The Vikings WR Battle Has Been Fierce
The Minnesota Vikings have a very difficult decision to make at their wide receiver position.
Not only are they contemplating who will be a starter next to Justin Jefferson with a battle between Jordan Addison and K.J. Osborn, but the Vikings WR battle further down the depth chart won’t be an easy decision, either.
Currently, Minnesota has a whopping 13 receivers on their roster, and by August 29th, they will have to cut that number by more that 50%, down to likely 5 or 6 players as they formulate their final 53-man roster.
The problem is, the Vikings are likely going to have to cut a player that is deserving of a roster spot at this point. Behind the trio of Jefferson/Osborn/Addison, the battle for WR4 has been a tricky one to decipher.
Jalen Nailor was the early favorite because of some praise from the Vikings coaching staff backed up by strong performances at OTAs and minicamp. However, the second-year receiver has been missing training camp practices with injury, and that has allowed others to step up.
The most notable of these players may be Brandon Powell. During Minnesota’s joint practice with the Tennessee Titans on Thursday, the veteran receiver regularly torched opposing Titans defenders on his routes and made some spectacular catches.
Powell had a very good game against the Seattle Seahawks in Minnesota’s preseason opener as well, catching both of his targets for 22 yards. In addition to his receiving skills, we must take note of his abilities as a return man, especially considering Kene Nwangwu has joined Nailor on the sidelines with an undisclosed injury. The former Ram returned 24 punts and 30 kicks for Los Angeles last season.
We also have to consider Jalen Reagor, a speed demon who had a truy superb first preseason game last week. He caught all four of his targets last Thursday in Seattle (a reassuring event, considering a major knock on him has been his drops) for 55 yards. This included a 19-yard catch that set up Minnesota’s only touchdown drive of the game.
He underwhelmed as Minnesota’s punt returner last season, but if he can carve himself out a role as the Vikings deep-threat on offense, it may be worth keeping Reagor around. Keep in mind, too, his contract is fully guaranteed, so Minnesota won’t save any money by getting rid of the 2020 first-round pick.
A sneaky roster candidate might be one of the most recent acquisitions as well in N’Keal Harry. The former Patriots first-round pick has been rather impressive during practices so far, and he hauled in a 19-yard pass from Jaren Hall in the preseason opener.
Harry is absolutely massive at 6’4 and 225 pounds, so keep an eye on him for his ability to block in the running game. Last year in Chicago didn’t get very well for him in that department, putting together a PFF grade of just 51.3. However, he graded out at 84.8 over 172 run-blocking snaps for the Patriots in 2021.
With the signing of Josh Oliver at tight end, the Vikings seem to be intent on running the ball more often in 2023 than they did in 2022, so this could be part of the plan for Harry.
Additionally, he sneakily got included in the Vikings punt return group during Thursday’s joint practice. He didn’t do a ton, catching only one rep, but it’s something worth noting. While at Arizona State, he returned nine punts during the 2018 season. He totaled 152 yards and a touchdown that year.
Overall, the Vikings have seen plenty of competition at the wide receiver position over the past few weeks. As the cutdown date approaches, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Kevin O’Connell, and the rest of the Vikings staff have a few big decisions to make at the position.
Minnesota’s next preseason game is scheduled for Saturday, August 19th at 7 PM against the Tennessee Titans inside U.S. Bank Stadium.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.