Leading up to the start of training camp on July 29, we will set the stage for Vikings camp by taking a look at where things stand at each position group. Today, we will do double duty with wide receivers and tight ends.
A QUICK REFRESHER: During the offseason, the Vikings swapped out one No. 11 for another, cutting unproductive deep threat Mike Wallace and later drafting former Mississippi wide receiver Laquon Treadwell with their first-round pick. The release of Wallace was no surprise considering he was scheduled to make $11.5 million and had caught just 39 passes in 2015, his only season in purple. The selection of Treadwell was no surprise either, as he fills a clear void in their intermediate passing attack. In the later rounds of the draft, the Vikings also added athletic but raw German wideout Moritz Bohringer and blocking tight end David Morgan II.
HOT CAMP STORYLINE: Even though he was just a sixth-round investment in the draft, Bohringer will be one of the most-scrutinized players down in Mankato because of the seemingly-made-for-TV story of him going from complete unknown to the first straight-to-the-pros European draft pick in NFL history. His limited football experience (and probably a major case of nerves) showed in spring workouts open to the media, when he struggled to catch the football cleanly. The 6-foot-4 athletic freak has camp and four preseason games to prove he belongs on the active roster.
TOP BATTLE TO WATCH: After drafting Morgan, the Vikings praised him as the draft’s top blocking tight end, a notion that the guys over at Pro Football Focus backed up. Morgan was a productive pass-catcher at the University of Texas at San Antonio, too. He will vie for a roster spot behind Kyle Rudolph and MyCole Pruitt. His competition will be Rhett Ellison, who is working his way back from a major knee injury, and Spring Lake Park native Brian Leonhardt. There could be room on the final roster for four tight ends. But they might carry just three, as they did last season.
POSSIBLY IN DANGER: The additions of Treadwell and Bohringer pose the biggest threat to Charles Johnson, who was a healthy scratch during the stretch run and playoffs last season because fellow wideouts Cordarrelle Patterson and Adam Thielen provided more value on special teams. They still do, so Johnson will likely have to make the roster as a pass-catcher. Johnson did have a strong spring while running as the first-team split end in the practices open to the media. If Johnson continues to resemble the productive player we saw in the second half of 2014, he should be safe.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Assuming Treadwell beats out Johnson to start at split end, the rookie will get a chance to be a major contributor right away. But, also, we have not forgotten about Stefon Diggs, who came out of nowhere as a fifth-round pick to be the team’s leading receiver as a rookie in 2015. His production tailed off after a surprising four-game surge to start his career, but Diggs was still dangerous down the stretch, whether he was turning short catches into big gains or going deep. He has been working hard throughout the offseason, and if he continues to click with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, he could top 1,000 receiving yards.
EARLY ROSTER BREAKDOWN:
- On the 90-man roster: 11 wide receivers and 6 tight ends
- Projected to make the 53-man: 5-6 WRs and 3-4 TEs
- Roster locks: 5 (Treadwell, Diggs, WR Jarius Wright, Rudolph and Pruitt)
- Good bets: 2 (Patterson, Thielen)
- On the bubble: 4 (Johnson, Bohringer, Morgan, Ellison)
- Longshots: 6 (WR Isaac Fruechte, WR Marken Michel, WR Terrell Sinkfield, WR Troy Stoudermire, Leonhardt, TE Kyle Carter)