(Ben Garvin, Pioneer Press) Adam Thielen, left, and Rodney Smith will compete for the 5th WR spot.
This is the first official post in our “Pre-Camp Predictions” series. We’ll be revisiting these predictions during and after camp.
The 5th wide receiver spot will be one of the most contentious battles in camp, with a large number of guys vying for just one spot. Last year, the opening day wide receivers were Greg Jennings, Jerome Simpson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jarius Wright, and Joe Webb. It turned out to be a pretty good group, with Patterson emerging as a young star. Webb signed with Carolina this offseason, leaving a backup wide receiver spot vacant. The other four will almost surely make the team, as they are all important contributors on offense. There is an off-chance that the Vikings will enter the season with 6 receivers, but that’s unlikely, given they need all the help they can get on defense. In this article, we’ll assume only 5 WRs will make the team.
Erik Lora: Lora, an undrafted free agent, was Jimmy Garoppolo’s right-hand man at Eastern Illinois. His athletic abilities are very mediocre; Lora isn’t a guy who is going to blow you away with his speed or hops. He’s more of a gamer, a smart guy who is never going to give up and will fight to get open, the type of guy that coaches love. It’ll be an uphill climb for Lora, though. He’s a slot receiver, and it’s tough to see guy with limited speed succeeding in the slot in the NFL. As a scrappy competitor, Lora should make things interesting.
Kain Colter: The biggest name in a talented UDFA crop because of his union efforts at Northeastern (I’ll try to keep my affection for liberals out of this analysis), Colter is the second coming of Joe Webb. After playing QB in college, he is making the transition to slot receiver in the pros. He still hasn’t fully learned the position, but the fact that he is a quarterback should help tremendously with that. Although not extremely fast, Colter is quick and smooth, with good hands. He seems like a reliable receiver, especially as a backup. Expect him to be in consideration for the 5th spot.
Adam Thielen: A product of Minnesota State-Mankato, Thielen is the hometown hero of this bunch. He spent the past season on the practice squad, but that experience shouldn’t work too much in his favor, what with a new offense and coaches. Thielen is “sneaky fast”, and has decent measurables. At 6’2″, he has the ability to go up and get balls. There were good reports from several beat writers about him coming out of OTAs. Rick Spielman told Master Tesfatsion, “Adam (has) really stuck out.” Thielen will have a tough battle ahead of him, but with a good training camp, that 5th spot could be his.
Rodney Smith: Smith is probably the favorite to win this spot. He should have snagged the 5th position away from Joe Webb last year, but of course Leslie Frazier prohibited any rookies from getting any playing time, so that didn’t come as a surprise. He was active for 4 games last year, but did not catch a pass. At 6’5″, Smith is a man among boys. He has surprising speed and agility for a person his size, but definitely isn’t blowing by anyone. The advantage that he brings which Lora, Colter and Thielen really don’t possess is his blocking abilities. He can obliterate many corners, as well as go up over them to catch passes. It would be surprising if Smith didn’t earn that 5th spot, although it wouldn’t come as a shock.
Kamar Jorden: Jorden was in camp with the Vikes in 2012, but broke his hand and was released. He spent 2013 with the Spokane Shock of the Arena Football League. Now that he’s healthy, Spielman has decided to give him another shot. He is similar to Lora in the fact that he doesn’t have separation speed. He does have sure hands and is a good route runner, but an average athlete won’t excel in the NFL. Jorden is a long shot to make the team.
Josh Cooper: A UDFA who signed with the Browns in 2012, Cooper is another unexciting receiver with limited measurables. He spent some time in Norv Turner’s system, which could help his chances. Still, I would be shocked if Cooper won this spot. His only chance to make the roster would be if he somehow beats out Marcus Sherels for the punt returner job, which is extremely unlikely.
Donte Foster: Foster really has no chance at all to make the roster. Coming from Ohio University, he really just doesn’t have the skills to be an NFL receiver. A long shot to make the practice squad. He is, however, noteworthy because of this (#1 on SportsCenter):
Prediction: Rodney Smith gets the 5th WR spot
Second Choice: Adam Thielen
Third Choice: Kain Colter