Sunday, January 25, 2015

Grading the Roster: Wide Receivers

Photo Courtesy of Gannett 
The Vikings didn't receive the explosive production at the wide receiver position like they first anticipated. However, several young players leave plenty of optimism moving forward. Daniel House grades the wide receivers and tells you how the front office will attack this position in the offseason. 

The Vikings coaching staff didn't expect as much shuffling at wide receiver, but they were able to find several young players who can make an impact in the future. There were growing pains for several players and others played a critical role as leaders of this position group. The Vikings may need one more dynamic playmaker at this position in the offseason, but they have a group of wide receivers that have the potential to develop into long-term options.

*Note: In order to receive, a grade, the player must have been active for a least six games during the 
2014 season.*

Wide Receivers: 

Greg Jennings

Grade: A-

Analysis: Greg Jennings was the leader of the Vikings wide receiver corps and he managed to stay healthy for the full 16-game schedule. He led the team with 59 receptions for 742 yards and six touchdowns. Jennings' most impressive attribute was his route running and he was the most sure-handed wide receiver for Teddy Bridgewater this season. Norv Turner was utilizing Jennings more in the red zone and his ability to run off of picks and crossing routes were one of the main reasons why Teddy Bridgewater was successful inside the 20-yard line. He ended up hauling in four of Bridgewater's final ten touchdown passes and the duo was developing a formidable connection down the stretch. The Vikings have to love his leadership Jennings provides, but he is definitely a candidate to have his contract restructured. His base salary will increase $4 million, which means his cap hit will be $11 million per year over the next three seasons. With other positional needs, you have to believe the front office will ask Jennings to restructure his contract.

Projected 2015 Status: Restructures his contract and returns

Charles Johnson

Grade: B+

Analysis: The Vikings signed Charles Johnson off of the Cleveland Browns practice squad after the team released Jerome Simpson in September. After spending time in Norv Turner's offensive scheme while in Cleveland, Johnson was able to make a quick transition into the Vikings offensive scheme. He was named a starting wide receiver after spending just two months with the team and the coaches were very impressed with his ability to stretch the field. Johnson still needs work becoming a consistent pass catcher and he openly has admitted he wasn't 100% comfortable with his leaping ability after having surgery on his knee last year. Nonetheless, Johnson has the tools to be a wide receiver in this offense and he just needs more polishing. However, it is encouraging the amount of production he displayed in a limited amount of time with the team.

Projected 2015 Status: Returns

Cordarrelle Patterson

Grade: C-

Analysis: Cordarrelle Patterson had to be one of the most disappointing players on the Vikings roster this season. Part of this was due to the high expectation levels that were set by fans entering the season. After an impressive rookie season, Patterson's inability to learn the offense and gain separation from defensive backs was on full display. He started the first nine games, but was later benched following the bye week. Patterson played in just 10% of the total offensive snaps in the final five games and the coaching staff clearly wasn't impressed with his progress. He didn't bring much life on special teams and failed to notch a kickoff return touchdown. Patterson was sixth in the league in yards per return, but he just lacked explosion and consistency in every aspect of his game this season. Mike Zimmer has contracted a player or coach to tutor Patterson through different aspects of the game during the offseason. He will likely have the opportunity to regain his role as a starter, but Charles Johnson will be pushing him every step of the way.

Projected 2015 Status: Fourth wide receiver

Jarius Wright

Grade: B

Analysis: You could tell Jarius Wright was going to have a breakthrough season when you watched him practice during training camp. He started to play a more pivotal role in the offense as the season progressed and his dynamic role fits nicely within Norv Turner's offense. Wright led the team in total yards after the catch and he worked with Teddy Bridgewater on two of his longest plays of the season. He showing more growth in the route running aspect of the game and Norv Turner really utilized his skill-set by aligning him in screen packages, along with designed runs out of the backfield. Wright could be a candidate for a contract extension and it appears he has a realistic chance to be the third wide receiver on the roster.

Projected 2015 Status: Third wide receiver

Adam Thielen

Grade: B+

Analysis: Adam Thielen has developed a great story with the Vikings and his hard work really paid off in 2014. Thielen played an integral role on special teams coverage teams and by the end of the year, he was showing strides on offense, as well. He added a 44-yard touchdown score in the season finale and he showed some growth as a route runner. Thielen definitely has done a great job as a run blocker, but he needs to add some more size this offseason and continue to progress in his route tree. His ability to produce on special teams was recognized by many and those types of contributions are aspects that will keep you on a roster in this league.

Projected 2015 Status: 5th or 6th wide receiver

Kain Colter

Analysis: Kain Colter was signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2014 NFL Draft and spent the entire season on the practice squad. During his college career, he spent time at quarterback and wide receiver. The coaching staff has indicated he needs plenty of work as a route runner and they were giving him a heavy dose of return team snaps during training camp. He needs more polishing, but it will be interesting to see the strides he made while he was on the practice squad this season.

Donte Foster

Analysis: Donte Foster spent the entire season on the practice squad as an undrafted free agent out of Ohio. Foster has size and some playmaking potential. He won't blow you away with his athleticism, but he is developing as a possession wide receiver. Foster will be within a very crowded wide receiver group and he will need to show immense strides heading into training camp.

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