Friday, July 14, 2017

Floyd's suspension provides the Vikings' youth with an opportunity


Wide receiver Michael Floyd has been suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season. Find out why Daniel House says it's a big opportunity for several young wide receivers to step up. 

Updated: July 14, 2017 5:30 p.m.

By: Daniel House

Wide receiver Michael Floyd has been suspended for the first four games of the 2017 season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He will be eligible to return for the Vikings' Week 5 matchup with the Chicago Bears on Oct. 9. During the suspension, Floyd is eligible to play and practice in the preseason.

Floyd signed with the Vikings on May 10 as a suspension loomed for his DUI arrest in February. He was sentenced to 24 days in jail and 96 days of house arrest. Days after the arrest, Floyd was released by the Arizona Cardinals and spent a short stint with the New England Patriots before entering free agency.

After signing with the Vikings, Floyd violated the terms of his house arrest for failing several alcohol tests. Floyd claimed he was drinking kombucha tea and was unaware it contained alcohol. Vikings CEO Kevin Warren wrote a letter to the judge in support of Floyd, stating the team encourages players to drink the tea. The judge ordered Floyd to spend one day in jail for violating the terms of his house arrest.

The Vikings assumed Floyd would be suspended, but can now move forward with their plans at the position. What does this mean for the remaining players at wide receiver?

Overall, it's a big opportunity for second-year wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to make his mark. After tallying just one catch for 15 yards last season, Treadwell is healthy and ready to push for the third wide receiver spot. Reports indicate Treadwell has taken a step forward this offseason. If that's indeed the case, he can solidify himself as the third wide receiver before Floyd returns from suspension. It might make Floyd expendable when he returns from suspension in early October. Floyd might be a veteran security blanket for the time being, until Treadwell shows he is ready to elevate his game to the next level.

Aside from the impact it could have on Laquon Treadwell, it provides several young players with an opportunity to latch onto a roster spot. Veteran wide receiver Jarius Wright will likely claim the fourth wide receiver spot after a nondescript 2016 campaign.

Fifth round draft pick Rodney Adams is a candidate to return kicks and could make a quick impact in the receiving game. If the Vikings keep five wide receivers, Wright and Adams would earn the final two spots, with draft pick Stacy Coley and second-year player Cayleb Jones becoming practice squad candidates.

If Coley or Jones have strong preseason campaigns, the Vikings may be forced to keep six wide receivers. Minnesota has kept six wide receivers each of the last two seasons. However, in 2012, when wide receiver Jerome Simpson was suspended three games, the team kept five wide receivers. If either of the two young wide receivers have a strong preseason, the Vikings likely won't hesitate to keep six players in the position group.

Not to mention, upon Floyd's return, other teams would have their rosters set, making it less likely Coley or Jones would be snatched off waivers, en route to the practice squad. Coley, a seventh round pick out of Miami, ranks sixth in all-purpose yards at Miami. He was effective when isolated in space and made plays vertically because of his speed. Coley needs to become a more consistent route runner and develop more play strength against press coverage. If he can do that, he will translate well as an option out of the slot. It's hard to imagine he could push Jarius Wright off the roster, but Coley has a very similar skill-set.

Wide receiver Cayleb Jones is a 6-foot-3 target with a large catch radius and above average ball skills. He was a red zone weapon at Arizona, but needed overall polishing as a route runner. He doesn't have much play speed, which makes his ability to get open even more important. If Coley can't supplant Wright, Jones and Coley would battle for the final wide receiver spot in training camp and the preseason. In addition, veteran Isaac Fruechte has shown he can be an active contributor on special teams. He has less upside as a receiver, but provides versatility on special teams. He could fight Coley and Jones for a roster spot if the coaches prefer experience.

When Floyd returns, the Vikings can evaluate the performance of Laquon Treadwell and determine whether a veteran presence is immediately needed. If the coaches feel it's necessary, Jones or Coley can jump to the practice squad to make room. If neither of those two step up in training camp, the Vikings can keep five wide receivers and add Floyd in October.

Ultimately, the suspension of Floyd is an opportunity for several young players to prove their worth on the roster. How those players perform will dictate the decisions made at wide receiver in late August.

In case you missed it, take a look at my 53-man roster projection to learn more about every position group. Click below!


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