Offseason training activities are on the horizon. With rookie camp completed, the Minnesota Vikings will now spend the next month evaluating the roster as a whole.
After two previews, Full Press Coverage continues the Vikings roster preview series with an in-depth look at arguably the most talented position on the offense: the wide receiver unit.
Projected Starters: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs
Reserves: Kendall Wright, Laquon Treadwell, Stacy Coley, Tavarres King, Cayleb Jones, Jake Wieneke, Korey Robinson, Brandon Zylstra, Chad Beebe, Jeff Badet
After nearly a decade with one of the weakest receiver groups in the NFL, the Vikings will enter 2018 with the league’s top receiving duo in Thielen and Diggs.
After his breakout season in 2016, Thielen proved that he wasn’t a one-hit wonder with an even bigger 2017. He finished fifth in the NFL in receiving with 1,276 yards on 91 catches while also chipping in four touchdowns.
His improvement each year has now vaulted him among the better wideouts in the game today. If he can continue his progression, he may soon find himself mentioned among the league’s elite at the position.
Even with Thielen having the numbers, the argument can be made that Diggs may be the team’s most talented receiver. He tied for the team lead with eight touchdown receptions and was second on the team with 849 yards.
When it comes to big plays in the passing game, the team may have no one better. It was Diggs who made the walk-off touchdown catch to win the NFC Divisional game versus the New Orleans Saints.
The only thing keeping Diggs from reaching his full potential is injuries. In each of the last two seasons, he has been slowed by groin injuries after fast starts. In 2017, he at least regained momentum at the best possible time.
If both of these receivers can repeat or better what they did last season, opposing secondaries will be in for another long year.
The Vikings swapped one Wright for another when they released longtime veteran Jarius Wright and signed former Bear and Titan, Kendall Wright. The Vikings should have a more solid third receiver with this addition.
Wright led the Bears with 59 catches for 614 yards and a score. He also has a 1,000-yard under his belt, providing the Vikings with someone capable of picking up the slack if either Diggs or Thielen miss any time.
Treadwell heads into his third season likely on the hot seat. As a former first round pick, he has yet to live up to that status as he’s produced just 21 catches in two seasons. He’ll need to show major progression this season if he wants to remain on the team beyond 2018. His spot may not be safe even past training camp.
The fifth (and possibly final) spot is wide open. Coley may have the early edge as he offers special teams skills as a possible kickoff return option. However, he’ll also have competition for that job as well with rookie cornerback, Mike Hughes.
The remaining players will need to show that they can provide a dimension to the group that currently isn’t present. Someone who can be a pure deep threat or a red zone target is likely to be high on the team’s want list.
The strongest position group on offense last season looks to be even better in 2018. Thielen and Diggs should be helped by Kirk Cousins‘ ability to spread the ball around as well as the addition of Kendall Wright.
If Treadwell can become the type of receiver the Vikings had envisioned when they drafted him in 2016, this group will be even more dangerous. That being said, he’s going to be in a fight just to remain in the rotation.
Ultimately, it will be the duo of Thielen and Diggs who will be the strength of this group. They are both do-everything receivers who are talented enough to command extra attention and create opportunities for others.
Even with teams loading up on defensive help, this duo requires opposing defenses to game plan specifically for them. That fact by itself should create opportunities for the other receivers to make plays when teams pay extra attention to those two.
Things are definitely trending upwards for this unit.
Final Spring Evaluation
This group goes into OTAs as the strongest unit of the offense, though quarterback and running back have or will receive significant boosts in talent in the summer.
Thielen and Diggs are two of the NFL’s best receivers and still have room to grow. They were the top receiver duo in 2017 and will look to repeat that feat in 2018.
This year, they should have help from Kendall Wright as a third receiver. If he can finally put it together, Treadwell could also provide a possession-type receiving threat in third down and red zone situations.
Ultimately, it could be the change at quarterback that carries the most impact on this group. If Cousins is the type of quarterback they believe he is, he should be able to raise the level of play of this group.
Final Spring Evaluation: A