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The Vikings have their first padded practice of the summer on Monday. We're taking a look at each position group as the NFL season gets underway. Today: Wide receivers.

The Roster

Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Bisi Johnson, Albert Wilson, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Jalen Nailor, Myron Mitchell, Thomas Hennigan, Trishton Jackson, Dan Chisena, Blake Proehl (PUP)

Offseason Moves

In: Nailor (sixth-round draft pick), Hennigan (rookie free agent), Wilson (free agent)

Out: None


The top two — Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen — are as good as it gets. No. 3 K.J. Osborn is a reliable, rising talent born out of sheer desperation last summer when Johnson, Chad Beebe and tight end Irv Smith Jr. suffered season-ending injuries. After that, who the heck knows what the Vikings will have to work with depth-wise? Jefferson, 23, is a top-3 NFL receiver with room to grow into the best of his day and highest-paid ever. Thielen, who turns 32 on Aug. 22, hasn't played a full season since 2018, but the elite red-zone weapon still has 24 touchdowns in 28 games the last two years. Last season, Osborn had 50 catches for 655 yards and seven touchdowns a year after taking zero offensive snaps as a rookie. Smith-Marsette was the only receiver outside the top three to catch a ball last year. He had only five catches but turned them into 116 yards and two touchdowns.

Top Competition

Nos. 4-6. The Vikings have a lot to think about as they are likely looking to keep three more receivers on the active roster. Smith-Marsette's speed, return to good health and brief but explosive production as a rookie could land him safely inside the top six. Johnson went from 31 catches as a rookie in 2019 to 14 in 2020 before missing last season because of a torn ACL. He offers no special teams value, whereas the overachieving Chisena has made the final 53 two years running based solely on his value in that area. Wilson, a shifty slot guy, offers eight years of experience with the Chiefs and Dolphins. Nailor gets extra consideration as a draft pick with return skills. Hennigan, a productive player at Appalachian State, also has return skills. Mitchell played one snap as an undrafted rookie last season. And Jackson has no NFL game experience but did spend the 2020 season and 2021 training camp with the Rams and current Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell.

Player to Watch

Thielen. The last time he was healthy for a full season, he went to his second straight Pro Bowl with 113 catches for 1,373 yards and nine touchdowns. That was 2018, when the guy on the other side, Stefon Diggs, caught 102 balls for 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns. Thielen takes exceptional care of his body, but can he, at 32, sidestep the nagging leg ailments that have dogged him in recent years? Opposing defenses will prioritize containing Jefferson. A healthy Thielen makes them pay for that approach while in turn loosening things for Jefferson. A healthy Thielen also further cements this former D-II kid's Purple legacy in what might be his final season with the team. Thielen, who has averaged 74 catches a year since 2016, needs only 36 more to join Cris Carter (1,004) and Randy Moss (587) as the only players with 500 catches in team history.

One Big Question

Will Jefferson capture receiving's triple crown? Since the merger in 1970, only four players have ended a season leading the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns: Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992), Steve Smith Sr. (2005) and Cooper Kupp last season. Jefferson says he's better than Kupp, and he might not be wrong. He finished top six in each category last year. And, oh yeah, Kupp's offensive coordinator last year is now Jefferson's head coach and play-caller. So you do the math. Obviously, this Big Question can't be answered by Jefferson alone. He needs a lot of help, starting with the offensive line giving Kirk Cousins time to operate. As for Jefferson, he has the elite skills, record-breaking numbers through two seasons and durability so far to make a run at a triple crown. He has 196 catches for 3,016 yards and 17 touchdowns in 33 games. His 1,616 yards receiving last year fell 16 yards short of Moss' team record. Kupp finished with 145 catches for 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns as the Rams won the Super Bowl last season.