Over the next couple weeks, Zone Coverage will break down the Minnesota Vikings post-draft roster by position group.
Today’s Focus: Wide receivers
UPDATE: On May 10, the Vikings signed former Cardinals and Patriots receiver Michael Floyd, who will have a chance to win playing time.
Aside from the team’s top two receivers, there will be a lot of movement on the Vikings wide receiver depth chart this season. With a pair of free agents departing and some fresh blood entering via the draft, there are spots to be won this season under new wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell.
Free agent departures: Charles Johnson (CAR), Cordarrelle Patterson (OAK)
Arrivals: Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley, R.J. Shelton, Mitch Mathews
Already rostered: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Jarius Wright, Laquon Treadwell, Isaac Fruechte, Moritz Böhringer, Cayleb Jones
THE LONG SHOTS: R.J. Shelton, Mitch Mathews, Moritz Böhringer, Cayleb Jones
The departures of Johnson and Patterson opened the door for a pair of spots on the 53-man roster, assuming the Vikings opt to keep six receivers as they did a year ago. It won’t be easy for any of these four to sneak through the final round of cuts based on the team’s investment in two draft picks, a fairly solidified top four at the receiving position and the potential of Isaac Fruechte. Böhringer, last year’s sixth-round experiment out of Germany, may see his NFL dream dashed after spending last year entirely on the practice squad. Barring massive improvement, he’s unlikely to be retained. Of the other three, Mathews, the BYU graduate, offers the most intrigue thanks to his 6-foot-6 frame that may be useful in the red zone.
ON THE FRINGE: Isaac Fruechte
The Vikings like Fruechte, the Caledonia, Minn., native and former Golden Gopher. They moved him onto the active roster in Week 17, where he currently remains. He’s spent the majority of the previous two seasons on Minnesota’s practice squad, but he caught the Detroit Lions’ eye in the middle of the 2016 season and spent several weeks with the Vikings’ NFC North rival before returning to Minnesota after being cut.
Fruechte, 26, has moved slowly up the ladder similarly to Adam Thielen. As an inexpensive option who has familiarity with the offense, Fruechte should be in the mix for the final receiver spot, though his path gets cloudier if the team only keeps five wideouts.
THE DRAFTEES: Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley
After getting a massive steal with Stefon Diggs in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, Rick Spielman tried to catch lightning in a bottle again with Rodney Adams out of South Florida. He also used a selection on Stacy Coley out of Miami in the seventh round. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer had input on both picks as the Vikings look to secure a kickoff-return specialist in lieu of Patterson’s departure. Adams was his team’s primary kickoff returner each of the past two seasons and gained over 1,000 yards from scrimmage his senior year. Coley returned kicks as a freshman and sophomore but primarily focused on being a receiver his final two seasons.
Both players are virtually the same size at 6-foot-1, 190-195 pounds, and they do many of the same things. The Vikings will let them compete and may retain just one on the 53-man roster.
THE CORE FOUR: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Jarius Wright
The starters are clear. Diggs, entering his third season, and Thielen, fresh off a lucrative extension, will be the go-to guys in Pat Shurmur’s offense. The remaining hierarchy is uncertain. Treadwell will need to stay healthy and make progress after a challenging rookie season, but keep in mind that the Vikings had three free agents at receiver last year that all needed to get a look. Now, with each of the primary receivers under contract for at least two more years, the Vikings can start molding the group they want to keep together long-term. Treadwell will be expected to infiltrate that group and should get far more opportunities to shine.
In some folks’ eyes, Wright may be an outside candidate to be cut after a strange season in which he barely played just one year after signing a four-year extension. He still has three years left on that deal. In this writer’s estimation, he’ll benefit from the group’s departures and rediscover his role as a reliable pass-catcher on third downs.
Making the roster: Diggs, Thielen, Treadwell, Wright, Adams, Fruechte
Practice squad potential: Mathews