It’s no secret that the Vikings have a very good wide receiver room. The depth the Vikings have at the wide receiver position is hard to find with other teams. They have everything an expansive receiver room needs to be successful; a young studded receiver, who’s had a massive impact on the game. A hardy veteran, who can help the younger receivers, as well as make an impact on the field. A young receiver making his mark in short bursts, but showing progression, and tons of younger guys are willing to learn.
In case you can’t tell who each of those receivers are based on the descriptions, they are none other than Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and KJ Osborn.
Vikings wide receivers have seen major success this year under first-year head coach Kevin O’Connell. The switch from a defensive-minded head coach in Mike Zimmer to an offensive-minded head coach has proved to be a good one for this stacked room.
Justin Jefferson has had a phenomenal season so far, reeling in 124 receptions for 1771 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 110.7 yards per game. Adam Thielen continues to regress this season from the pro bowl receiver we knew only four years ago, reeling in 68 receptions for 708 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 44.3 yards per game. KJ Osborn has continued to be a great outlet player for Kirk Cousins, always being open when Jefferson and Thielen aren’t, reeling in 55 receptions for 533 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 33.3 yards per game.
The Vikings have seen flashes from their back ups when they have gotten opportunities such as Jalen Reagor and Jalen Nailor. Reagor has played in most games, but not really thrown too. He has 8 receptions for 104 yards and 1 touchdown this season. Nailor has played in all games, mostly as a special teams guy. He caught a pass from punter Ryan Wright on a fake punt against the Saints. In total he has 9 receptions, 179 yards and 1 touchdown on the season.
Each Vikings receiver is under contract through the upcoming 2023 NFL season. It’s no doubt that the Vikings are going to try to sign Justin Jefferson to a monster deal along with using his 5th Year Option. Seeing the production that KJ Osborn has provided as a slot and WR3, the Vikings would likely exercise his 5th Year Option as well. Jalen Reagor and Jalen Nailor would be solid choices to keep as backups and as reliable pieces for when starters get injured. Now the real question is… What do the Vikings do with Adam Thielen?
There is no doubt that Adam Thielen’s production has severely gone down since his back to back 1,000 yard seasons in 2017 and 2018, not reaching that mark since. Thielen has been a great redzone threat for the Vikings, but with the addtion of TJ Hockenson to the Tight End room with Irv Smith Jr. and Johnny Mundt, Thielen’s redzone heroics may not be needed anymore. He’s now 32 years old, making his value go down. The Vikings could very well be looking for a solid third young wide receiver to fit into their scheme with Justin Jefferson and KJ Osborn in the draft, and that could lead to Adam Thielen being released this offseason.
Releasing Thielen would give the Vikings a nice cap hit and give Thielen the chance to bring his talents to a team that could utilize somewhere else.
If the Vikings end up targeting a wide receiver in the draft, we could see them take someone in the second or third round. It would be a massive surprise to see the Vikings take a wide receiver in the first round when there are many issues that need to be addressed on defense.
Some prospects that we could see the Vikings target are Jaxon Smith-Njigba out of Ohio State, Rome Odunze out of Washington, Josh Downs out of North Carolina, and Jordan Addison out of USC.
If the Vikings part ways with Adam Thielen in the offseason and draft a wide receiver in an early round of the draft, then here are some possibilities of how the Vikings could line up at wide receiver next season:
– Justin Jefferson, KJ Osborn, Draft Pick
– Justin Jefferson, KJ Osborn, Jalen Reagor
– Justin Jefferson, KJ Osborn, Jalen Nailor
– Justin Jefferson, KJ Osborn, Draft Pick/Reagor/Nailor Split Time
The Vikings still have other wide receivers on their practice squad and injured reserve such as Blake Prohel, Dan Chisena, and Bisi Johnson, but the likeliness of them becoming starters on the roster is slim. Johnson’s rookie contract is up after this year, and it looks unlikely that the Vikings will pick up his 5th Year Option as he’s been injured for two of his four years of eligibility. Prohel and Chisena are both currently on the practice squad, and have only ever been used as special teams players. However, you can never count them out as that’s the exact position that Adam Thielen was in when he signed for the Vikings in 2014.