Hey, remember when I said we'd take a look at the battle at wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings shortly? Well. . .how about now?
I think everyone can agree that there are four locks to make the roster at wide receiver for the 2012 season. Percy Harvin and Jerome Simpson are in, and it would be quite a shock if the Vikings were to end up cutting either of the receivers they drafted from Arkansas, Jarius Wright or Greg Childs, in training camp. Barring injuries, those spots are set.
Who rounds out the group, in my opinion, is going to depend on a couple of things. The first thing is going to be how many receivers the Vikings keep around after the final cuts. If my memory serves me correctly, the Vikings have kept six receivers around for the past few seasons, but if they only decide to keep five, it's going to make things even more interesting.
The other thing is who, if anyone, makes an impression during the three-game suspension that Jerome Simpson will be serving to start the season. When he comes back, it's very likely that somebody will have to go, and if someone is performing when given the opportunity, it will be hard to get rid of them.
So, having said that, let's take a look at some of the candidates.Michael Jenkins - Lost in the Vikings' season falling apart last year was that Jenkins, who was playing his eighth NFL season after signing in the off-season, was actually putting together a pretty nice season. Despite missing the season's final five games, he was second on the Vikings in receptions with 38 and third in receiving yards with 466 (just two yards behind Devin Aromashodu, who we'll get to in a bit). Jenkins isn't ever going to be a spectacular receiver, but he does provide a steady, veteran presence that a young team like the Vikings could potentially use. How he recovers from the knee injury he suffered in 2011 will be a key to whether or not he sticks with the team. A lot of people would probably have Jenkins down as a "lock," but I don't think that's as solid as many might think.
Devin Aromashodu - Aromashodu finally got a whiff of extended playing time (see what I did there?), and responded. Sort of. He had 26 receptions for 468 yards and a touchdown, which looks okay at first blush. However, he was targeted a whole lot more frequently than that, and was maddeningly inconsistent with drops and other lapses obscuring the few shining moments that he had. The thing that some folks might forget about Aromashodu is that he's not a young guy. He was drafted in 2006, meaning that he's entering his seventh year. The Vikings are his seventh NFL stop, which means that if the potential to explode is in there, Aromashodu is doing a very, very good job of keeping it hidden.
Stephen Burton - Whereas Jenkins and Aromashodu both have track records, spotty though they might be, Burton is pure potential at this point. He's got the size/speed combination that NFL teams crave, but still needs a lot of refinement at this point. He, like all of last year's rookies, didn't get an opportunity to work with the coaches until training camp, and given the opportunity to get a little bit of coaching and get adjusted to the NFL route tree, he is making quite an impression at the team's OTAs.
The Field (Emmanuel Arceneaux, Kamar Jorden, A.J. Love, Kerry Taylor, Bryan Walters) - All of these players have an uphill climb ahead of them to make the Vikings' final 53-man roster. I would say that if they had the ability to make an impact on special teams that it would enhance their chances, but my guess is that the Vikings would give Wright the opportunity to fill that role (and take some of the pressure off of Harvin) first. If he proves capable of doing it, there wouldn't be much reason to keep a player at a spot that would, ultimately, be redundant.
So, who do I think makes it?
Of the three main potential candidates that I mentioned, I'm really beginning to think that Burton is going to stick. The Vikings love his potential, and I think the odds that the team would be able to sneak him onto the practice squad are pretty long. That would leave Jenkins and Aromashodu battling for one spot. . .or, potentially, both out of a job (if the Vikings choose to only keep five receivers). That's a battle I think Jenkins wins. . .as I said, Jenkins isn't spectacular, but he's more steady and reliable than Aromashodu. Neither of them fit the profile of the youth movement that the Vikings are going through, but if they keep one "veteran" receiver, I think Jenkins is the guy.
What say you, ladies and gentlemen?