For the past two seasons, wide receiver Stephen Burton has been an afterthought for the Minnesota Vikings. Despite shining during OTAs and showing some promise as a seventh-round pick, the West Texas A&M product hasn’t quite lived up to his billing as a sleeper.
Heading into his third season in the NFL, Burton is facing a make-or-break year with the Vikings. The youngster, however, appears ready to assert himself as more than a practice squad or reserve player in 2013.
Much like seasons passed, Burton put on a show during OTAs, hauling in one highlight catch after another and giving quarterback Christian Ponder a reliable target to throw to. As always, it’s unreasonable to base season outlooks on early offseason action, but Burton should have every opportunity to steal a spot on the depth chart when training camp rolls around.
Once training camp kicks off, Burton will be caught in the middle of a fierce competition for prominence in the Vikings’ passing attack. He’ll battle with Jerome Simpson, Jarius Wright and Joe Webb for a spot behind Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson on the Minnesota receiver depth chart. If he can continue trending in an upward direction, there’s a good chance that he’ll stick with the Vikings, at least for one more season.
The Vikings are still looking for a receiver who can stretch the field and give Ponder a deep target to hit. If Burton can impress throughout training camp and into the preseason, Minnesota could decide to hand him considerable snaps early in 2013.
It’s do or die for Burton this upcoming season. If he struggles during training camp, this could be the end of the line. If he shows off his raw natural talents, he could finally become an integral cog in the Vikings’ passing game.
We’ll see what happens when training camp arrives.