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Vikings Position Battle: Wide Receiver

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NFL: Preseason-San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings
Can Laquon Treadwell win the battle for the third WR spot?
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

In the past the Vikings have kept 6 wide-receivers on their roster, which seems likely to continue this year as well.

The top two spots on the depth chart at wide receiver are pretty well spoken for by Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, although it would be hard to say at this point which is #1 and which is #2.

But that third wide receiver spot is up for grabs - along with probably 4, 5 & 6.

The Battle for #3

The 3rd spot is important as it can lead to a number of reps in 3WR sets, and most likely will come down to a battle between Laquon Treadwell and Michael Floyd.

I give Treadwell the inside track as it looks like Floyd will most likely miss the first 2-4 games of the season.

The fact that Treadwell is healthy this off-season, has worked in the system, and Zimmer has praised his workouts so far add to the thought that this position is his to lose. Of course if Treadwell fails to take advantage, and doesn’t get up-to-speed, he opens the door for Floyd.

I suspect Floyd will also get some reps this year though. My hunch is that one of the reasons the Vikings were willing to take a chance on Floyd is his blocking ability. Both Treadwell and Floyd are known to block well, but I could see Floyd at least getting some reps as a blocker on bubble screens, sweeps, and wheel routes, with a chance to run some long routes on occasion, and perhaps a situational role too.

What about Jarius Wright?

Beyond Treadwell and Floyd battling for the 3rd spot, I’d give Jarius Wright the 5th spot on the depth chart, as a reliable backup slot receiver, although I suspect the Vikings are open to trading Wright if the right offer came along. They were rumored to be shopping him last year, and he’s kind of expensive for his role/place on the depth chart at just over $3m salary cap this year.

Wright has shown he can contribute and make the occasional big play when he gets some playing time, but last year especially he didn’t get much. It may have been that the Vikings were hoping for more from Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson- both of whom got more reps that Wright- but whatever the reason Wright seems an under-utilized skill player that could have a bigger role.

But, Wright is essentially a backup slot receiver that doesn’t have as much blocking ability, and perhaps not as much value on special teams either, so Wright could be more valuable to a team in need of a starting slot receiver- and is willing to make a trade.

The Battle for the Last Spot

But assuming for the moment that the Vikings keep Wright, that likely leaves only one more spot on the WR depth chart. That spot will likely be a battle between Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley, and may be based as much on kick-return/special teams ability as receiving ability. Both Adams and Coley are unproven versions of Stefon Diggs - not big and strong enough to be as effective outside, so are really slot receivers that can also be a deep threat- but will need work on their route-running.

Ideally, Moritz Boehringer would contend for Cordarrelle Patterson’s old special teams roles, and prove at least a situational receiver for the Vikings, but that seems optimistic at this point, not having any more feedback on how MoBo has been doing in the off-season program so far. Getting/keeping him on the practice squad again, if he has real potential, may be more difficult for a second year. My hope is that he shows some good improvement in OTAs/mini-camp/training camp, and is given some meaningful reps in pre-season games which he uses to be part of the conversation as part of the 53-man roster.

Physical Traits

Whoever wins the battles for the various spots on the WR depth chart, the combined group has some pretty good physical traits to work with, and yet none of the receivers in this group have overwhelming physical traits either against NFL competition, and must be able to win with route running:

Adam Thielen: 6’2”, 200lbs., 4.49” 40, 36” vertical jump.

Stefon Diggs: 6’0”, 191lbs., 4.46” 40, 35” vertical jump.

Laquon Treadwell: 6’2”, 221lbs., 4.63” 40, 33” vertical jump.

Michael Floyd: 6’2”, 220lbs., 4.47” 40, 36.5”vertical jump.

Jarius Wright: 5’10”, 191lbs., 4.42” 40, 38” vertical jump.

Stacy Coley: 6’0”, 195lbs., 4.45”40, 35” vertical jump.

Rodney Adams: 6’1”, 189lbs., 4.44” 40, 39.5” vertical jump.

Needless to say, there are no Randy Moss freaks in that group, and that being the case, it’s nice to have a couple guys that could be real physical mismatches in the mix as receivers as well, if they can be developed:

Moritz Boehringer: 6’4”, 225lbs., 4.43” 40, 39” vertical jump.

Bucky Hodges: 6’6”, 257lbs., 4.57” 40, 39” vertical jump.

I include Hodges here as a receiver, although he won’t be in the WR group depth chart, having been designated an H-back or TE.

These two have real physical match-up advantages wherever they line-up, no matter who covers them, in addition to being redzone threats with their size and leaping ability.

Scheme Notes

I would not be at all surprised if the Vikings used more 3 and 4 wide-receiver sets this year, which could call on wide receiver’s blocking ability just as much as their route running and catching ability.

Part of the reason would be to take advantage of Dalvin Cook out of the backfield, either running or designed dump-offs, or other sweeps and screens to spread the defense wide. Those plays get the defense looking for shallow routes and in the backfield, making them more susceptible to deep routes. Consider this play:

This play could involve play-action or not to freeze the LBs for a second. In man coverage, the nickel-back (N) would follow Michael Floyd (18) across the formation. The pre-snap read for Bradford, beyond the looking for man/zone coverage with Floyd in motion, is to see where the SS and S line up as a clue to who covers Hodges on the seam route.

After the snap, Bradford’s first read would be to Adam Thielen (19), looking the FS over that direction and then going either long to Hodges, or short to Cook. There are many variations on this play, pass or run, which could also include Cook taking a jab step toward the strong side then countering toward the weak side with the LG going up to take the weakside LB (W) and Thielen (19) taking out the C, and in man coverage the nickel-back (N) moving across the formation and away from the play.

The main point here is that having some bigger receivers that can block, still be a threat deep, and/or be a coverage mismatch, along with the versatile and explosive Cook out of the backfield, can create an opportunity on every play.

Bottom Line

Having two solid starting WRs in Diggs and Thielen is a good start, and between Treadwell and Floyd there should be a capable 3rd WR this year too as both a blocker and a deep threat. But to be most effective, finding a mismatch receiver like Hodges or (less likely) Boehringer - or both! - would be the best way to keep opposing defenses from focusing too much on the on the shallow part of the field. Floyd and Treadwell could help in that regard as well, but just how much remains to be seen.

Poll

What should the Vikings do with Jarius Wright?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Keep him
    (451 votes)
  • 56%
    Trade him
    (1417 votes)
  • 25%
    Release him- trade unrealistic
    (651 votes)
2519 votes total Vote Now