The Minnesota Vikings made a concerted effort to upgrade their talent at wide receiver this offseason, signing Greg Jennings in free agency and adding Cordarrelle Patterson with the last of their three first-round picks in April. The offseason trade of Percy Harvin to the Seattle Seahawks removes a very talented player from the mix, but getting rid of the off-field headache he was now looks prudent with the news he will be sidelined until late in the season after needing hip surgery.
The wide receivers the Vikings had in 2012 will now see their roles change this year, some to a positive degree like second-year man Jarius Wright, but others like Jerome Simpson and Stephen Burton will be bumped down the depth chart. Simpson was re-signed by Minnesota after a disappointing season last year, but does Burton have a chance to emerge this season?
Burton landed with the Vikings as a seventh-round pick (236th overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft, and has been active for 15 games in his two seasons. He has drawn praise for his ability as a blocker, but Burton has just seven receptions for 73 yards and a touchdown thus far in his career, with five catches and 60 yards coming in two games.
Burton theoretically had an opportunity to assert himself and earn a role for the Vikings during training camp, but reports out of Mankato suggest that chance may be disappearing due to his inconsistency. Standout performance in preseason games, starting Friday night against the Houston Texans, looks absolutely vital to any chance Burton has left to make the 53-man roster for the Vikings.
I thought Burton was on the roster bubble immediately after the Vikings added better talent at wide receiver, and I think his opportunity to prove he can be a capable NFL wide receiver has come and gone now. No matter how good a blocker he is, and leaving aside the factors beyond his control that have yielded a lack of production, catching passes is what a wide receiver has to do and Burton has not cut it in that regard.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.