The 6 Players Most Likely to Land with Vikings in R1, per ESPN

Unthinkable for Vikings
Nov 20, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) during the first half against the South Alabama Jaguars at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bryan Lynn-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NFL Draft is 16 days away, and no one can quite get a drop on the Minnesota Vikings likeliest draft choice or strategy.

Many believe the club will trade down — like it did last year — but that is merely speculation as of April 11th.

The 6 Players Most Likely to Land with Vikings in R1, per ESPN

To help crack the code, ESPN unveiled a Draft Day Predictor detailing percentages for each team and player involved in the early part of the draft. And for the Vikings, if they stay at the No. 23 pick and don’t trade up or down, six men lead the way:

  • Hendon Hooker (QB)
  • Deonte Banks (CB)
  • Jordan Addison (WR)
  • Zay Flowers (WR)
  • Calijah Kancey (DT)
  • Quentin Johnston (WR)

Here’s the ESPN graph for visual learners:

Image from ESPN

Hendon Hooker of Tennessee ending up with the Vikings has become a sobering theory in the last 2-3 weeks. Current QB1 Kirk Cousins isn’t under contract after the 2023 season, and because Minnesota doesn’t have an ideal pick to choose his successor in this draft, many believe general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will settle or reach for Hooker in Round 1. It doesn’t exactly jibe with Adofo-Mensah’s ardent commitment to value, but who cares, eh?

Sep 10, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) scrambles with the ball away from Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman John Morgan III (6) during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports.

Deonte Banks of Maryland, however, would be a homerun pick as the Vikings need cornerbacks — preferably starters — alongside Byron Murphy, Andrew Booth, and Akayleb Evans this September. Banks is big and physical and might be just what the doctor ordered in a Brian Flores defense.

USC’s Jordan Addison will actually meet with the Vikings this week for a Top-30 visit, and some draft analysts think he’ll be on the board when Minnesota approaches the podium in two weeks. He’s 5’11” and 173 pounds but can allegedly handle a full workhorse assignment in the big leagues.

Predicts Vikings 1st
Oct 1, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; USC Trojans wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) runs away from Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back D.J. Taylor (3) for a first down in the first half at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports.

Another wide receiver, Zay Flowers, made the cut for ESPN, and if he doesn’t fall out of Round 1, Minnesota could have an eye on the man from Boston College. Like Addison, Flowers is an incredibly dynamic playmaker, especially in open space, but is small-ish at 5’9″ and 182 pounds. If the Vikings trade back, Flowers could even be available early in Round 2.

Pittsburgh’s Calijah Kancey is the lone defensive line option, according to ESPN. He plays inside the trenches but could probably be kicked to the outside, too, in Flores’ 2023 defense. The Vikings haven’t invested premium draft capital in a defensive tackle since 2013, when Sharrif Floyd joined the team for a few years.

Sep 10, 2022; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers defensive lineman Calijah Kancey (8) reacts after recording a sack against the Tennessee Volunteers during the second quarter at Acrisure Stadium. Tennessee won 34-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports.

Finally, Quentin Johnston of TCU has plunged draftboards since February, once classified as a Top 12 pick. But his sizzle faded during and after the NFL Combine, so he could be on the board when the Vikings strike at No. 23. Johnston is the anti-Addison and anti-Flowers for size at 6’2″ and 210 pounds.

Adofo-Mensah could also trade up to draft the quarterback for life after Cousins, but depending on the spot, the transaction would cost ample trade capital.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by