Countdown to camp: WR projections, analysis

Perhaps no position on the Vikings holds as much intrigue as receiver. Most of drama has to do with the newcomers who are locks to make the roster, but the battle for the final roster spot or two will be interesting. We offer our analysis on who makes it, the sleeper, the longshot and the practice squad candidates.

WIDE RECEIVERS

The numbers: Last year—5. Current count—12. Projection this year—5.

The candidates: Lamark Brown, Stephen Burton, Greg Childs, Erik Highsmith, Greg Jennings, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jerome Simpson, Rodney Smith, Chris Summers, Adam Thielen, Joe Webb, Jarius Wright.

The locks: Jennings, Patterson, Simpson, Wright.

The sleeper: The way the numbers stack up after "the locks," it could essentially be eight players fighting for one last spot on the 53-man roster, and another one or two on the practice squad. The fifth receiver on the roster could depend on the health of Greg Childs or the transition from quarterback to receiver for Joe Webb. But don't discount the size and ability of Smith. At 6-foot-5, if he can get comfortable in the offense early, he might just have a fighter's chance at the final spot.

The longshot: Like Smith, Highsmith is a bigger receiver (6-1, 190), but he doesn't look quite as polished or quite as quick. The best-case scenario for Highsmith, another undrafted rookie, is the practice squad.

The analysis: It might be a stretch to proclaim Wright a lock, but there is no doubt who the top three receivers are. Jennings, Simpson and Patterson will garner the vast majority of the outside work, and Wright can offer quality snaps in the slot when Patterson and Jennings aren't used there.

After that, this should be one of the top competitions of training camp, with possibly only one more spot available. If Childs is healthy enough to start the season and stay off the physically-unable-to-perform list after surgery last August to repair both of his torn patellar tendons, he could be the favorite, but there will be plenty of contenders. With Webb, route-running and quickness are the biggest impediments. Summers is a big-bodied target that has made long strides since spending last season on the practice squad. And Burton owned a position on the 53-man roster last year, even if he failed to get involved much in the passing game.

Greg Jennings: The savvy veteran, signed over from Green Bay on a five-year, $45 million contract, is being called upon to be the leader of this group and has accepted that role. He should also be the leader in production.

Cordarrelle Patterson: The talent and skills are obvious. He appeared to be a willing worker and catching onto the offense in offseason practices. If he continues that ascent, he could be on the field a lot as a rookie.

Jerome Simpson: The explosiveness appears to be back after last year's nerve injury and he has yet another one-year contract in which to prove himself. This is likely the make-or-break year for Simpson to get a multi-year deal with the Vikings.

Jarius Wright: He became a valuable backup to Percy Harvin, but Wright knows there is no replacing Harvin. Instead, if he can continue to build on his rookie season, he should receive a solid amount of snaps in the slot.

Rodney Smith: He was considered a mid-round value that the Vikings signed after the draft. He will have competition all around him to make the 53-man roster, but he is probably the most talented of those the rookie crop.

Greg Childs: It's all about Childs' health. He looked surprisingly good making cuts in June, but how that translates once the pads of training camp go on remains to be seen. If he's close to full health, he has a legitimate shot to make the roster. If not, the PUP seems like a likely place to start the regular season.

Stephen Burton: He made the roster last year, but he wasn't used as much more than a blocking receiver. Eventually, he has to earn more targeted passes on the field or move on.

Joe Webb: Catching the ball wasn't as much of a problem as advertised as he makes the transition to receiver, but it's clear he doesn't have the short-area burst of most of the other receivers and is still at the front end of a long learning curve.

Chris Summers: He could be the most improved of the receivers from last year after spending 2012 on the practice squad. He appears quicker, and his 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame is intriguing. He's legitimately fighting for a roster spot.

Adam Thielen: The late signee to the squad via Minnesota State, Mankato has a chance to be more than just a camp body. He's quick enough to have some elusiveness, but ultimately he's a practice squad candidate at best this year.

LaMark Brown: He's making the transition from tight end to receiver, but he might just be too much of a "tweener" – not quite bulky enough to be a tight end and not quite quick enough to be a receiver. He's got a lot of proving to do in the preseason to keep employment in mid-September.

Erik Highsmith: He appears bigger than his 6-foot-1, 190-pound listing, but speed and refinement are issues that could keep him off both the 53-man roster and the practice squad.

The projection: Jennings, Simpson, Patterson, Wright, Smith.

Best practice squad candidates: Smith (if he doesn't make the 53-man roster), Summers and Thielen.


Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

Viking Update Top Stories