3 Dark Horse Outcomes for Vikings Draft

Mar 4, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Texas running back Bijan Robinson (RB21) speaks to the press at the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

Eyes shifted from the Minnesota Vikings once-fancy 2022 season to the 2023 NFL Draft on the evening of January 15th, 2023.

Minnesota was jettisoned from the postseason that day by the New York Giants, and that was a wrap on Kevin O’Connell’s first year in charge.

3 Dark Horse Outcomes for Vikings Draft

Some Vikings fans and media members immediately forecasted a 2023 regression, as almost a dozen Minnesota wins occurred by one score or less. Entering the draft, the franchise has a handful of long-term roster needs, so general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could operate in about 10 different ways in Round 1.

Because of that uncertainty, these are three dark-horse Vikings outcomes to monitor in Round 1 of the draft, ranked in no particular order.

1. Vikings Trade Down Twice before Making a Pick

Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before a wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Adofo-Mensah’s predecessor Rick Spielman was affectionately known as Trader Rick, but Adofo-Mensah is on pace to shatter anything via trade that Spielman could ever imagine.

Last November, he traded for tight end T.J. Hockenson, using draft picks to secure the deal. Among other picks coming back to Minnesota, plus Hockenson, Adofo-Mensah donated a 2nd-Rounder to Detroit. He probably knew at the time there was a good chance he’d trade back this year in Round 1 to claw back some draft picks.

The Vikings used this method last year with the No. 12 pick and netted Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth, Ed Ingram, and Brian Asamoah for their troubles.

Adofo-Mensah might do it again — and perhaps twice.

Yes, this would likely mean the Vikings don’t pick any rookies on Night No. 1 of the draft, instead stockpiling picks in Rounds 2 and 3. Most Vikings fans have come to terms with the probability of Adofo-Mensah trading back on Thursday night, but he may do it two times before even making a selection.

2. Bijan Robinson Falls and the Vikings Pounce

Texas running back Bijan Robinson (5) celebrates a touchdown during the annual Red River Showdown against Oklahoma at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Oct. 8, 2022. © Aaron Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Robinson would’ve been a Top 5 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. But the game has changed — rapidly — and running backs are no longer a hot commodity. RB1s can be stunningly be found in Round 5 now, for example.

Yet, Robinson is so prolific and close to the surest thing in this draft to become a Pro Bowler. In that vein, with Dalvin Cook likely heading elsewhere in the coming days, weeks, or months, snatching Robinson if he falls to No. 23 might be too irresistible.

He’d partner with Justin Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson for the next five years, and what quarterback couldn’t succeed with those torpedos?

On the whole, the analytics general manager drafting a Round 1 running back is a longshot, but Robinson is just so damn good.

3. The Vikings Trade into Top 10 for QB

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Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) has word with Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier in the first half. Florida hosted the South Carolina Gamecocks in the last home game of the season at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, November 12, 2022. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

You’ve heard about this one by now, but the possibility must be restated.

Kirk Cousins is not contractually committed to the Vikings beyond 2023. This is new for Vikings football. Since 2018, Cousins has been attached to the roster for at least two more seasons at this time on the calendar.

But not anymore.

The Vikings have one golden opportunity — right now — to mimic the 2005 Green Bay Packers or 2017 Kansas City Chiefs. Both franchises employed great or good quarterbacks in those seasons but still selected the next guy.

The results were Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes.

If the Vikings don’t select a quarterback in this draft, they will wait until next year, and it would feel as if they were “forced.” Trading up in the Top 10 for the guy they love while still utilizing Kirk Cousins’ guaranteed 4,000+ passing yards and 30+ touchdowns in 2023 is a once-in-a-decade (or longer) option.

The move will be expensive, but when was the last time you heard anyone bemoan the Chiefs exchange of picks with the Bills five years ago in the trade that landed Mahomes? Exactly.

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 OverTheCap.com.