When you look at the wide receivers on the Minnesota Vikings roster, you see a group that as a fan you really want to like. There's a good mix of youth, experience, and talent that would lead one to believe that if the Vikings can ever get consistency out of the quarterback position, this is a position that is going to force other teams to gameplan for, for the first time in a long time.
When looking at the upcoming training camp battle, let's assume that barring injury, these four guys are almost sure-fire locks for the final 53 man roster:
Greg Jennings: When Matt Cassel finally took over the starting job, Jennings flourished. He had more than 40 of his 64 receptions, almost 500 of his 800 receiving yards, and all four TD's with Cassel throwing him the ball. And he finally flashed the skill we were all expecting to see when the Vikings made him their top free agent acquisition in 2013.
Cordarrelle Patterson: As the season wore on, one of the few bright spots that made me tune in was to see what Patterson was going to do. By the end of the season, he was arguably the most dangerous breakaway threat in the NFL, and how he develops in year two under Norv Turner is going to be exciting to watch.
Jerome Simpson: Whenever I think of Simpson, I think of a guy that can draw a mean pass interference penalty but not much else. And that's simply wrong. He averaged over 15 yards per reception last year, and with the new downfield passing philosophy of the Turner offense, you look at Simpson and finally see a legitimate deep threat, which is why he was brought here originally.
Jarius Wright: I'll be honest, I expected more of a leap from Wright in 2013 than we got. He closed the 2012 season with that great game against the Packers to clinch a playoff spot, and I thought he had turned the corner. But when you consider the QB issues the Vikings had in 2013, and then look at the fact he averaged over 16 yards/catch, which lead the team, his production from the #4 spot wasn't bad at all. Still, the number four guy always has to look over his shoulder, and although I think the chances are remote of it happening, a strong push by two of the guys below might have Wright feeling some serious heat for his job.
When looking at a sampling of Norv Turner teams/offenses (not all of them) and their rosters, he had years with just four, but also five wide receivers. Add to the fact that he's not the one making the final decision, and that the Vikes have gone with five in recent seasons, I'm going to use the same number. Because if I didn't, then this article would be over, like right now. Be that as it may, there are several guys fighting for, essentially, one spot. Let's take a look at who they are.
Kain Colter: I know I've spilled more digital ink over an undrafted rookie free agent than probably warrants, but I can't get it out of my head that the Vikings really want to find a place for him on the roster. When you look at the types of secondary skill guys NORV! has had on his roster, and look at Colter's ability and versatility, it's easy to make that conclusion. He's still going to have to earn it, but as the team gets ready to head to Mankato, you can't help but think that Colter is a guy that is going to be given every opportunity to nab that spot.
Adam Thielen: Adam Thielen became a fan favorite in training camp last year, and although he didn't make the 53 man roster, the Minnesota native and Minnesota State alum did make the practice squad. And so far during off season minicamps and OTA's, he's been turning heads and making the right people sit up and take notice. Thielen is a local kid with a blue collar, feel good story, so his fan favorite status is only going to increase as Mankato draws closer. Right now, I think the fifth spot is going to be between either him or Colter.
Josh Cooper: Although I say Thielen and Colter are my top two picks for that fifth spot, don't count out Josh Cooper. Cooper played under Turner in Cleveland last year, and is the only receiver on the roster that he has coached. He wa signed in June, one would assume, with the endorsement of Turner, and gives off that blue collar, Chris Walsh/Adam Thielen vibe. Based on the fact he played for Turner and the Vikings went out and got him in free agency, Cooper is also very much in the mix for that number five spot.
Rodney Smith: Although he didn't make any catches last year, he was activated in week five and saw some action on special teams last year. He remained active for the final 11 games of the season, so there's something there that the team likes.
Kamar Jorden: Jorden was signed by the Vikes as an UDFA last year, but was released due to injury in training camp. He moved to the Arena League, and was signed to a futures contract by the Vikings at the end of last season. If there wasn't something there the Vikings didn't like, they wouldn't have re-signed him to a futures contract.
Donte Foster, Erik Lora: Lora and Foster are undrafted free agents, and are going to have to climb over a lot of talent to make the team. I'm not saying it's impossible...but these guys have to be considered longshots at this point.
Those are your candidates. There's a lot of athletic ability in this group, and the potential to have five really solid targets is as good as it's been in these parts for several years.