The Vikings open up against the Packers in just over a week and a half, a game that will have no fans in attendance at U.S. Bank Stadium. It’s going to be a weird sight to see with an empty stadium, but at the very least football is still going to be played.
Heading into last season the Vikings had arguably the top wide receiver duo in the NFL. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen were a great pairing when both were healthy, but the Vikings traded away Diggs this offseason in exchange for several draft picks.
Replacing a top-ten wide receiver is never an easy task, but the Vikings will look towards several receiving options at attempting to replace Diggs. Thielen is still the clear-cut wide receiver one and the depth after him might be better than it has been in years past.
Starting off with the offensive scheme, Gary Kubiak likes to run a lot of 12 personnel sets, meaning one running back and two tight ends are on the field. The Vikings have three legitimate receiving options on the field when in 12 personnel, with Dalvin Cook coming out of the backfield and Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith Jr. at tight end.
It’s no question that the Vikings will utilize Cook in the passing game, something they did rather frequently in 2019. He totaled 53 catches for 519 yards last season, ranking second behind Diggs in receiving yards and sixth in the league for running backs.
The pairing of Rudolph with Smith Jr. is about as ideal as it gets at the tight end position. Rudolph is a consistent threat in the red zone, whereas Smith brings a level of athleticism to the position that the Vikings haven’t had in several years.
Many analysts believe that last year’s second round pick is going to have a breakout season. Smith’s numbers were not anything special last season, but he was only targeted 47 times. Ahead of the 2020 season, Smith Jr. is towards the top of the list for breakout potential on the Vikings roster.
There are three legit receiving options without even going into the wide receiver position. Although the loss of Diggs will hurt to some extent, the Vikings have plenty of other options outside of the team’s wide receivers.
Having said that, the Vikings still have some talent within their wide receiver corps. As listed above, Thielen is the obvious number one on the roster. Although he was injured in nearly half of the games last season, Thielen still showed how vital he is to this offense in the playoff win against New Orleans.
The Vikings took little time to address the Diggs departure, selecting Justin Jefferson with the first round pick they got in the trade with Buffalo. Jefferson played the majority of his 2019 snaps at LSU in the slot and dominated the competition.
While helping lead his team to a National Championship, Jefferson totaled 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. He has been seen all over the field throughout training camp, playing both in the slot and out wide.
Jefferson getting out to a fast start would be great for the Vikings, but there isn’t going to be a huge rush at forcing him onto the field.
Bisi Johnson has received a lot of high praise from media members, the coaching staff and his quarterback. He has been getting the majority of the reps as the wide receiver two, meaning he has taken a big stride forward from 2019.
Johnson looks to build off a rookie season where he totaled 31 catches for 294 yards and three touchdowns.
That’s now six legitimate receiver options for Kirk Cousins, and that goes without bringing up the other receivers on the team. There are some good camp battles still going on this week between a handful of talented players.
Alexander Hollins is another receiver that has been getting rave reviews throughout camp. He didn’t have much playing time last year, but Cousins trusted him enough to throw a deep pass to him in the playoff game against the Saints. If Hollins continues to impress throughout the remainder of camp there’s no reason he shouldn’t make the 53-man roster.
That leaves Chad Beebe, Tajae Sharpe, K.J. Osborn, Quartney Davis and Dillion Mitchell for the remaining roster spots. It’s likely the Vikings will try to keep at least one on the practice squad, but some of these players are too talented to clear waivers.
Osborn has been seen returning punts and kicks, an aspect of his game that might give him the upper hand at cracking the roster.
On top of having a handful of talented receivers, the Vikings haven’t had the tendency of using too many roster spots on the position. With the amount of depth the Vikings currently have this will be one of the most intriguing positions to keep an eye on as the 53-man roster cut down approaches.
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