Vikings Arrange Meeting with Top WR Prospect

Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba catches a pass during Ohio State football’s pro day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on March 22, 2023. © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The draft kicks off with the first round on April 27, and the Vikings have some holes to fill. Defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson left a huge hole in the middle of the defensive line when he signed a massive deal with the Cleveland Browns, and the Vikings don’t have anyone who can fill it at the same level.

The same can be said about cornerback Patrick Peterson. Brian Flores’ defense needs help in the secondary in terms of depth and at the top. In addition, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could target the future QB of the purple team, the successor of Kirk Cousins, but another position is also in play.

Vikings Arrange Meeting with Top WR Prospect

Vikings Arrange Meeting with Top Receiver Prospect
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) warms up wearing a shirt honoring Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin (3) before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

A huge need of the Vikings, however, is a new wide receiver. Adam Thielen had to leave the organization after ten years, seven of those as one of the team’s top two receivers. Minnesota needs to find a running mate for Justin Jefferson, either in the draft, via trade, or in free agency.

The final option is if one of the rostered players can step up. K.J. Osborn had 655 and 650 yards in the last two seasons as the third WR on the team. Those numbers should improve if the Vikings don’t add another threat in the passing game, but many think he is better suited as a WR3. A team can never have too many offensive weapons, so adding one in the draft makes sense.

Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba catches a pass during Ohio State football s pro day at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center in Columbus on March 22, 2023. © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The Vikings will be on the clock with the 23rd overall pick barring any trades, and usually, the top receivers are off the board at that time, but the team still set up a top-30 pre-draft visit with the consensus top wideout in the upcoming draft.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, out of Ohio State, is considered the top receiver in the class. He struggled in 2022, mainly with injuries, but had a phenomenal 2021 sophomore season in the slot for the Buckeyes when he recorded 95 catches for 1,606 yards and 9 touchdowns.

The receiver played in a scary offense. Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave played on the outside. They were both first-round picks a year ago and had outstanding rookie campaigns. Marvin Harrison Jr., the top receiver next year, rarely saw the field in that offense led by C.J. Stroud.

Fans Have Spoken
Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the Rose Bowl against the Utah Utes in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 1, 2022. © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The question about Smith-Njigba is if he only produced because of his surroundings, especially since he only had one year of production. Players certainly don’t have to be generational talents to rack up yards in the slot in college with NFL-caliber talent around them.

Nevertheless, JSN offers savvy route running, arguably the best in the draft class. He can get open better than most NFL receivers and has elite ball skills. Pairing him with Justin Jefferson is a scary scenario for defenses in the league.

Smith-Njigba and Jefferson even have some similarities. Both run extremely smooth routes and were limited to a slot role in college. The draft prospect is viewed exclusively as a slot WR by many pundits. Jefferson had the same problem, and that’s why he was still available after the first four receivers were taken.

Dec 31, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; TCU Horned Frogs wide receiver Quentin Johnston (1) against the Michigan Wolverines during the 2022 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings also visited other top receivers in the draft, including Quentin Johnston and Jordan Addison. Johnston is a physical freak. He offers the prototypical WR body with his 6’2″ and 208-pound frame. He wins with his physicality and athleticism but isn’t as refined of a receiver as the other two. Addison is an undersized but explosive wideout with excellent route-running ability.

There is a chance that one of the three is available at pick 23, and it is encouraging to see the Vikings do their homework on a clear position of need.

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