Vikings can only keep a limited number of receivers
November 14, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) is congratulated by wide receiver KJ Osborn (17) after scoring a first-half touchdown against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The Vikings have a long history of talented receivers. In 2022, the tradition will continue with Justin Jefferson in the lead. Minnesota‘s third-year wide receiver, somehow, could get even better. Alongside him, Adam Thielen and KJ Osborn are the three main receivers of the Vikings offense.
From there, the competition will be intense. Anyone guesses who will land the remaining spots, just like anyone guesses how many receivers the team will keep. Given that I think five RBs will make the team, I’m leaning toward a relatively modest number of receivers on the final roster.
Shout out to FRP for big stats.
Vikings 53-Man Roster: Tight Competition Among Receivers
Not only will he be the WR1 in Minnesota, but Jefferson could turn out to be the best WR in the entire NFL. Last season he had over 100 catches and 1,600 yards. He had 10 touchdowns. His PFF score was an elite 90.1. Gone are the worries about whether he’ll be able to handle NFL coverage. Jefferson is undoubtedly the best player on the team.
Joining him is Thielen, the nearly 32-year veteran. This will be his ninth season in the NFL. In recent years, his numbers haven’t lived up to his usual standards, largely due to some injuries that kept him away from the pitch. If he can be in the field for all 17 games, Thielen should easily top 1,000 yards. Expect Kirk Cousins to be looking for Thielen a lot when the team is in the red zone.
Osborn bounced back from a brutal rookie season to put on a truly impressive sophomore year, resulting in some really nice deep TDs (with a few examples above and below this paragraph). PFF gave him a relatively modest 64.9 last season, ranking 76th out of 115 receivers. Regardless, the production on the field was solid: 50 catches, 655 yards and 7 touchdowns.
It’s after the top 3 that things get interesting. Former seventh-round pick Bisi Johnson missed all of last season. Prior to his injury, he played reasonably well for Minnesota. He had 31 catches and nearly 300 yards as a rookie, impressive totals considering draft status. His sophomore stats weren’t as strong, but he’s a late player, so just contributing is a win. Recently, the team brought veteran Albert Wilson to town, indicating that they are looking to increase competition among deep players.
In my opinion, Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Jalen Nailor have the advantage for the WR4 and WR5 places. At the end of the 2021 season, Smith-Marsette impressed. He ran a 4.43 forty, and his speed can help keep defenses from crowding the line of scrimmage. Nailor, for his part, is the only draft receiver in the current regime. That alone should give him an advantage; draft picks are not used unless a team likes the player.
From my perspective, it makes sense for the Vikings to keep five receivers. The clearly defined first three – Jefferson, Thielen and Osborn – are included in this group. After the line, Smith-Marsette and Nailor give Minnesota their five. It’s a relatively young group. Thielen is the only real vet, but Jefferson and Osborn have been through quite a bit in their first two years in the NFL.
The hope and expectation is that Kevin O’Connell will turn this Vikings offense into one of the most dangerous in the league. To succeed, he will need his receivers to collectively stand out as being among the best in the league.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of a larger series of List Predictions. Previous plays have covered QB and RB.