Earlier today I took a stab at a 53-man roster projection, and had Adam Thielen firmly making the squad and Rodney Smith on the bubble. But is it possible I had that backward?
Is it possible that we’re all jumping the gun in assuming that Thielen is ahead of Smith in the battle for the final receiver spot?
Tuesday’s remarks from Norv Turner make it seem that Thielen and Smith are at the very least in a dead heat, with Smith possibly nudging ahead:
Turner said Thielen was more consistent early in camp, but Rodney Smith “has really been making a move” lately.
— Brian Hall (@MNBrianHall) August 19, 2014
We all saw what Rodney Smith did late in the game against Arizona. Smith’s catches were instrumental in Teddy Bridgewater leading the Vikings on a pair of go-ahead scores in the game’s waning minutes, and in fact Smith himself caught the game-winning TD on the final pass.
Everything Smith (and Bridgewater) did comes with the caveat that it happened in a preseason game, but still, you had to be at least a little impressed by Smith’s body control and hands on a couple of those catches.
Smith is a player a lot of people have been intrigued by for a long time. Looking at his frame, the way he runs, he just seems to physically look the part of a big, Sidney Rice-type deep receiver.
The Arizona game was the first time Smith really got a chance to flash the goods in a big way and people are understandably excited. At the same time, how much stock should we put in Smith’s performance against backups?
Thielen is another player who has people excited, and with good reason. The local Minnesota product has been Mr. Everything in preseason, catching passes in sure-handed fashion, returning punts in relief of Marcus Sherels against the Raiders, making big special teams tackles.
Thielen’s jack-of-all-trades quality gives him lots of value and I think there’s a place for him on the Vikings regardless of what happens with Rodney Smith. But when you’re talking pure receiver value, is it possible that Smith has already surpassed Thielen?
At the very least, Smith is hoping to make things difficult for Mike Zimmer, Rick Spielman and Norv Turner when they sit down to decide who will make the 53 and who will be shuffled to the practice squad. Thielen would’ve seemed a lock to beat out Smith a week ago, but it’s not that way anymore.