Thielen, Jefferson, and Uncertainty at Receiver for Minnesota

Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson form a formidable receiving duo for the Minnesota Vikings. After those two, though, there is a lot of uncertainty.

Before the 2020 season, Mike Zimmer opted for 7 receivers on the final roster, largely due to an emphasis on special teams. In all likelihood, that number will diminish. We can be fairly certain that the top-two receivers will be included on the final roster, but then after that it’s a true competition.

The Near Guarantees

Similar to the QB prediction, this category has a clear-cut top two. Thielen and Jefferson are a tremendous pair for Minnesota, one that likely causes a lot of sleepless nights for opposing defensive coordinators. A refresher on their statistics from last season:

  • Thielen: 15 games, 74 receptions, 925 yards, 12.5 yards per catch, 14 TDs
  • Jefferson: 16 games, 88 receptions, 1400 yards, 15.9 yards per catch, 7 TDs

Translation: neither Thielen nor Jefferson are going anywhere.

Fans also should remember the more advanced statistics. PFF ranks Jefferson as their #2 receiver and Thielen as their #6. It’s also helpful to see the snap breakdown. Jefferson played 672 snaps out wide and 211 in the slot. Thielen had 659 out wide and 256 in the slot. In other words, both are primarily outside receivers, but they’re more than capable of thriving in the slot. This versatility is huge for Minnesota.

Dumb comments aside, Jefferson has handled stardom well. It’s been encouraging to see him embrace top competition, and the hope is that he can be even better in Year 2. Having these two healthy and wreaking havoc on opposing defenses is of the utmost importance for our friends in purple. Because Minnesota tends to favor 12 personnel, Thielen and Jefferson will seldom get taken off the field.

The True Competition

Let’s begin with a somewhat unpopular opinion among Vikings fans: I think Chad Beebe is a fine WR3 who should make the team. He’s super quick, gritty, and can contribute on multiple special teams units. I’ll take him, especially given his modest cap charge. Go ahead and relive his mini miracle and tell me it doesn’t make your purple heart proud:

After that, I quite like Olabisi Johnson, but I won’t be surprised if he has a tough time making the final roster. His numbers were down compared to his rookie season. 45 targets, 31 catches, 294 yards, and 3 TDs in 2019 turned into 19 targets, 14 catches, 189 yards, and 0 TDs. Keep in mind he started half as many games. Nevertheless, Johnson is fighting for his spot on the roster.

Otherwise, the most notable name is Ihmir Smith-Marsette. Day 3 picks are guaranteed very little in the NFL, so he’ll certainly need to prove he belongs. That said, his speed and abilities as a returner give him a good edge on the competition. Expect to see him on the final roster.

From there, it’s going to come down to competition between Dan Chisena, Myron Mitchell, K.J. Osborn, Blake Proehl, and Whop Philyor. Fans will remember Chisena and Osborn from last season’s special teams trainwreck. Neither were very good; both still have potential.

Keep an eye on Proehl. The UDFA received $115,000 fully guaranteed, a hefty sum for a player in his position. There’s a pretty reasonable chance he finds his way to the final roster.

The Vikings Roster Prediction at WR

Well, folks, there you have it. Thielen and Jefferson will be on the Minnesota roster; after those two, it’s anyone’s guess. My guess: five receivers total. I’m going with Thielen, Jefferson, Beebe, Smith-Marsette, and Proehl. Got another opinion? Let me hear about it.

Next round is the running backs.