year receiver leaves behind. However, this injury creates an opportunity for a player that the Vikings coaching staff clearly likes.

During the draft, Vikings wide receiver coach Keenan McCardell was “pounding the table” for Minnesota to select Michigan State receiver Jalen Nailor. Over the course of four years with the Spartans, Nailor recorded 1454 receiving yards and 12 TDs. 2021 was a breakout year for the WR nicknamed “Speedy”. He put together career-highs in receptions (37), yards (695), and touchdowns (6).

Given his 4.5 40-yard dash speed along with his explosivity into his routes, Nailor looks to be the prototypical slot receiver. He can be a deep threat that Minnesota has somewhat lacked in recent years. Because of the injury, the sixth-round pick now gets an opportunity to show the coaching staff what he can do. Even if he doesn’t get much playing time in 2022, this could be important in the future.

Not only will he get reps within the offense, but special teams will be an option as well. Matt Daniels named both ISM and Nailor as players that will compete for the punt returner spot when OTAs began. Nailor returned eight punts at Michigan State for a total of 48 yards.

Mandatory minicamp begins on June 7th. Whatever current role Nailor holds on the team will begin to reveal itself in a few short days.