NFL

2019 NFL Draft preview: Questions remain behind the Vikings’ star receiver duo

Leading into the NFL Draft starting Thursday, April 25th, the Star Tribune will assess the Vikings roster, draft history and college prospects during this eight-part series.

No. 8 need: Quarterbacks
No. 7: Running backs
No. 6: Receivers

Adam Thielen’s four-year extension, worth up to $73 million, signed last week keeps the Vikings’ star receiving duo under contract through the next five seasons. There aren’t many duos who can stake claim as the NFL’s best quite like Thielen and Stefon Diggs, averaging lines of 102 catches, 1,324 yards and 6.5 touchdowns and 83 catches, 935 yards and 8.5 touchdowns, respectively, in the past two seasons. Top-end production and big-money commitments likely lessen the urgency to draft newcomers with early picks this time around. And Gary Kubiak’s system has previously leaned heavily on ’12 personnel,’ or two receivers and two tight ends.

Level of need
No. 6. The Vikings enter what could be the final season of Laquon Treadwell’s run in Minnesota, but intriguing depth behind their two stars make a high-level investment seem unlikely in the draft. Two of last year’s rookies, Chad Beebe and Brandon Zylstra, are projects with varying skill sets; Beebe the undersized, underneath option and Zylstra the bigger, downfield threat. Jordan Taylor (6-5, 210 pounds) is another big-bodied target who was signed to a one-year deal.

Contract years
Adam Thielen (2024)
Stefon Diggs (2023)
Laquon Treadwell (2019)
Chad Beebe (2020)
Brandon Zylstra (2020)
Jeff Badet (2020)
Jordan Taylor (2019)

Draft history
Rodney Adams (2017, 170th overall)
Stacy Coley (2017, 219th overall)
Laquon Treadwell (2016, 23rd overall)
Moritz Bohringer (2016, 180th overall)
Stefon Diggs (2015, 146th overall)

Don’t forget about
Brandon Zylstra. Because you probably haven’t forgotten Chad Beebe, the training camp standout who earned a game-day activation over Laquon Treadwell in December, this spot goes to the 26-year-old Zylstra. The former CFL star and Cobber was a solid special teams contributor last season while catching his only target for 23 yards. A second NFL offseason could lead to more opportunities.

Five names to know
WR Hakeem Butler, Iowa State:This would be a splash. A load of a receiver, Butler (6-5, 227 pounds) was simply bigger than his college opponents while racking up more than 2,000 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns the past two seasons.He compiled a highlight reel of shedding arm tackles and outrunning defenders. The questions circle around whether he’s ready for the NFL as a tactician, but there’s little doubt about his physical traits that could make him a second- or third-round pick.

WR Hunter Renfrow, Clemson: Renfrow is a renowned route runner for his age. His weight (5-10, 184 pounds) is a little light for the NFL, but he was a consistent playmaker at Clemson and could grow into an effective slot receiver in the pros. But his plays in clutch moments, including the national championship-winning touchdown as a sophomore over Alabama, could most entice a team in the middle to late rounds.

WR Jazz Ferguson, Northwestern State (La.): Ferguson was a former four-star recruit to LSU before reportedly failing a drug test and transferring to Northwestern State. His 66 catches for 1,117 yards and 13 touchdowns stood tall in the FCS’ Southland Conference. The intrigue is in Ferguson’s potential. He’s a unique mix of size (6-5, 227 pounds) and speed (4.45-second 40-yard dash), making him a likely late-round pick.

WR Andy Isabella, Massachusetts: Isabella’s stock has soared as NFL teams get an up-close look at this former track star’s speed. While his stature (5-9, 188 pounds) could leave him overlooked, Isabella has already proven to possess top-end speed and agility that could make him a menace in the NFL. He trained with ex-Vikings great Randy Moss this spring, preparation preceding his receiver-best 4.31-second time in the 40-yard dash at the combine.

WR Miles Boykin, Notre Dame: Enter the prototypical split end in Boykin (6-4, 220 pounds), who has the physical tools to become a difference maker in the NFL but remains unpolished. He really helped his stock at the combine with a 4.42-second 40 time and a receiver-leading, 43.5-inch vertical. But an NFL team will be drafting potential as Boykin had just one standout season as a senior for the Fighting Irish.

How it’ll happen
Our best guess is the Vikings return to the mid- to late-round well for a receiver or two, paired with more help from undrafted free agency. Depth is better positioned now, with Beebe and Zylstra entering second seasons, than a year ago when the Vikings moved on from Jarius Wright and Michael Floyd. Coaches have high hopes for both reserves.

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Draft preview: Vikings have depth, options and bigger needs than a running back

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