When the Minnesota Vikings released wide receiver Bernard Berrian earlier this week, they filled the empty spot on their active roster by bringing up rookie wideout Stephen Burton from their practice squad.
I started writing this series of articles after the 2011 NFL Draft, but once training camp began, other stories began flooding the news cycle, like the advent of Donovan McNabb, as they became more noteworthy than a WR seemingly bound for the practice squad.
Now that Burton has been activated, he is actually relevant to the team and deserves being mentioned amidst the apparent chaos surrounding the Bernard Berrian release and the Chris Cook arrest—not to mention the uncertainty regarding the stadium.
Burton was drafted in the seventh round by the Vikings in the 2011 draft. He played his college ball at Division II West Texas A&M where he totaled 70 receptions for 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns for his career.
At 6'1" and 221 lbs., he has pretty decent size and could be utilized on special teams because of his 4.53 40-yard dash time. His size and speed combination could mean good things down the road, but the rookie clearly has some developing to do before he'll be utilized much in the passing game.
In training camp, Burton struggled with a hamstring injury that kept him from running clean routes and making any impact as a whole. The staff recognized that though he dropped a few passes and was struggling with this injury, he did possess some intriguing potential and decided to keep him, along with WR Manny Arceneaux, around on the practice squad.
Since having a pretty unsuccessful training camp, coach Leslie Frazier said that Burton "has really grown" in his time with the Vikings and that they had been taking note of him since even the beginning of the season.
Though Burton had that injury with his hamstring, Frazier noted that he has drastically improved on a daily basis after getting healthy.
Being the lowest man on the totem pole in the Vikings receiving corps, it's hard to imaging Burton getting many touches other than in garbage time, but because the Vikings don't have too many standouts at the position, it would be foolish to think he couldn't have an impact.
Quarterback Christian Ponder has really developed some chemistry with WR Greg Camarillo. The two connected on a big third-down conversion last week against Green Bay.
Still, with Percy Harvin's health seemingly becoming more and more of an issue, it will be good to keep another young developmental guy around to try and work into the games. With Michael Jenkins starting to stretch the field more for the Vikings, it will be interesting to see how guys like Harvin, Camarillo and Burton are able to contribute in underneath routes.
As long as Burton doesn't drop passes that hit him square in the chest like Berrian, he shouldn't have much of a negative response from Vikings fans. There isn't much to expect out of a seventh-round pick, but if he can somehow build up some chemistry with the rookie Ponder, he could become a huge asset to a growing passing attack.
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