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Competition for wide receiver spots behind Vikings’ top two appears to be wide open

NFL: Minnesota Vikings OTA
Jun 9, 2021; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) catches a pass in drills at OTA at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson sit atop the Vikings’ depth chart at the wide receiver position, but the spots after that appear to be wide open. That left eight receivers on the field for the second day of the Vikings’ three-day minicamp on Wednesday at TCO Performance Center attempting to make an impression before training camp begins in late July.

The list includes veterans Chad Beebe and Bisi Johnson; undrafted free agent additions Blake Proehl (the son of longtime NFL wide receiver Ricky Prohl), Whop Philyor and Myron Mitchell; fifth-round rookie Ihmir Smith-Marsette; 2020 fifth-round pick K.J. Osborn; and 2020 undrafted free agent Dan Chisena.

Beebe had 20 receptions for 201 yards and two touchdowns in 14 games last season, while Johnson had 14 catches for 189 yards in 16 games. A seventh-round choice in 2019, there was some thought that Johnson could compete with Jefferson when training camp opened but Jefferson established himself on the depth chart alongside Thielen early in the season.

“I really like some of these guys,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Some of the young guys we drafted, even Blake Proehl, I think he has done a nice job. We’ve still got (Chad) Beebe. K.J. Osborn has had a really nice camp. They have all kind of grown as they have been moving forward here. Thank goodness we have some of these preseason games to get a look at some of these guys as well. But once we get into camp, I think we’ll find out about some of them as we move forward. The other part about being the third, fourth or fifth receiver is about how you do on special teams.”

Osborn and Beebe both spent time returning kicks and punts last season, and both figure to compete for return roles this season. Osborn returned 14 kickoffs for 303 yards, a 21.6-yard average, in 2020 and also had seven punt returns for 27 yards, a 3.9-yard average, with six fair catches and two fumbles. Beebe returned nine punts for 42 yards, a 4.7-yard average, with five fair catches and returned one kickoff for 19 yards. The issue is Beebe has fumbled five punts in the past two seasons, including two last year.

Zimmer is looking for big improvements on special teams under new coordinator Ryan Ficken and one area where the Vikings want to get far better field position in 2021 will be on punt returns.

The Vikings kept seven wide receivers on their 53-man roster in the final cutdown before the 2020 regular-season began but that number was only at four in 2019 and five in 2018.

One other possibility that the Vikings could explore at wide receiver is signing free agent and future Pro Football Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, who is from Minneapolis but has spent his entire 17-year career with the Arizona Cardinals. Fitzgerald, 37, had a career-high low 54 catches last season for 409 yards and a touchdown, but he would be a positive addition to the locker room and the Vikings wouldn’t be asking for Fitzgerald to play a large role in their offense.

There’s been no indication the Vikings have talked to Fitzgerald.