As minicamps begin today, one of the big question marks for the Vikings is whether or not the receivers can improve on a pitiful 2011 season. That being said, it’s time to take a look at how the depth chart might shake out. Last year, the Vikings had 5 receivers on the 53-man roster. But given the lack of depth and Jerome Simpson’s 3-game suspension, I could see them keeping 6 from this group, plus one or two on the practice squad.
The Top 4: Harvin, Simpson, Wright, and Childs
It’s safe to say that the top four spots are taken. In the least shocking take in Vikings history, I’m going to say Harvin makes the team. Also, all of the buzz around Jerome Simpson as “the next Cris Carter” makes him the obvious choice as the number 2 receiver. Lastly, the pair of Razorbacks taken in the 4th round of this year’s draft are also pretty much guaranteed spots. You simply don’t take guys that high and not put them on the roster. However, after these first four, there’s a log jam for the remaining spots.
Who Will Step Up?
After the four receivers previously mentioned, the others battling for the remaining spot or two on the roster are Emmanuel Arceneaux, Devin Aromashodu, Stephen Burton, Michael Jenkins, Bryan Walters, Kerry Taylor, Kamar Jordan, and A.J. Love. Out of this group, the most interesting battle should be among Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu and Stephen Burton. Assuming they make a good impression in camp, the two that I think will emerge will be Aromashodu and Burton.
While none of the Vikings receivers were consistently productive (even Harvin had trouble staying on the field), Aromashodu showed flashes of potential. There were several times his leaping grabs down field kept drives alive, and he averaged over 18 yards/catch. The catch? That high average is only based on his 26 total receptions last year. On the plus side, Aromashodu is only 27 years old and already has six years of experience in the NFL. Given the Vikings’ attempt to rebuild and get younger, that combination of youth and experience could be enough to earn him the 5th receiver spot.
The true wild card in this bunch will be Burton. The 7th round draft pick in 2011 spent most of time on the practice squad, but is poised to take the next big step in his second year. He has the size and raw potential you look for in a 5th or 6th receiver, and the early reports from OTA’s indicate he’s developing quite the rapport with Christian Ponder. In fact, Ponder has mentioned “Stevie B” in multiple radio interviews. The biggest question with Burton is if he can turn that potential into enough productivity to warrant a roster spot. There’s a chance he could make it through the wire and get to the practice squad safe and sound, but as the buzz around him grows, so does the interest from other teams.
Who Might Make It To The Practice Squad?
With so many other holes on the roster needing to be filled, I’d be surprised if there are more than one or two receivers on the practice squad. Actually, I’d even be surprised if there’s more than one.
Bryan Walters could find himself on the practice squad after his recent two-year contract signing. Not only that, he has been buddying up to John Carlson for workouts before even becoming a Viking. How significant that two year contract will be is still the question. The Vikings have already shown they’re not afraid to part ways shortly after bringing someone on. Just ask OT Kevin Murphy, who spent all of two days with the team.
Battling Walters for a spot on the practice squad will be former CFL standout Emmanuel Arceneaux. Arceneaux, who spent time on the squad last year, will get his first full offseason in the NFL. If he can make the adjustment from the CFL, he is most likely to retain that roster spot if Walters fails to impress at camp.
Who Missed The Cut?
The lack of production last year made bringing in a surplus of talent a priority for the Vikings this year. Obviously, this means there are bound to be many who don’t make through the final cuts.
It would not surprise me one bit to see Michael Jenkins fail to make the opening day roster, despite the fact that he was statistically better than most of the Vikings’ receiving corps last year. However, Jenkins’ strength is being the possession receiver and 3rd down threat will not be as necessary this season, given the signing of John Carlson and the likely transition to more two and three tight end sets. So although he was serviceable as a possession receiver, his age and contract could make him the next victim of the Vikings youth movement. If the cutting of Ryan Longwell taught us anything, it’s that promise and potential are the most valued assets for this team.
My apologies to Kerry Taylor, Kamar Jordan, and A.J. Love, but not everyone makes the roster. Some people are just camp bodies, and they’re it. Hopefully they use this time to try and impress another team enough to get a shot on their practice squads.
Where Does This Leave Us?
All in all, this group of receivers for the Vikings is an upgrade from last year. While that may not be saying much for this team, there are several intriguing camp battles with these players that will be interesting to watch as the offseason progresses.
You can follow Steve Retka on Twitter @steveretka.