TVA previews the 10 storylines that will be consuming our lives starting on July 26 when the Vikings report to Mankato (full camp schedule available from Vikings.com).
3. Wide Receiver Bonanza
Upgrading the wide receiver corps was obviously a major priority for the Vikings going into this offseason. Some would’ve liked to see them pursue an expensive free agent – perhaps Vincent Jackson, perhaps Brandon Lloyd – but Rick Spielman made it clear that his philosophy values young, cheap talent over older, pricier, established veterans. So there would be no splashy free agent receiver signing. The one guy they did pick up, Jerome Simpson, was acquired on the relative cheap, his price driven down by concerns over his character. The Vikes also went receiver-heavy in the draft, picking up former Arkansas teammates Jarius Wright and Greg Childs in the fourth round. Add returning players Percy Harvin, Devin Aromashodu, Michael Jenkins and Stephen Burton to the mix, along with practice squadder Manny Arceneaux, and you have yourself quite a mess to sort out. That’s what training camp is for.
Let’s take a look at the players currently in the receiver mix and where they might fit in the pecking order.
1. Percy Harvin
Minicamp disgruntlement aside, Percy is the most solid proposition the Vikings currently have at receiver. He’s a proven playmaker who has a chance to make the leap into superstar territory in 2012. If the Vikes are going to improve offensively this year, Percy will have to be a major part of the effort. With any luck he’ll stay healthy, and Bill Musgrave will let him stay on the field.
2. Jerome Simpson
Despite what some people would have you believe, this guy is still a huge question mark. We know he has speed and agility but there are major concerns about his hands and his route discipline. Did I mention that he’s suspended for the first three games of the season after being arrested for a drug offense? He’s said all the right things since coming to Minnesota, and the coaches have certainly been eager to talk up his skills, but this guy has a lot to prove before I’m ready to declare him the legit #1 the Vikings so sorely need.
3. Michael Jenkins
The Vikes brought him in last year as a cheap veteran to hold down a spot on a roster they knew was going to have problems. He proved to be a solid possession receiver when he was in there but he did nothing spectacular. And then he got hurt. Aging role-player-type veterans coming off injuries are prime candidates to be cut, and that goes double when the team is in the middle of a youth movement. I’d say there’s at least an even chance Jenkins is on the street before too long. Maybe the Vikes keep him around until Jerome Simpson returns from his suspension.
4. Jarius Wright
On paper he looks like Percy Harvin-lite, a zippy slot guy in other words, but we’ve been assured he’s also a deep threat who can line up outside. We’ll see. I like his talent but it’s hard to imagine him having a huge role in the offense if Percy stays healthy and Jerome Simpson pans out.
5. Greg Childs
The Vikings took a blind shot in the dark with this kid. His college career was marred by injury and no one knows if he’ll ever be anything. His size is the best thing he has going for him.
6. Devin Aromashodu
He proved one thing beyond doubt last season: He’s not a field-stretching outside receiver of any reliability. Too many drops. He has value as a #4. When Simpson comes back, Jenkins or Aromashodu will get the axe.
7. Stephen Burton
Some are excited about Burton. He’s certainly one of the more intriguing unheralded guys on the Vikings’ roster. Right now he projects as a 5th receiver at best but he could rise on the depth chart. He’s one to watch.
8. Bryan Walters
He was added for his return ability. That’s the only reason he’s on this roster. He’s not going to get snaps over Percy Harvin and Jarius Wright. A long-shot to make the squad.
9. Manny Arceneaux
The Vikes refuse to give up on Manny Arceneaux. They will justify the somewhat inflated bonus they gave him when signing him out of the CFL or die trying.
10. Kerry Taylor, A.J. Love, Kamar Jorden
I can almost guarantee that one of these guys will do something special early in camp and cause multitudes of rubes to become fixated on them as a potential future superstar. It happens every camp with at least one receiver.
Predictions are worthless but if I had to guess at the five receivers the Vikings will break camp with, keeping in mind that Simpson will be suspended the first three games no matter what, I’m going with Harvin, Wright, Childs, Burton and Aromashodu. And when Simpson comes back Aromashodu will be cut. Simpson will then get a chance to prove he can be a dangerous weapon as Sid Hartman believes.
Best-Case Scenario: Simpson establishes himself as a true #1. Harvin stays on the field and racks up yardage lining up all over the place. Burton rises on the depth chart and becomes a solid #3. Wright and Childs establish themselves as good role players. The Vikings no longer have to keep Jenkins and Aromashodu.
Worst-Case Scenario: Simpson is a turd who can’t hold onto the ball. Harvin goes full diva. Burton turns out to be crap. Childs has no explosion and Wright is just a little waterbug who can’t get open. Christian Ponder’s development as a QB is badly harmed by having, for the second straight year, a garbage receiver corps. Rick Spielman gets hammered for not laying out the cash to bring in Vincent Jackson. Cause how do you grow a QB without targets who can get open? It’s kind of hard.
We’re only two days away from players reporting to Mankato. Football season is almost here.
Previous Top Training Camp Storylines:
10. Breaking In Blair Walsh
9. Percy Harvin Watch
8. Defensive line
7. Matt Kalil
6. Adrian Peterson
5. Linebacker – What the Heck is Going On Here?
4. Right Guard Battle