For the next several weeks, I will be looking back at the roster, examining the positions to find weaknesses as well as strengths.
By JORDAN WRIGHT
Last week, we went over the quarterbacks, running backs and full back positions. This week, I will turn my attention to the wide receiver group and the tight ends. The wide receiver group has gotten thrown under the bus a lot, but that is to be expected since the Vikings are a run first team who threw the least amount of passes in the NFL in 2015.
Stefon Diggs was by far the Vikings’ best receiver in 2015, leading the team in receptions (52) and yards (720) to go with four touchdowns (even though he only started nine games and played in 13 total). Pro Football Focus rated Diggs as the 25 best WR in the NFL last season with a player grade of 82.0.
Diggs was only a fifth round pick in last year’s draft, but he showed he has what it takes to be a good player in the NFL. However, it’s unclear if he will ever become a true number one receiver on the team or simply remain a great complimentary player. Diggs has three years left on his rookie deal.
Mike Wallace was a huge disappointment in Minnesota after the Vikings basically traded Greg Jennings and a fifth round pick to acquire him. Wallace was third on the team (behind Diggs and Kyle Rudolph) in both receptions (39), yards (473) and touchdowns (2). PFF also ranked Wallace 96 out of 121 qualifying receivers in the NFL with a player grade of 55.4.
With a cap hit of around $11 million this upcoming season, I don’t see any way the Vikings bring him back. Even if Wallace was willing to take a pay cut, I believe it would be in the best interest of both parties to go their separate ways.
Jarius Wright only caught 34 passes for 442 yards and zero touchdowns, but he was reliable. The Vikings know who Jarius is, and that is a receiver who will never be elite but will usually be reliable. Jarius is the perfect third or fourth receiver to have on a team. With a grade of 70.0, Wright comes in at number 65 in PFF’s rankings. Wright has four years left on his recent contract extension and a cap hit of around $2.5 million.
Adam Thielen only caught 12 passes for 144 yards. Thielen did not play enough to be ranked by PFF, but his grade of 60.4 would have put him at number 86 in the NFL. Thielen is a free agent this year, and I expect the Vikings to give him another chance to make the roster this summer.
Charles Johnson was a colossal disappointment this year. After looking like a potential number one receiver in 2014, Johnson fell back to earth this season, only catching 9 passes for 127 yards. Like Thielen, Johnson didn’t play enough to be ranked by PFF, but his grade of 66.1 would have placed him number 79 in the league. Johnson is under contract for one more season.
Wallace and Johnson might have been dissapointments this season, but the biggest disappointment by far was Cordarrelle Patterson. After making the Pro Bowl his rookie year, Patterson has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. CP84 might be one of the best return men in the game, but poor route running and lackluster effort have ensured Patterson will never be more than a gadget player in the NFL. After only catching 2(!) passes for 15 yards, Patterson has a PFF score of only 61.5 which would have ranked him number 82 in the league had he qualified. Patterson is in the final year of his rookie deal and has a cap hit of nearly $2.3 million which is a high price to pay for a kickoff return specialist.
Kyle Rudolph had a decent season, but was unable to live up to the lofty expectations placed on him by the media. Rudolph caught 49 passes for 495 yards and 5 touchdowns while earning a PFF grade of 71.9, good for 23rd in the NFL. Kyle has four years left on his recent contract extension and has a cap hit of $7.3 million this year.
Rhett Ellison comes in at number 40 of PFF’s tight end rankings with a grade of 66.7. Ellison only caught 11 for 124 yards, but it was his work at a blocker where he really showed his value. Ellison is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the Vikings brought him back.
MyCole Pruitt was given a grade of 67.2 by PFF, and although he didn’t play enough to qualify, his grade would have brought him in at number 39. Pruitt caught 10 passes for 89 yards in his rookie season. He also has three years left on his rookie contract.