Jalen Nailor Stock Continues to Rise

Jalen Nailor Stock Continues to Rise
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) celebrates after making a stop against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Typically, draft picks of the sixth-round variety don’t turn into massive contributors on NFL rosters. There are exceptions to every rule, though, and based off some recent comments by Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell, we may see one of those exceptions in Minnesota during the 2023 season. That exception could be second-year wide receiver, Jalen Nailor.

At the annual owners’ meeting this week, O’Connell spoke to the media regarding the current wide receiver situation in Minnesota. Of course, he began with Justin Jefferson, saying that “it’s always a great starting point when you mention Justin Jefferson. He’ll always be our number one. He’ll always be our guy that we’re trying to build a passing game around.”

Jalen Nailor Stock
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Nailor (83) rushes for a touchdown as Green Bay Packers cornerback Corey Ballentine (35) defends during the fourth quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Then, O’Connell also shared some thoughts on K.J. Osborn, and his potential to fill in as the WR2 for Minnesota this season: “The versatility he has and really how he understands; he’s a really smart player, understands how he pairs with Justin and trying to beat some of that coverage that Justin tends to see.”

These two along with T.J. Hockenson are certainly the headliner pass catchers in Minnesota at this point in time. However, O’Connell didn’t stop there when discussing potential impact from players this coming season. In regards to Minnesota’s depth options, the Vikings head coach said, “I’m excited for a guy like Jalen Nailor and Jalen Reagor, to get a chance to really compete and have the ability in year two to play multiple spots, and handle that, which is really, really important.”

Nailor, a Michigan State product, largely showed off his speed with the Spartans as a legitimate deep threat in the passing game. While that speed didn’t necessarily show up in his 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine where he ran a 4.50, he is a high school track and field state champion in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes. Don’t be fooled, the man has wheels.

Dec 30, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Michigan State Spartans quarterback Payton Thorne (10) and wide receiver Jalen Nailor (8) celebrate after a two-point conversion against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the second half during the 2021 Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

For a Vikings offense that is in need of a true ‘over the top’ threat to pair with Justin Jefferson, this is an intriguing skillset in one of their own. Another positive sign comes in Nailor’s health during 2022. He appeared in 15 games as a rookie after having three separate collegiate seasons derailed by injuries and having never stayed healthy enough to play 10 games in a season.

Our own Kyle Joudry recently coined an article evaluating the potential of Nailor’s role expanding in 2023 as well, and while concerns include a modest sample size in 2022 that was bolstered by a meaningless Week 18 game against the Bears, it seems likely that we could see much more of the young receiver this upcoming season.

In his rookie year, Nailor caught nine passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. We should expect those numbers to go up in 2023.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. 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.