Minnesota Vikings: Must Develop at Wide Receiver
The Minnesota Vikings enter the 2017 season with a lot of uncertainty swirling at the wide receiver position. With the departure of Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency and the questions surrounding the development of Laquon Treadwell, the Vikings are left with inexperience at the wide receiver position. In order to address this issue, the Vikings went out and signed veteran Michael Floyd, formerly of the Cardinals and Patriots, and drafted two rookie wide receivers in Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley.
The team took a risk by adding Floyd, who was facing suspension after a DUI last year, and that risk emerged. On June 11, Floyd failed an alcohol test, claiming he didn’t know kombucha tea contained alcohol. He will appear in court on June 26 and could face jail time for drinking alcohol during his house arrest. The Vikings may decide to release Floyd, which makes the wide receiver spot even more unstable heading into training camp.
At this point, there are little veteran options on the free agent market worth signing before training camp. 34-year old Vincent Jackson and 36-year-old Anquan Boldin are the best available, but the Minnesota Vikings are looking for one of their young wide receivers to step up. Boldin, who notched 67 receptions, 584 yards, and eight touchdowns last season, could certainly fit the mold of what the Vikings would need for a possible veteran presence.
The word “hope” is what is causing many people to become uneasy. Second-year receiver Laquon Treadwell has made some strides during the offseason and is considered the X-factor at the position. However, there is no way to know whether Laquon Treadwell will develop this season. Mike Zimmer has expressed his pleasure with the growth Treadwell has made, but we won’t truly know until he gets into games. Will he find a way to get separation by running crisp routes? He doesn’t have top-line speed, which makes the little details of his game very important.
Also, Jarius Wright should have a comeback-type season. The five-year veteran had an impressive 2015 campaign and fell completely off last year. He is more than capable and will shoulder a much larger load this season. Not to mention, the Minnesota Vikings will need production outside of their top-three wide receivers. Stefon Diggs has an injury history and it will be necessary to have alternatives available. Diggs has played in just 13 games in each of his first two seasons with the Vikings.
Among the Vikings wide receivers’ 237 receptions last season, 165 (69%) will be returning. If you eliminate the production of Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, the production is worse. The remaining wide receivers on the roster (Laquon Treadwell and Jarius Wright), combined for just 12 receptions in 2016. The Vikings do have a large portion of their offensive output (83 receptions) allotted to Kyle Rudolph, but they must start gaining production past the top-two wide receiver spots.
Rookie Rodney Adams was drafted as a return man but may need to develop quickly at the wide receiver position. From highlights during OTAs, his route running appears to be better than we first anticipated. Nonetheless, there will still be a steep learning curve. Seventh-round pick Stacy Coley needs polishing too, which leaves the Vikings with three legitimate wide receivers. A player like Isaac Fruechte could even emerge if the coaches feel more experience is necessary.
So what happens if Treadwell doesn’t progress and the new rookies struggle to handle the learning curve?
Well, if the Vikings get into a predicament at wide receiver, they may need to involve a player like tight end Bucky Hodges or utilize running backs out of the backfield to make up for the lost production. The system could also favor more power running with a trio of talented running backs. Nonetheless, the question marks surrounding the Vikings’ offensive line cast a cloud on the outlook for the running game. It is too early to understand where the young players stand at wide receiver, but the Michael Floyd signing provided a form of veteran stability at the position. Now, the need for player development and production from younger players will be even more important.
As it stands now, Jarius Wright’s performance, Stefon Diggs’ health, and the progression of Laquon Treadwell will dictate the growth of Minnesota’s passing game in 2017. Many fans have concerns about the Vikings and their depth at wide receiver. It’s too early to panic, but there certainly are a few questions that must be answered before the Minnesota Vikings kick off the season on September 11th against the Saints.