Why the Vikings should keep six wide receivers


We’re almost there, folks.

We’re now less than one month away from the Vikings first preseason appearance of 2015 in the Hall of Fame game on August 9th. Until then, all we can do is speculate and predict what will happen at training camp and, of course, get excited for the season to start as the suspense builds.

The Vikings’ wide receiving corps could be an underrated group heading into this season. As far as sheer athleticism, this group might be the best in the NFL. As Arif Hasan points out in this article over at Vikings Journal, the best 40-yard dash times of the Vikings receivers average out at 4.348, which ranks 1st in the NFL.

Now, obviously, being freakishly fast isn’t the only thing necessary to be a good receiver. However, this group that general manager Rick Spielman has assembled looks like a group that could be dangerous for opposing defenses.

It seems like a pretty safe assumption to say that Mike Wallace, Charles Johnson, Jarius Wright, and Cordarrelle Patterson will be on the roster for the first week of the regular season. Wallace will give Teddy Bridgewater a legitimate deep threat option and should be able to open up many other aspects of the passing game with his blazing speed. Charles Johnson emerged as Bridgewater’s favorite receiving target down the stretch in the 2014 season after being signed off the Cleveland Browns practice squad. Jarius Wright also increased production in his third NFL season and proved to be a solid possession-type slot receiver. Cordarrelle Patterson, despite suffering through an awful sophomore slump in 2014, still has some undeniable talent when he gets the ball in his hands.

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After those four receivers, there are two more guys that both deserve to be on the roster. Stefon Diggs is the Vikings’ fifth round draft choice out of the University of Maryland. During his career at Maryland, Diggs showed a lot of similarities to the game of Patterson. He’s excels when he gets the ball in space, whether after a catch, on a reverse or sweep handoff, or on a return. I’d also make the case that Diggs is a more polished route runner than Patterson already.

Diggs rattled off 1,896 all-purpose yards in his freshman season at Maryland and began to creep on the radar of NFL scouts. His next two seasons were shortened by injury, which dropped him on draft boards. Still, from what I’ve seen/heard so far in offseason workouts, Diggs is really impressing. He’s got some serious potential as an effective slot receiver.

Moreover, it appears as if Diggs is the favorite to take over punt return duties this season. If this is the case, Diggs (obviously) would get a roster spot and it would likely mean the end of Marcus Sherels’ time with the Vikings. Since Sherels hasn’t really proven himself as a cornerback yet, it makes sense to replace him with Diggs.

Here’s a Stefon Diggs clip I found from YouTube that includes a short interview with Mike Wobschall of Vikings.com and a few highlights from his time at Maryland.

Adam Thielen is another name that should be on the roster for the Vikings heading into the regular season. Last season, the native Minnesotan and former Minnesota State Maverick was mostly the team’s fifth receiving option and didn’t get many snaps. Although he wasn’t a huge factor on the offensive end, Thielen’s performance on special teams was impressive. He was a forced to be reckoned with on kick coverage, and this shouldn’t be neglected because good special teams usually results in winning the field position battle.

Here’s an example of an excellent kick coverage play from Thielen last season against the Bears (I apologize for poor quality).

Thielen finished the season with 12 total tackles while also serving as a reliable blocker for punt returner Sherels, who averaged 11 yards per return last year (6th in NFL).

Oh yeah, and Thielen did this against the Panthers last year too.

Additionally, Thielen showed that he can catch passes from Bridgewater if he’s asked to do that, too. The clip below contains two consecutive plays in which Bridgewater found Thielen for big gains. (Yeah, the second one was because of busted coverage, so what?)

Okay, so I went a little Vine-crazy trying to show some visuals of Thielen.  My point is that Thielen did a lot of good things for the Vikings last season and, for the most part, it went unnoticed.

Between Diggs and Thielen, the Vikings have two talents that shouldn’t be left off this team (barring any training camp or preseason injuries). Both of these players have the potential to have a positive impact on the Vikings in more than one phase of the game.

The Vikings should make sure they find a way to keep six receivers after final preseason cuts – Wallace, Johnson, Patterson, Wright, Diggs, and Thielen. While this group has the potential to be dangerous offensively, a few of them can also contribute on special teams.

So, while keeping six receivers isn’t the norm in the NFL, the versatility and the potential of this group makes the idea of the Vikings keeping six wide receivers for the start of the regular season a no-brainer.

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