The Vikings have written a receiver’s name down on a selection card in nine drafts during the last decade.
And it’s looking like a safe bet they’ll stretch that to 10 of the last 11 drafts later this month.
A year after taking Laquon Treadwell with the 23rd-overall pick, the Vikings’ receiver picture remains in flux and likely incomplete after his disappointing rookie season and the departures of both Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson in free agency.
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has repeated many times this offseason that the team’s main focus is to strike a balanced offensive attack after ranking dead last in rushing yards in 2016. However, they’ve continued to seek upgrades on the outsides for Sam Bradford this offseason by pursuing free agents like Alshon Jeffery, who signed with the Eagles, and Jared Cook, who landed in Oakland.
New Vikings receivers coach Darrell Hazell has his work cut out for him as only three of the eight receivers currently under contract, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Jarius Wright, have caught more than one NFL pass. And Treadwell, who turns just 22 in June, showed much room for needed improvement while navigating some injuries as a rookie.
Zimmer was optimistic recently about Treadwell’s outlook entering his second season.
“I think Laquon has a better understanding of things,” Zimmer said. “I don’t think he understands quite some of the subtleties that he needs. I think he’s got the basics down pretty good. He had a lot of injuries. Then he was pressing. Then I think he just has to come in and be an athlete.”
Providing some relief for the Vikings was Thielen’s emergence last season, during which he fell just short of becoming the franchise’s first 1,000-yard receiver in seven years. The 6-foot-2-inch Thielen is capable of lining up at split end, warding off press coverage and making diving grabs downfield.
Teams can succeed without a monstrous No. 1 receiver like Jeffery, but it’s no coincidence the Vikings walked away from last week’s NFL pro player combine signing both a 6-foot-5-inch receiver in Mitch Mathews and a 6-foot-7-inch tight end in Nick Truesdell (a former receiver). They need size added to diversify a group that already has a couple proven slot receivers.
When putting together the Vikings’ top five draft needs recently, I left receiver just off the list. That doesn’t mean they won’t draft one. They’re expected to add a couple receivers yet, whether through the draft or free agency — perhaps both.