June 21, 2024

Over the past few seasons, the Minnesota Vikings have found their strength in their passing game, notably since the introduction of head coach Kevin O’Connell and standout wide receiver Justin Jefferson to the team.

Despite possessing talented playmakers, the Vikings’ receiving corps has been overlooked by NFL analysts when discussing the top five pass-catching groups in the league.

The analyst in question, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks, evaluated the trio of Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and TJ Hockenson for the Minnesota Vikings but did not include them in his top five pass-catching groups. While the reasons for this decision aren’t explicitly stated, it’s possible factors such as the absence of a standout WR3 or Hockenson’s injury status influenced his assessment. However, it’s challenging to identify five groups better than what the Vikings possess.

Brooks’s top five consisted of the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, and Seattle Seahawks. He particularly praised the duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle for the Dolphins, acknowledging them as the league’s best pairing at the moment. While Brooks expressed some reservations about Miami’s addition of Odell Beckham Jr., he didn’t dispute their placement as the top group.

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The Eagles earned the second spot with AJ Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert, a combination Brooks regarded as deserving. However, the comparison led to questioning why the Vikings weren’t considered. Jefferson’s prowess surpasses Brown’s, and Addison’s rookie performance exceeded Smith’s despite facing challenges with different starting quarterbacks. Hockenson’s abilities are also seen as comparable to Goedert’s, raising the question of why the Vikings weren’t included in the conversation for a top spot.

Instead, the Texans boast newly acquired Stefon Diggs, Nico Collins, Tank Dell, and Dalton Schultz, forming a deep and credible foursome for third place. The Chicago Bears secure the fourth spot, enhancing D.J. Moore’s support with the addition of veteran Keenan Allen and rookie Rome Odunze. This trio, complemented by Cole Kmet at tight end, promises ample options for first-overall pick Caleb Williams in the upcoming season.

However, the group that appears questionable compared to the Vikings is the Seahawks. While DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxson Smith-Njigba form a solid unit, their placement above the Vikings seems puzzling. The only discernible rationale could be their lack of a designated WR3. Nonetheless, given the choice, Jefferson, Addison, and Hockenson would be preferred every time.

Regarding WR3 options, the Vikings’ roster offers limited choices for a potentially dangerous third receiver. In-house contenders include Brandon Powell and Jalen Nailor. Powell, nearing 29, has yet to assume a significant role in his NFL career, making his candidacy uncertain. The Vikings aim for approximately 600 receiving yards from their WR3, a benchmark Powell hasn’t reached since entering the league in 2018.

On the other hand, Nailor showed promise towards the end of his rookie season in 2022, fueling expectations for a breakout in 2023. Unfortunately, injuries hindered his performance, resulting in just three catches for 29 yards. Nailor’s priority is maintaining his health, which, if achieved, could open up the WR3 position for him.

As for free agency options, Hunter Renfrow, Russell Gage, Mecole Hardman, or Michael Thomas are available choices. Renfrow, once a Pro Bowl nominee with a 1000-yard, nine-touchdown season in 2021, has seen a decline in recent years. Nonetheless, the Vikings could provide a favorable environment for the 28-year-old to revitalize his career. Even half of his career-best season would significantly bolster the Vikings’ offense and solidify their status among the top five pass-catching groups.

If they aren’t already considered in that category, they should be.

Jalen Nailor is day-to-day with contact leg injury

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