This is my first fanpost of several on where I percieve the biggest position battles in the Vikings camp right now. I will be using information from Vikings.com, here on Daily Norseman, and any other information across the web.
I will start with the Wide Receivers, because that seemed to be the Vikings biggest weakness going into the off-season but now appears to be a survival-of-the-fittest type competition between many receivers for the last few spots on the roster. As Arif has stated while compiling his depth charts, there are three WR "slots" available, with several WR's currently in camp fitting into multiple positions (like how Patterson can be both a deep threat and also a Percy Harvin type player and Jennings can line up just about anywhere.)
The players that I am considering locks (unless they have a complete breakdown) for the 53-man roster under the WR heading are: Jennings (Flanker), Patterson (split end(?)), Simpson (split end), and Wright (slot). Also, with how hard Childs is working towards coming back from his injury, after he returns he will likely get the 5th WR slot on the roster. That leaves at most two spots open for now, and at most one when Childs comes off the PUP list. And there are seven WR's fighting for those slots!
Here are the remaining WR's on the 90-man roster:
I will start with Burton's performance so far, as he is first on my list. Stephen Burton is a 6'1" 3rd-year receiver (drafted by the Vikings in 2011 in the 7th round) whose only TD as a member of the Vikings came last year on a ball that had been tipped both by a defensive lineman and Kyle Rudolph. Evaluations: According to Arif, over the first two days, Burton wasn't very impressive, lacking the route running skills of Jennings, and unnecessarily jumping to catch the ball, which leads to the ball being knocked out by physical DB's like Harrison Smith. He did quite a bit better on the third day, catching two TD's and finding multiple ways to get open. On the fourth day, he was getting shut down quite a bit by Rhodes, though redeemed himself (in my eyes) by continuing to be a solid blocker for the running game. His fifth day wasn't great, but neither was it terrible. He is also doing some reps on the kick return team, so that might be his saving grace for him to make the team. In day 7, he was getting fairly good separation from DB's, and was fine in the return game. According to Wobschall, Burton is getting into the endzone a lot, is without a drop (according to his count), and seems surer of himself (confidence is always a good thing to see in a WR). In the depth chart that was released yesterday, Burton is 3rd on the Flanker or "Z" slot, behind Jennings and Wright. Prediction: Burton, out of all of these WR's, is likely to stay around because a) he knows the system and b) He is a willing and nasty run-blocker, if reports be true.
Now, on to Thielen. Adam Thielen is a 6'3" UDFA who the Vikings signed after a tryout. Evaluation: He was working well on special teams on the first day of camp. On the second and third days, he didn't do as well on special teams and dropped several balls, both on special teams and in WR drills. On the fourth day, Arif noticed that he had cracked a special teams unit (though cracking the third-string special teams unit is nothing to write home about). He had an up-and-down 5th day, the ups coming from a few highlight catches, and the downs coming from the route-running drill that he looked extremely disappointing in. On the 6th day, he had several more catches that were above-average. He had another up-and-down day on the most recent day, dropping several passes despite being able to get open. In order to win a spot, he is going to need to be more consistent as well as getting better hands and making use of the chances he is getting. According to Arif, though, Thielen is behind Brown on the depth chart, which doesn't bode well for him hanging around the roster for too long. Currently, he is buried underneath both Burton and Brown on the "Z" depth chart, which doesn't speak well to him hanging around too long. Prediction: I could see him being one of the middle cuts in camp unless he improves consistency-wise. He would be an intriguing player to keep around on the practice squad, though if the Vikings were to do that, there is a fair chance they would lose him to a team willing to give him the reps he needs to improve.
Rodney Smith is a 6'6" UDFA out of Florida State. He was picked up by the Vikings on Draft Night during the mad scramble for UDFA's. Evaluations: Was given small praise from Arif on the first day for having improved awareness and technique, something that had been lacking in his game to that point. He was given a "clean" label on the second day, and was outperforming Arif's chosen "favorite UDFA WR" in Eric Highsmith, and Arif believes that Smith could be cut later than Highsmith. He is working hard on improving his weaknesses, and some believe that given time, he could be the type of bubble 53-man player that Stephen Burton has been the past few years (though his height would make him a big target in the Red Zone). He was making some noise during the 6th and 7th day of camp (according to Arif's notes), and would be an interesting guy to keep around to develop. He currently behind everyone on the "X" depth chart except Greg Childs, who is out with an injury, so that's not good for him. Prediction: Smith seems to be making enough noise that it is possible he makes the roster, though I am not sure who he would bump to get on there. He would be perfect for the practice squad, but a team would certainly snag him off there before too long.
Chris Summers is a 6'5" UDFA that came to the Vikings after being with the Bears for about 4 months; he was signed to the practice squad and was given a reserve/futures contract after the most recent season. Evaluations: He has been nearly invisible on Arif's reports, though what Arif has written about him hasn't been too good. He has been dogging his routes, and just not making too much noise, which is something that any UDFA needs to have in order to make the team. However, he is ahead of Rodney Smith and Childs on the depth chart, so he must be doing a few things right. Prediction: Cut fairly early on, but might be back on the practice squad and will likely stay there if this camp is any indication.
Joe Webb is a 6'4" WR that the Vikings originally drafted as a QB in the 6th round of the 2010 draft, though all Vikings fans saw how badly that experiment went with the playoff game against the Packers. He is now working towards becoming a WR instead. Evaluations: While this is his first training camp exclusively at WR, Webb appears to be making the transition more quickly than anticipated. He is showing several skills early on that many were afraid he wouldn't learn for a while (like improving hands and not-too-shabby route running). He has even been burned Rhodes deep once or twice, and that isn't easy to do. He is, however, putting in a lot of effort into the transition, and can't be overlooked when it comes to a spot on the roster. Webb is currently behind Simpson and Patterson for the "X" role, which makes it more likely that he will stick around. Prediction: Webb makes the roster, but possibly not as a WR; he is too talented to be cut and if that were to happen, another team would snatch him up in an instant. The Vikings seem confident that a) they can find a spot for Webb on the roster and b) he will improve enough to be worth the spot, and I can't imagine him not making the roster, he is too electric to not to.
LaMark Brown is a 6'3" WR/TE (not sure which, Arif has him as a WR, but he was signed to the Vikings practice squad as a TE) who was signed by the Vikings after being released by both the Falcons and Bills. Evaluations: Arif has been consistently down on him as a WR, but has fairly good things to say about him as a special teamer. Unfortunately for Brown, that is almost certainly not enough for him to be kept around, as the Vikings have plenty of others who are also trying to make their marks on special teams. He is in front of both Thielen and Highsmith, which means that his special teams play is probably going to keep him around longer than his play at WR. Prediction: The only way he stays on the roster is if he impresses Priefer enough to keep him around as a special-teams guy only. Likely cut in the middle to late stages of cuts unless improvements are made.
Eric Highsmith is a 6'3" UDFA the Vikings signed out of North Carolina. He was made infamous when word came out that he had copied several younger children's papers and tried to pass it off as his own work. Evaluations: He has not impressed so far this camp. He was the one WR that Arif noticed that wasn't working back towards the QB in scramble drills. He is not running routes with the speed he should, and he is doing little to make a case for himself to be on the roster. That showed when he was buried at the bottom of the "Z" depth chart, which likely makes him an early cut. Prediction: Showing nothing in camp, will be cut early on, and probably won't be on the practice squad with how little he has shown this past week.
All-in-all, it seems that Webb and Burton are the ones most likely to stick around at WR, but Brown could certainly play his way to a special teams unit if he keeps performing there. The rest of them will likely be cut, though one or two might go to the practice squad.