Mel Kiper Envisions Thrilling Partner for Justin Jefferson

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The Vikings have all kinds of options in the first draft round on April 27. Minnesota picks at position 23. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah filled a few holes in free agency, but the team still needs help in many areas.

A disruptive defensive tackle could be in the cards after Dalvin Tomlinson’s departure to the Cleveland Browns for a huge amount of money. Byron Murphy needs a running mate in the cornerback room, and Justin Jefferson needs one on the offensive side, someone who can replace Adam Thielen on the outside. In addition, the Vikings could pick Kirk Cousins’ successor at the most critical position in the sport.

Mel Kiper Envisions Thrilling Partner for Justin Jefferson

Mel Kiper Envisions Thrilling Partner for Justin Jefferson
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The Vikings receiving group needs some reinforcements as the group is underwhelming outside of superstar Jefferson. K.J. Osborn is currently the second wideout, followed by Jalen Reagor, who doesn’t seem to have what it takes to be a decent NFL receiver, and Jalen Nailor, who has shown some flashes but is still unproven. Trishton Jackson and Blake Proehl are the other two WRs on the team.

A contending franchise needs more than one reliable wide receiver, and Mel Kiper, ESPN’s draft expert, sent the Vikings one in his recent mock draft. A few names are connected at times with Vikings, including Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, and Boston College’s Zay Flowers. However, Kiper envisions the Vikings grabbing TCU wideout Quentin Johnston.

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At receiver, though, with Adam Thielen gone, I love the idea of Johnston playing on the other side of Justin Jefferson, helping take defensive backs away. The 6-foot-3 Johnston will be an immediate red zone threat in the NFL, and his skills after the catch mean he will break a bunch of tackles and score long touchdowns. I know K.J. Osborn has earned a bigger role in the Minnesota offense, but there’s room for Johnston too.

Mel Kiper, ESPN

Osborn recorded 655 and 650 receiving yards in the last two seasons. That looks like he is a consistent player, but the opposite is the case. 274 of his 650 yards in 2022 came in two games. That’s 42.2% of his production. He needs to be way more stable than that to be considered a true number-two receiver. However, in Thielen’s absence, he could get more opportunities. Those extra targets could lead to more consistency.

Adding another threat in the passing game is a great strategy for the Vikings. That player could take some pressure off Jefferson and either draw some safety help away from him or feast in single coverage.

Johnston’s 6’3″ height paired with a 40.5″ vertical jump are freak measurements. The Vikings don’t have that type of receiver on the team. He drew some Alshon Jeffery comparisons, and that catch radius paired with the double teams thrown at Jefferson is a scary thought.

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On the flip side, he has shown some inconsistent production in TCU’s offense. Johnston should be more productive than having just over four catches a game and six touchdowns in 14 contests. His hands are a concern for some draft pundits. Nevertheless, his physical tools and potential are intriguing. Only a handful of physical freaks like Johnston are in the NFL. He’s a rare specimen.

Kiper made sure to add that the Vikings could potentially address the cornerback position.

I’m switching gears a bit for the Vikings, as I had projected a cornerback here in my first two mock drafts. They could still go that way, as adding Byron Murphy helps fill their immediate hole.

Mel Kiper, ESPN
Vikings Create 2nd
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Besides Murphy, the Vikings employ unproven cornerbacks, Andrew Booth Jr., and Akeyleb Evans, who both struggled with injuries in their rookie campaigns, in addition to Tay Gowan and Kalon Barnes, who are closer to ending up on the practice squad than in the starting lineup.

Kiper’s first two mock drafts sent the Vikings Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks and Emmanuel Forbes from Mississippi State.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt