Well-Paid UDFA Receiver Looking to Fill Open Spot in Vikings’ WR Competition

NCAA Football: Music City Bowl-Auburn at Maryland
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Recently, Dustin Baker discussed a couple of the well-paid UDFA players in a piece for Vikings Territory. The talented edge rusher Gabriel Murphy gets a lot of the focus, but then the conversation shifts over to a more overlooked name: Jeshaun Jones.

Per Over the Cap, the pass catcher is operating under a 3-year, $2.84 million deal. Pretty standard stuff for a UDFA contract. What’s notable is simply that he’s bringing in a whopping $235,000 in guaranteed money, a large amount for someone in his position as an undrafted player. Does Jones get onto the final team?

Well-Paid UDFA Receiver Jeshaun Jones and the Vikings’ WR Need

Look around and it won’t be tough to find some online discussion about what the Vikings are going to do at WR3. Has there been as much chatter about the WR4 and/or WR5 spots?

The Vikings have a ton of receiver options on their roster. In fact, it’s one of their deepest positions, boasting a whopping twelve players (N’Keal Harry just switched positions). There’s a mix of younger and older talent, star players and unproven guys looking to get their NFL careers off the ground. Within that broad array of options is Jones.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch
Oct 7, 2023; Ohio Stadium, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Tommy Eichenberg (35) tackles Maryland Terrapins wide receiver Jeshaun Jones (6) as he attempts to run down the field during their game on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. Credit: Clare Grant/The Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Jeshaun Jones played his college ball with the Maryland Terrapins, putting in work there from 2018-2023. PFF was the most impressed by his ’23 season, tossing over a very respectable 74.9 grade for his effort.

The more traditional stats are intriguing.

Jones turned 56 catches into 790 yards and 4 touchdowns last season. Maybe the most promising detail buried within those stats is the 14.1 yards-per-reception average. At 6’1”, 188 pounds, Jones has some good size and some history of being explosive. Can that translate over to the NFL?

For whatever it’s worth, Jones picked up 20 carries across his college career, turning those rushing attempts into 188 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Again, think efficiency and explosiveness. Those carries had an average of 9.4 yards, but keep in mind that the vast majority of that work arrived in the 2018 season.

NFL: NFC Wild Card Round-New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings fans cheer during the second quarter of a wild card game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The added bonus is that he completed a pair of passes, as well. Back in the same 2018 season, Jones went 1/1 with a 20-yard touchdown pass. Last year, he similarly went 1/1. There was no touchdown but the pass went for 21 yards.

Do the Vikings look at Jones and see a player who could slot into the WR5 job as a bit of a gadget player?

Jeshaun Jones didn’t get a ton of reps as a returner in college, but he has some experience there, too. In 2023, Jones turned 7 punt returns into 82 yards, an 11.7-yard average. Overall, he returned 19 punts in college and a pair of kickoffs. If he shows Matt Daniels he can tackle, Jones may become a contributor on special teams before too long.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Aug 3, 2023; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell throws a pass during training camp at TCO Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Add it all together and one wonders if the Vikings are betting on versatility. After all, it’s one of their most prized abilities. Jones’ stats point toward a player with the potential to help at several different areas, which can often be the difference when it comes to a UDFA sticking around.

Every year, the final roster includes UDFA talent. Jeshaun Jones is a long way from making the final team but the contract and statistical output in college point toward someone who has a shot.

Editor’s Note: Information from Sports Reference CFB, Over the Cap, and PFF helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.