The 2017 Minnesota Vikings are quarterback Sam Bradford’s team. Adrian Peterson is a Saint (insert your own comment) in New Orleans, and the new Vikings offense should look a little different than the ones that have featured the former Vikings (and future Hall of Fame) running back. So, all those players in the receiver and tight end rooms are smiling. Just check out this video:
In addition, the Vikings made some offseason moves to beef up both the wide receivers corps and the tight ends unit. So, things should look slightly different in the receiver units on the practice field this season—but on the playing field, generally the same.
The two main players in the receiving corps who emerged last year as the Vikings starters, are back to improve on their dual 900-plus yards seasons. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are the presumptive starters and no one currently on the roster should threaten that.
Other veterans on the roster include slot man Jarius Wright (who saw limited action last season, appearing in eight games and starting just one) and Isaac Fruechte (who finally cracked the Vikings game day roster for a game last season). Moritz Boehringer also returns, but the curve for becoming a game-day contributor remains very steep for the German wideout.
Of course, 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell is back after a disappointing rookie campaign (one reception), and while the news about him has been somewhat disconcerting (he reportedly wanted to go on the IR last year but the request wasn’t granted), it is also encouraging to think that last season was affected by injury and that this season should be much better. At OTAs, the hard-working Treadwell did look better than he showed sometimes in 2016, so it is not overly optimistic to expect a breakout season from him in 2017.
The Vikings drafted two rookie receivers (who are destined for the special teams) in Stacy Coley and Rodney Adams. Their speed will make them fun to watch in camp, but that will have them threatening the veteran returners much sooner than it will give the starting wide receivers pause. The Vikings also picked up R.J. Shelton and Cayleb Jones to increase the completion at the back end of the depth chart.
The biggest offseason acquisition in the receivers unit was former Cretin Durham Hall product Michael Floyd. Exciting at the time of the acquisition, fan feelings toward Floyd have cooled as he violated his DUI probation by failing a couple tests (due to kombucha tea, according to Floyd) and prompted his head coach Mike Zimmer to tell the Pioneer Press that he told Floyd: “If I find out you’re lying to me, I’m going to cut you.” The NFL didn’t exactly believe Floyd and recently suspended him for the first four games of the season, so, suddenly it becomes less of a loss to the team if Zimmer finds reason not to believe Floyd, as well. Floyd could still make a difference this season, but if any more shoes drop for him, then next boot will be in his hindquarters as he is ushered out the door at Winter Park.
Best Guess: The Vikings’ starting wideouts for 2017 will be status quo with Diggs and Thielen (which is a rare thing to say about this position)—although head coach George Stewart, a veteran of 10 years in Purple, is gone and that could shake things up in wider receiver meetings. Diggs (whose top goal is stay healthy this season) and Thielen (who might see more attention from opposing defenses in 2017) will make or break the offense this year.
Wright is in a prove-it situation since he was so often a healthy scratch last year, and we could see Treadwell taking some of his slot-receiver snaps. One of the two newly drafted wideouts makes the team (my pick is Adams, who was picked two rounds earlier, for his return abilities), while the other will go to the practice squad. Mobo might be No mo if he doesn’t really shine, now with a season under his belt. Treadwell starts to look less like a bust and finds his way on to the field often. Fruechte hangs around again. And Floyd? Well, the Vikings are giving him a chance, and plenty of leeway thus far, but it is up to him at this point. He might be on his last chance. I hope he makes the most of it.
Kyle Rudolph is coming off of one his best years as a Viking, as he became Bradford’s favorite touchdown-making target in 2016. If only Rudy didn’t serve so much kombucha tea at his house (where Floyd was staying under house arrest)—just kidding.
The Vikings lost Rhett Ellison to free agency (complete with the strange commentary from his father—which was mindful of Lavar Ball-type behavior) and that moved second-year man David Morgan up a notch on the depth chart. There is opportunity for the remainder of the players in the tight ends unit.
That group includes Bucky Hodges, drafted in the 6th round out of Virginia Tech, and a trio of undrafted tight ends: Josiah Price from Michigan State, Nick Truesdell from Grand Rapids CC, Kyle Carter from Penn State. The Vikings like competition, and this group should provide it when the rookies report to Mankato on July 23 (three days ahead of the most of the rest of the team).
Best Guess: Rudy gets the nod as primary pass-catching tight end, while Morgan demonstrated enough last season that he was ready to step into the Ellison-vacated spot of blocking tight end and occasional first down maker. Following that, the backup roles are wide open. Bucky makes the squad—his attitude alone makes him a good candidate for one of “Zimmer’s kind of guys.” Truesdell played in the arena league and is 27 years old, so if one of the other younger players shows promise, they will pass him by. I see a battle between Carter and Price for the practice squad that is too close to call.