Shortly after the Vikings drafted Bisi Johnson with the 247th pick on April 27, the Colorado State receiver realized his new employer would impact more people in his family than just him.
Johnson’s mother, Traci, is an Iowa native, and the receiver still has family in Cedar Rapids. “One of my closest cousins is a die-hard Minnesota Viking fan,” Johnson said. “He was like, ‘Both of our dreams came true — you got drafted, and you got drafted to my favorite team.’ ”
It’s possible Johnson’s cousin could soon watch him, or one of his cohorts in a wide receiver room teeming with young hopefuls, playing a meaningful role in the Vikings offense sooner than expected. With 2016 first-round pick Laquon Treadwell set to hit free agency after this season, following three underwhelming years that led the Vikings to decline his fifth-year option, the team has used part of its offseason program to sort through its receiving depth behind Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
The Vikings, who begin their mandatory minicamp Tuesday, have used a number of different players in their top three-receiver package, taking a look at former Broncos receiver Jordan Taylor and second-year man Chad Beebe in addition to Treadwell. Brandon Zylstra, whom the Vikings signed from the CFL last year, also has a chance to play a key role after working mostly on special teams in 2018.
Badet, Beebe and Zylstra are among the receivers under consideration as return men. The Vikings have also seen some promising signs from their two draft picks (Johnson and Dillon Mitchell).
“I think it’s probably the most passionate group I’ve been around, as far as rookie receivers,” Thielen said. “They want to learn. They want to get better. They’re frustrated when they don’t do things well, and you like to see that.”
Johnson built his reputation at Colorado State on his footwork and technical ability. Mitchell caught 75 passes for 1,184 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final year at Oregon, before running a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the combine.
The Vikings see promise with their second-year receivers, as well. Beebe — a rookie camp find who made his way to the 53-man roster last season — has a chance to battle for the Vikings’ No. 3 receiver job. Badet, who received a $75,000 signing bonus last year, is known for his speed after running a 4.27-second 40 in college, but hopes to make an impact after training to refine route-running skills in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., this offseason.
“I was just working on the top of the route, being able to run full speed and stop on a dime,” Badet said. “Diggs and Adam, those guys are always coaching me up. There were times I’d post videos on my [Instagram} story of me working out, and Diggs was coaching me up all the time. They’re one of the best [duos] in the league, so it’s a benefit that I’m getting to play with them.”
While the Vikings’ young receivers have shown some positive signs in OTAs, coach Mike Zimmer said it’s too early to draw any meaningful conclusions about them.
“I think it’s a good group. I don’t know that anyone has really kind of separated themselves,” Zimmer said. “They’re all pretty decent. Bisi [Johnson] looks good at times, Dillon [Mitchell] looks good at times. Those guys kind of show out a little bit. They’re all making little rookie mistakes right now, but as we go forward I think someone will separate themselves here.”