Detroit Lions, NFC North positional previews: Wide Receivers

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 23: Marvin Jones
DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 23: Marvin Jones /
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(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) /

Minnesota Vikings

Key returning players: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell

New additions: Jordan Taylor, Olabisi Johnson (R)

Key losses: Aldrick Robinson

No team in the NFC North fielded a more productive wide receiver duo than the Minnesota Vikings last year. That pair, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, return with the security of long term contracts, ready to test the pass defenses in the division again in 2019. It’s the depth, or lack thereof, behind them that is one of the biggest concerns for the Vikings as training camp approaches.

Diggs and Thielen have piled up an impressive 6,389 yards through the air collectively since 2016, along with 38 touchdowns. They have become tremendous values too, as Diggs was a fifth round pick in 2015 and Thielen went undrafted in 2014. With a full season catching passes from quarterback Kirk Cousins behind them, these two should continue to produce and confound opposing defenses.

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The Vikings though would like to see more explosive plays out of both of them however, particularly Diggs, who totaled just 13 receptions of 20 or more yards in 2018. The Vikings retained last year’s interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and also brought in long time NFL coach Gary Kubiak as assistant head coach/offensive advisor this offseason. Kubiak’s passing attacks over the years have been middling; can he squeeze more big plays out of the Vikings’ top two wideouts?

There is a major drop off after Diggs and Thielen. Laquon Treadwell, the former 2016 first rounder has been a disappointment in his three years in Minnesota, and he will likely need to show major improvements in training camp in order to make it to year four. Consider that standout receivers Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints, Sterling Shepard of the New York Giants, and Tyler Boyd of the Cincinnati Bengals were all selected after Treadwell in 2016. Oops.

If names like Jordan Taylor, Chad Beebe and Olabisi Johnson don’t get you excited, you’re likely not alone. However, those will be the main depth options in Minnesota, barring a move over the summer. Johnson, a rookie, offers the most long term potential of this group as a high-character leader and savvy route-runner.