The biggest storyline surrounding the Vikings this offseason was the Stefon Diggs trade with the Buffalo Bills. Although Mike Zimmer made it known that the trade wasn’t something the Vikings were actively pursuing, they were given a deal that was simply too good to turn down.
With that trade, the Vikings received a handful of picks which included the 22nd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. They quickly looked to replace Diggs with the selection of Justin Jefferson out of LSU. There is a lot to be excited about with the tangibles that Jefferson brings to the table, and he is only part of the reason the Vikings will continue to find success through the air.
It’s not going to be an easy task to replace Diggs, who finished the 2019 season with 63 catches for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns. But there are multiple players on the Vikings roster that will be able to ease the transition away from the hero of the Minneapolis Miracle.
It can be difficult for a rookie receiver to come into the league and make an impact right away, but it is likely that the Vikings will ask a lot of Jefferson early on in his career. He is coming off a National Championship winning season where he totaled 111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns, putting together one of the most impressive seasons out of any receivers in the 2020 class.
Adam Thielen is coming off a season where he only played in 10 games and it seems as if some have forgotten how good the Detroit Lakes native has been for the Vikings. It was just two seasons ago that Thielen tied the record with Calvin Johsnosn for most consecutive games with 100 or more receiving yards.
Paring Thielen with Jefferson has drawn some concerns, since both players have been able to perfect their craft from the slot. However, both players are more than capable of playing outside and it’s likely the Vikings will move them around frequently.
Thielen and Jefferson will likely be the number one and number two receivers on the depth chart entering the season, but there are still some question marks surrounding the wide receiver three role and beyond.
Gary Kubiak tends to utilize a lot of 12 and 13 personnel, meaning the tight end position is going to play a big role this season. Irv Smith Jr. is set for a breakout year in 2020 while Kyle Rudolph has been one of the most consistent Vikings players over the last decade. The tight end group is going to be critical in reducing the stress of replacing Diggs, so it’s a great thing the Vikings have two productive players at the position.
Bisi Johnson had a good rookie year and it’s likely he will see the field frequently in 2020 with his blocking ability. The Vikings also added Tajae Sharpe this offseason, who is a great third down target for Kirk Cousins. Both Sharpe and Johnson will likely be on the roster, so it comes down to how many roster spots the Vikings want to use at the position.
A few names to keep an eye on as camp roles out at the end of July consist of K.J. Osborn, Chad Beebe, Alexander Hollins, Dillon Mitchell and Quartney Davis. All these receivers are younger and unproven, and the majority of them were either drafted late or went undrafted completely.
The good news for the names listed above is that the Vikings tend to find successful receivers later in the draft. Diggs was taken in the fifth, Johsnon in the seventh and Thielen was undrafted. There are plenty of opportunities for these young receivers to make a name for themselves, but there aren’t going to be more than two roster spots available.
A big thing to be taken into consideration is the Vikings lack of production in the return game in 2019. Osborn was a punt and kick returner during his time at Miami, so he could have a slight edge at making the roster.
It’s never easy replacing a top-ten receiver but the Vikings have plenty of options heading into training camp. Cousins has shown how accurate he can be consistently so it will be vital to find out which receivers are the most NFL ready before the season starts against the Packers week one.