By Jason Wisniewski
When it comes to who the top 2 WRs are for the Vikings there is simply no question. Stefon Diggs & Adam Thielen are arguably the best WR duo in the NFL with both of them having 1,000 yard seasons in 2018 and both of them consistently producing over the past several years and landing big long term contracts with the team that will them both in Minnesota over the long haul. But behind them on the WR depth chart things get murky as the Vikings don’t have a clear cut #3 option and have a plethora of players fighting for what could be 3-4 roster spots behind Diggs & Thielen. Let’s take a look at the major candidates for these spots and see who has the best chance to make the team and make an impact.
“The Speed Guys”
Jeff Badet (2nd yr veteran #13) 5’11 182 lbs
Badet made the Vikings practice squad last season after being signed as a UDFA following the 2018 draft. He flashed a bit last preseason but was dinged up in one of the games. This off season he has putting a lot of work into how he practices and prepares and the Vikings actually paid him an additional $75k in bonus money to prevent him from signing with the Jets. Badet offers blazing speed running a 4.27 in the 40 yard dash which easily makes him the team’s fastest player. Badet has returned punts & kicks and played on kick coverage teams so he offers special teams potential which could help him improve his chances of making the roster. If Badet can make needed improvements to his game he might be able to fill the role that Aldrick Robinson played last season as a deep threat.
Dillon Mitchell (Rookie #17) 6’1 197 lbs
Mitchell was one of two 7th rd draft picks at WR for the Vikings this year and he’ll be expected to compete for a roster spot. Mitchell is an athletic WR who was productive in college ran a 4.46 in the forty yard dash and also tested well in the 3 cone and short shuttle drills showing great agility and acceleration. He shows an ability to separate in his routes, shows above average body control and is good at finding holes in zone coverage which is encouraging for a young WR. His overall route running still needs work and he needs to be more consistent catching the ball. Although he didn’t play as often on special teams as the other 7th rd rookie Olabisi Johnson he still can do it and will probably be tried out at both KR and Punt Returner due to his elusiveness.
Alexander Hollins (Rookie #85) 6’1 170 lbs
Hollins is a recent UDFA signing following the 2019 draft. He’s a small school product who excelled as a crisp route runner and also showed ability as a return man in college. He’s very slippery after the catch and can also go deep. He ran a 4.48 in the forty yard dash and his 3 cone & short shuttle times would have placed him in the top 10 had he been invited to the combine. He might need to add some weight and get stronger as he is undersized at 170 lbs. He will also have to adjust to the step up in competition. Could be a candidate for the practice squad if he doesn’t crack the 53 man roster.
Davion Davis (Rookie #16) 5’11 180 lbs
Davis is another small school kid trying to make the team. Like Hollins he also ran a 4.48 in the forty yard dash and has experience as a return man with very good success in that area. He has solid hands and shows some elusiveness as well as the ability to adjust to the ball well in the air. He has some injury history which may have caused him to go undrafted but he has a great work ethic and if his health checks out he could challenge for a practice squad spot and maybe even a roster spot with a solid camp. Like Hollins he will have to prove he can have success against tougher competition.
The “Big Guys”
Jordan Taylor (4th yr veteran #18) 6’5 195 lbs
Taylor was a Free Agent signing for the Vikings this offseason after the Broncos opted not to re-sign him following surgeries on both hips. Before his injury in 2018 which caused him to miss all of last season Taylor was an ascending player who was challenging to Denver’s #3 WR. In 2 seasons of play Taylor put up 29 catches with 351 yards and 2 TDs. As a rookie Taylor was praised by then Broncos QB Peyton Manning for his work ethic and receiving ability. If he is healthy he has a great shot to make the roster and challenge for playing time on offense. He excels in jump ball situations and shows above average body control and solid hands. Coming out of college he ran a 4.50 in the forty yard dash which is impressive for a 6’5 WR. He also has an advantage over his competition in that he already knows this offense having worked under Gary Kubiak in Denver. It seems the only thin that could prevent Taylor from making the team would be if he is not fully healed from his hip surgeries. Otherwise I like his chances.
Laquon Treadwell (4th yr veteran #11) 6’2 215 lbs
Treadwell was expected to be so much more than what he is when the Vikings took him with a 1st rd pick in 2016. He’s been inconsistent with his hands and at times has trouble separating due to a lack of speed. He has at least shown improvements over the past couple seasons in his route running and playing himself into a semi serviceable role as a possession WR but his inconsistent hands have gotten him and the Vikings into trouble one too many times and at very critical times and the team might be looking into trading him at this point since they recently declined his 5th yr option meaning he will become an unrestricted Free Agent in 2020. If the Vikings decide to keep Treadwell this would be his last chance to show he’s worthy of a roster spot and playing time.
Brandon Zylstra (2nd yr veteran #15) 6’2 215 lbs
Zylstra made the 53 man roster last season but only caught 1 pass on offense and filled in a few times for an injured Marcus Sherels as a punt returner. He was basically the team’s #6 WR in 2018. He’ll have some more competition for that spot this season and is certainly not a lock to make the roster with his pedestrian speed (he ran a 4.64). He will have bigger chance however if Treadwell is traded or cut. His main competition at that point would be Jordan Taylor. If Taylor is healthy there is practically no way Zylstra would beat him out but if Taylor is hindered by his hips then Zylstra might have a shot to reclaim a spot on the 53 with a strong camp. If Zylstra doesn’t make the roster he might have a chance at the practice squad.
The “Route Runners”
Chad Beebe (2nd yr veteran #12) 5’10 183 lbs
Beebe made a splash last preseason and made the 53 man roster and even got in some games and made 4 catches last season. The problem was he got injured and was never able to get healthy and continue his progress. Beebe has had an injury history dating back to his college days and if he is not able to stay healthy in camp he could miss a chance to be back on the roster. Beebe doesn’t offer much in terms of speed (4.68 forty yard dash) but he showed precise route running, reliable hands and high effort which got him a roster spot last season. Beebe is a slot WR only so his upside is a bit limited but his role is very specific and the Vikings probably want a backup slot WR on the roster who can do some of the things Diggs & Thielen can do in the slot if one of them were to go down for any length of time. Beebe also showed some special teams ability in pre season as a punt returner and should be in the mix for that spot this season. If Beebe can stay healthy in camp he’ll have good chance to make the team or at minimum the practice squad.
Olabisi “Bisi” Johnson (Rookie #81) 6’0 204 lbs
Johnson was the 2nd of the Vikings two 7th rd picks at WR in the 2019 draft. He offers the Vikings a slot WR option who also plays on special teams and has excelled as both a KR and PR as well as a gunner on coverage teams. This special teams experience will help Johnson quite a bit in his quest to make the 53 man roster. Johnson ran a 4.51 in the forty yard dash so he’s faster than Chad Beebe and more athletic. Johnson is also known for running precise routes and having reliable hands. The jump in competition could be Johnson’s biggest obstacle as he was a small school kid so we’ll have to see how he does in camp & preseason. His athletic profile, special teams experience and reputation as a solid route runner with great hands suggests he has a good chance to make the team. If he did not make the team I would imagine he would be someone the Vikings would prioritize for signing to their practice squad.
Re-signing Aldrick Robinson (7th year veteran) 5’10 187 lbs
If none of these players show enough to the Vikings to where the team is comfortable they have a guy that can fill in for Diggs or Thielen in case of an injury they may opt to bring back the speedy Aldrick Robinson to solidify the #3 WR spot. Robinson remains unsigned as of the writing of this article and did enjoy his time with the Vikings. He scored 5 Tds on 17 catches with the team last season and would likely win the #3 WR spot if they bring him back. Robinson offers a lot as a deep threat and is a proven NFL WR who with a full training camp might be able to do more than just run deep. He also has chemistry with QB Kirk Cousins from their days in Washington together which showed last season.
One of the biggest questions for this group is how many WRs the Vikings decide to keep. Will it be 6 WRs again? Or will the Vikings opt to keep only 5 WRs with the new increased emphasis on running the ball and using multiple TE sets. It is very possible that the Vikings could opt to keep 4 RBs and 4 TEs and only carry 5 WRs due to this style of offense they will run under Kubiak & Stefanski. If they do choose to keep 6 WRs my guess is they will keep one of category of WR. In other words 1 “speed guy”, 1 “big guy” and 1 “route runner”. Special teams ability is likely to give these players an edge so whoever has that going for them in terms of being able to be a Kick Returner, Punt Returner or Gunner will have an increased chance of making the final 53. I suspect the Vikings will probably keep at least 1 or 2 of these guys who don’t make the cut on their practice squad so if a guy doesn’t make the 53 there is still hope for that player on the practice squad.
Who do you think makes the 53 man roster? Who do you think makes the practice squad? Who gets cut? Will Treadwell get traded? Let me know in the comments section.