We've taken a look at what the Minnesota Vikings have on their current roster at the quarterback and the running back positions. While there isn't really a lot of change expected at either of those positions, our next position is one that should see plenty of change between now and the start of the 2016-17 NFL season. We're going to take a look at what the Vikings currently have at the wide receiver position. It's not all pretty. . .but, you know, it's not all bad, either.
Big Money: Mike Wallace
Sometimes deals in the National Football League work out. . .and, sometimes, they don't. The Vikings' acquisition of the former Steelers and Dolphins speedster falls firmly into the "don't" category. Brought in to, supposedly, replace Greg Jennings in the Vikings' offense, Wallace proceeded to put up worse numbers than Jennings did in either of his two seasons in Minnesota, and got paid significantly more for doing so.
Wallace still has outstanding speed, but it seemed like he never really got on the same page as quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a discrepancy that was apparent from Week 1. The case of the dropsies he seemed to develop during the season didn't help matters either, as he let some very catchable passes hit the turf this past season.
Wallace currently carries the highest salary cap figure on the team at $11.5 million. While the assumption is that he would take a pay cut and come back to Minnesota, I have to look to the words of noted prophet Ricky Watters, who once asked, "For who? For what?" Unless he really, really, really likes Mike Zimmer, I'm not sure why he'd take a pay cut. Either he's going to make over $11 million this season, or the Vikings are going to release him, at which point he'd find himself near the top of a pretty weak class in free agency. But he's not going to be back in Minnesota with a $11.5 million price tag.
On Top For Now: Stefon Diggs
I'm still not entirely sure why Diggs couldn't even get onto the active roster for the first three games of the 2015 season, but as soon as he did, he established himself as the Vikings' clear #1 receiver. The fifth-round pick out of Maryland led the Vikings in both receptions and receiving yards this past season, and showed that he will likely be a big part of Minnesota's offense going forward.
Diggs has good speed, good hands, and knows how to get himself open. He isn't the biggest receiver, but he does everything else incredibly well. The questions about Diggs coming out of college had nothing to do with his talent, but rather with his durability, as he had numerous injury issues at Maryland. But, he stayed healthy for the Vikings this year, and showed what he's capable of.
The Vikings would probably like to pair Diggs with a bigger, "possession" type of receiver and allow Diggs to try to make more plays down the field. However, as things stand now, he's clearly the best the Vikings have at the wide receiver position. Here's hoping he doesn't make the "Making the Leap" list on NFL.com going into this season. That hasn't worked out well in the past. (See also: Patterson, Cordarrelle and Johnson, Charles.)
Hey, It's That Guy: Jarius Wright
Jarius Wright isn't a guy that a lot of people outside of Minnesota know about, but the Vikings thought enough of him to give him a contract extension at a fair price prior to last season. Wright will probably never be a glamorous name at the receiver position, but as the slot receiver for the Vikings, he's been very good at what he does.
There really isn't a lot to say about Jarius Wright at this point, to be honest. We know he's going to seemingly disappear for stretches, but he also makes his share of big plays, mostly after the catch. He gives Bridgewater a reliable target in the middle of the field, and will continue to fill that role over the next few seasons. He's not flashy, but sometimes that's just fine. (Yes, that wordplay was intentional. . .you know why.)
Mr. Mankato: Adam Thielen
Thielen will never be compared to Wes Welker. (By writing that sentence, I've fulfilled the sportswriter quota that every white wide receiver has to be compared to Wes Welker, regardless of their actual skill set.) But Thielen has a pretty important role with the Vikings, and that role comes primarily on special teams. He had one of the bigger plays of the Vikings' season with his fake punt scamper against the Packers in Week 17, and has a blocked punt touchdown to his name as well since becoming a permanent part of the Vikings' roster.
Regardless of how many snaps Thielen gets as a wide receiver, I have a feeling that he's always going to have a spot on this roster as long as Mike Zimmer is the head coach. We know the importance the Vikings place on special teams, and that makes guys like Thielen invaluable. He can step in as a receiver when called upon, but that isn't his main calling card.
The Forgotten Man: Charles Johnson
After the way he finished the 2014 season, Charles Johnson was supposed to come out in 2015 and set the world on fire. Then he got hurt in Week 3 against the San Diego Chargers, and after that pretty much disappeared to the point where he wasn't even active for the Vikings' last few games. He had one of the Vikings' bigger plays of the year with his big catch at Soldier Field to set up the game-winning field goal against the Chicago Bears, but other than that this was a pretty disappointing year for #12.
I honestly don't have any idea what Johnson might have done to wind up in the doghouse, but I think it's too early to give up on him. He gives the Vikings the big-bodied receiver that the team lacks, and he seems like the kind of player that will work his butt off to get back into the good graces of the coaching staff. He's going to be one of the more intriguing players to watch during OTAs and going into the season.
The Disappointment: Cordarrelle Patterson
As a wide receiver, Patterson is a great return man. However, the Vikings didn't give up a truckload of picks in 2013 for Patterson to just be the best kick returner in the NFL (which he probably still is). Patterson is going into a make-or-break season in 2016. As of now, he's going into the final year of his rookie contract, though the Vikings will almost certainly pick up his fifth-year option. He needs to go out and show that he can be more than just a kick returner. Unlike last year, when he reportedly blew off an opportunity to work with Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, he seems to be taking things a little more seriously this year.
Committment ... either I do it or I don't, there is no in between! pic.twitter.com/1Udb6zTuKL— cordarrelle (@ceeflashpee84) 17. Februar 2016
Of all the things that could, potentially, help the Vikings' wide receiver corps, getting a contribution from Patterson might be the biggest of them all. He clearly has the physical talent to be an impact wide receiver in the NFL, but he has completely fallen off of the map in the Minnesota passing game. . .and, given what the Minnesota passing game has produced the past couple of seasons, that's quite the accomplishment. Here's hoping that he can get it together in 2016.
That's a look at the wide receiver corps for the Vikings as things stand right now. Going forward, we'll take a look at who the team might be looking at in free agency and the 2016 NFL Draft.