Holler: Minnesota Vikings have unused talent at receiver

The consensus opinion is that the Minnesota Vikings will be taking a wide receiver next Thursday in the draft. But, do they have to?

The talk among just about every NFL pundit is that the Minnesota Vikings are going to be locked and loaded at taking a wide receiver in the first round of next week’s NFL draft. Ask just about anyone whose opinion is requested and the word you get back is that, by this time next week, the Vikings are going to have a new wide receiver on the roster – and one who is expected to be viewed as the No. 1 guy.

But, what happens if that doesn’t happen? Can the Vikings get by with what they have?

It would appear that this is going to be a make-or-break season for Cordarrelle Patterson, a former first-round pick who came into the NFL surrounded by mammoth hype and the dreaded “upside” tag. While Patterson has been an underwhelming receiver to date, over the past two years, it has been more be design than anything else.

Patterson has never quite seemed to fit in Norv Turner’s offense, but all the blame can’t be thrown his way. For much of the 2015 season, Patterson was only on the field for five to 10 offensive plays a game. It’s hard to make plays when you’re rarely on the field and, when you are, you aren’t targeted that often. In reality, some of the blame falls his way, too, because he never established trust with the coaching staff.

Stefon Diggs made a giant splash in the NFL as a rookie last year, but much of that production came in his first three games. Once defenses realized Diggs was becoming Teddy Bridgewater’s go-to guy, his numbers leveled off significantly and he was no longer the big-play receiver that he was when he had his coming-out party.

Charles Johnson enjoyed similar success in 2014. Coming out of nowhere, Johnson emerged as a viable receiving threat in Turner’s first year with the Vikings. But, after being slowed by injury early in the season, which allowed Diggs to step up and move into a more prominent role, Johnson went MIA and was rarely heard from on a consistent basis.

Jarius Wright was the most consistent receiver the Vikings had. He was never asked to be the primary receiver, but did his job as steady as any receiver on the team.

Mike Wallace was supposed to be the answer to the deep-threat question in Turner’s offense, but it didn’t take long for those inside and outside of Winter Park to realize that he wasn’t worth his $11 million paycheck, at least not in the role that Turner wanted him to play.

When the dust settles on Day 1 of the draft next Thursday, there likely is going to be a new wide receiver on the Vikings roster and he will be given every opportunity to be a starter and major contributor. But, at the same time, can the current Vikings receivers be to blame for the lack of production that has spawned the almost universal theory that the Vikings will be looking for a wide receiver in the first round?

At times, Patterson, Diggs and Johnson have all shown the flashes of being a major offensive weapon, but too often it would appear that they find themselves in Turner’s doghouse or going through unusually frequent peaks and valleys and are all but banished from the offense.

Make no mistake. Everyone is projecting a wide receiver to the Vikings in the first round for a reason. Yet, there is talent already on the roster. It may be a question of forcing Turner to use them because players like Patterson and Johnson can’t make plays if they’re not allowed on the field and it would appear that Turner has a history of banishing players for long stretches.

If the Vikings do end up with a highly-touted rookie receiver at the end of Day 1 of the draft, he will be the talk of the next several months. Whether that happens or not, the Vikings have talent at wide receiver. It’s simply a matter of making the best of what you have, something the Vikings haven’t been able to accomplish with any consistency in the Turner offense.


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