There’s an interesting little nuance occurring down the road at Winter Park that is starting to seem like more of a trend than it is a mirage. Have you noticed it? If not, here’s my observation. The Minnesota Vikings are acquiring a lot of wide receivers. It’s happened through the draft, it’s now happening through free agency, it just seems to keep happening, but why is that?
There seems to be an easy answer to this question and then there’s also another one that might be buried under the surface a little more.
The easy answer is this. They’re bringing in new bodies to replace the ones that they lost. Free agency wasn’t kind to the Minnesota Vikings wide receiver room, at least in numbers with Charles Johnson signing on in Carolina and Cordarrelle Patterson jumping ship to join the Raiders. If you lose a few bodies you’re going to have to replace them one way or another.
But let’s look a little deeper at this, primarily assessing what sort of roles have opened up within the wide receivers room and who looks to be filling those roles for the upcoming year.
You don’t lose a whole lot with the departure of Charles Johnson. Some would argue that you don’t lost a lot with Cordarrelle Patterson outside of kick returns and a few gadget plays to keep a defense on their toes. Both of those roles could be filled by the team’s fifth round pick Rodney Adams. If you haven’t seen his highlight reel check it out HERE, the way that USF used him looks mighty similar to any of the ways that the Vikings had used Patterson.
Then the Vikings went out and signed Michael Floyd Wednesday adding not only another option into the mix but one that has proven his ability to perform at the NFL level. It should be noted that Floyd is likely to face some sort of punishment from the league for his legal troubles in 2016, but once he returns to the mix what does that mean as far as the pecking order goes for Minnesota Vikings wide receivers?
Some combination of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen will open the year as your #1 & #2 wide receivers. You have Isaac Fruechte signed on for another year of serving as a utility player filling in on special teams and other specific situations. The rookies will carry through with the team in some respect (active roster or practice squad). Then that leaves two more familiar names in this scenario that the recent addition of Michael Floyd probably doesn’t bode too well with.
Those names, Jarius Wright and Laquon Treadwell.
Let’s start with Jarius Wright. The departures of a few options seemingly paved the way for Wright to find his way back into the mix this season after factoring very little back in 2016. However, the attributes that Floyd brings to the table are eerily similar to those with Mr. Wright. We’re talking about possession wide receivers that are strong with the football, not afraid to go across the middle of the field and fall in as a “safety valve” from time to time in the passing game. Wright’s contract is still larger than his production of late and his playing time and role with the team might be in jeopardy because of it.
Taking this one step further, let’s start discussing the bigger concern that comes along with the drafting of Adams and Coley and the signing of Floyd. Where does this put and what does this mean for the future of Laquon Treadwell with the Minnesota Vikings?
Treadwell was the fourth wide receiver off the board in the 2016 NFL Draft and we might be seeing why that was. It’s not as if any of the other drafted wideouts tore the league up last year, but they certainly didn’t struggle to crack the lineup and finish the season with one catch for fifteen yards.
Floyd doesn’t come into the mix and specifically take something away from Treadwell as far as roles go, but that’s only because Laquon doesn’t really have a role with this team yet. And that’s troublesome even for a second year player given where he was drafted and the fact that even still it’s not as if Minnesota’s wide receiver corps is an embarrassment of riches.
It’s been a slow transition to the next level for Treadwell and we’re starting to see that he might have gotten by a little too much in college by his physical skills alone. When you’re bigger, faster and have stronger hands than everybody else, you’ll stand out. But when you bump up to the elite competitive level of the NFL and everybody is the best of the best from the college ranks, it’s the little things that separate those that last from those that don’t. Things like precision route running, understanding both NFL offensive schemes and defensive schemes, reading defenders and studying up on your opponents take a player with good skills and make them great at the NFL level. To date we haven’t seen much of that from Treadwell because we haven’t seen much of him. What’s concerning is the idea that we haven’t seen much of him because the coaches haven’t seen much of these attributes from him either, and they are privy to a lot more than we are.
There’s still plenty of time between today and Week 1 of the 2017 NFL season when the Vikes kickoff against the New Orleans Saints and that time brings with it plenty of opportunities for Treadwell and Wright to fight for their spots on this roster. OTAs, Mini Camps and Training Camp are all opportunities for extra work, extra study and an extra audition to showcase what they’re bringing to the table to the coaching staff. But there’s no way that we can ignore the fact that the position group is a little more crowded than it was a few weeks ago.