Why Vikings Didn’t Target Wide Receiver Early

Oct 31, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) reacts with wide receiver K.J. Osborn. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Before the draft, there was quite a bit of discussion on what the Vikings would do. Would they trade down? What about a Jordan Davis or Kyle Hamilton? Maybe they decide to go with a wide receiver like Jameson Williams? After it was all was said and done, Kwesi traded down.

This should not necessarily be a surprise. Trading down was the correct move. You may disagree about the trade value, which they probably should have gotten more out of.

However, many people were, and still are, quite upset that the Vikings didn’t take Jameson Williams. I even witnessed interactions on Facebook asking why they didn’t if the Vikings will be running 3 and 4 wide receiver sets. This is a fair question and one that is worth exploring.

First off, we should discuss why they didn’t target a wide receiver early on. This should go without saying to any Vikings fan who has watched over the last two seasons. The defense is atrocious. They had no depth, and when injuries occurred, we were trotting out guys they found at the local 7/11.

Jokes aside, something like 5 of the starters from the Saints game in 2020 is no longer on a practice squad today. Things were really that bad. 2021 was a little better until Danielle Hunter went down. More injuries accumulated throughout the season, and the lack of depth began to rear its ugly head.

All of that is to say — the Vikings needed defensive players. This is exactly why five of the first six selections were defensive guys.

Now we can revisit the four wide receiver personnel groupings conversation.

Wide Receiver Personnel Groupings

Nov 21, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Adam Thielen. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

People often get worked up over specific personnel groupings. All too often, they wish the Vikings would put five wide receivers on the field and sling the ball around. This is an oversimplification of the passing game.

Sure, all of the data clearly shows that passing has a consistently higher EPA per play than running. This is an undeniable fact. However, if you put four or five wide receivers on the field, you tip your hand. The defense knows you are passing the ball.

On the other hand, if you have two wide receivers, two tight ends, and a running back, the defense has to react to a run. This can open up big shots down the field through play action. Furthermore, you need to ask yourself this question:

What is more important, having 3-5 wide receivers on the field or having your five best skill players on the field?

I would argue strongly for the latter. The reason is apparent. They are your best players, and you want your best players on the field.

Who Are the Vikings’ Best Skill Players?

  • Adam Thielen
  • Justin Jefferson
  • KJ Osborn
  • Irv Smith Jr.
  • Dalvin Cook

This is a solid group of skill players. Anyone who says differently is looking for an argument or is a Packers fan. This group is not only good. They provide opportunities to create mismatches.

Plays can be designed to get Justin Jefferson 1v1 or Irv Smith Jr on a linebacker or Dalvin Cook in open space. That is a better situation than simply having four wide receivers on the field.

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Dalvin Cook and Justin Jefferson

You can argue that the Vikings needed to find Adam Thielen’s replacement. I would agree with you. However, this was not the most pressing need. There will be more wide receivers next year.

For now, targeting defense made sense. Besides, our skill position group is still in a great place to push this Vikings offense into a top 10 offense. Whether or not our offensive line is ready for that remains to be seen.


Mitch Massman is a life-long Vikings fan. His first heartbreak was the 1998 NFC championship game. His full-time job is as an economic development professional in rural Minnesota. He fantasizes about the Vikings winning a Super Bowl one day, but until then he will write about the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter @skol_vikings3