It is important to always be wary of OTA results. A lot of players in the past have looked great in shorts, but have come up short when they strap on the full pads. Most notably, Laquon Treadwell was reportedly taking massive strides in OTAs and training camp a year ago, yet failed to live up to that hype for the third year in a row. Now, ignoring all of that, let’s kick start the Jordan Taylor as Vikings third receiver hype train.
Taylor, who joined the Vikings this offseason after three years in Denver, is the frontrunner to nab the third receiver spot at the moment. He has an enticing combination of length (6-foot-5) and YAC ability (11 punt returns in his career). Yet, he also has few targets, and thus limited film from which to draw adequate conclusions.
But OTAs have revealed a couple things in a small sample size. One, Taylor seems to have an ability to track the ball that Treadwell has lacked. Two, his teammates seem to be on board. Most notably, Kirk Cousins described Taylor as a “diamond in the rough” last week. Plus, with their time in Denver together, Taylor has a leg up in regard to working with Gary Kubiak, who figures to have a substantial voice in Kevin Stefanski’s system.
It may sound silly to describe the Vikings as “receiver-needy” the last few years while Adam Thielen an Stefon Diggs have blossomed into one of the league’s premier receiver duos. And yet, Minnesota’s inability to get consistent play down the depth chart has been an under-the-radar detriment to the offense. Sure, they have gotten a big catch here and there from Treadwell or Jarius Wright. But a reliable target who can actually be a steady matchup problem has yet to be be found.
Meanwhile, as pressure in Cousins’ face increased and teams bracketed Diggs and Thielen, the Vikings’ offense stalled down the stretch. As such, finding another pass catcher has to be a priority.
Granted, the overwhelming need for a dynamic third receiver may diminish if Irv Smith proves a more reliable target between the 20s. Even as a tight end, he figures to spend considerable time in the slot. There, he can still be a matchup problem for safeties and linebackers, but does not have to encounter as much wear and tear on the line. That said, the reports from camp would indicate that Taylor could be that added perimeter threat. This could allow Thielen to work the slot more often, where he does some of his best work.
First thing that leaps off the tape is his talent at the catch point. At 6'5", with a wingspan to match, the ability to snag catches with his arms fully extended and the body control to whirl back towards the ball in midair, there's plenty of highlights: pic.twitter.com/RcqRMSTGJe— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) June 3, 2019
It is still a lot of wait-and-see with Taylor, and the Vikings’ receivers in general. Chances are the third receiver spot will go by committee. Second-year Chad Beebe may handle slot receiver duties at first with Taylor primarily staying outside. But if Taylor can make plays outside the numbers like those seen above, that is a dimension that Vikings have not seen from their receiver depth in some time.
For all we know, Taylor may never provide substantial improvement to the position, at least not consistently. But his size and speed are significant assets for a team in search of play-makers.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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