National Analyst Thinks Vikings Should Trade Up

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) looks for an open receiver during the NCAA college football game against Missouri on Saturday, November 12, 2022 in Knoxville, Tenn. © Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK..

Since 2011, no team has traded more on draft day than the Minnesota Vikings. Former general manager Rick Spielman, or as he was often called by fans of the team Trader Rick, went up and down the draft board yearly. His most excessive use of trades was in 2020 when he traded down so much that he drafted 15 players — the biggest draft class since the league implemented the seven-round format in 1994.

Somehow, the organization replaced him with someone who likes trading even more than Spielman. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, a former Wall Street equity trader, brought his trading mindset into the NFL. In his first draft in charge, Adofo-Mensah chose ten players, but not a single one came with a draft pick originally owned by the Vikings.

National Analyst Thinks Vikings Should Trade Up

Leading up to the draft that takes place on April 27, speculations rise about the Vikings’ eventual draft spot. The team is currently scheduled to select the first player with the 23rd overall pick, but that spot can change via trade.

National Analyst Thinks Vikings Should Trade Up
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

First-year GM Adofo-Mensah traded down all the way from spot 12 to 32 in a controversial in-division trade with the Detroit Lions in 2022. The question is whether he will repeat that, stay put, or trade-up this time. Cody Benjamin from CBSSports stated his opinion about that in his latest article. Benjamin thinks the Vikings should make the splash move and trade up.

With Kirk Cousins entering a contract year, it’d be smart of Minnesota to pounce on a potential successor while it can, with Hendon Hooker often floated as a possibility.

Cody Benjamin, CBSSports

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is entering the final year of his contract with the Vikings. The team always extended his deal one season in advance, but the front office seems ready for a new beginning. Of course, a new contract could be signed at any point, even next offseason.

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker during Tennessee Football Pro Day at the Anderson Training Facility in Knoxville, Tenn. on Thursday, March 30, 2023. © Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK.

However, if they indeed want to move on, they have to find Cousins’ successor at some point. The top quarterback prospects will be long gone when the Vikings are on the clock. That’s why a trade is necessary to get one of them. To get a shot at one of C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, Bryce Young, or Will Levis, the team most likely has to find a way to enter the top 10 of the draft.

Benjamin named Hendon Hooker a potential target. There’s a good chance he’ll be available at 23, but nothing is guaranteed in the draft. Someone could snatch him, for example, the Buccaneers, who need a new passer after Tom Brady’s retirement. Hooker visited the Bucs, who draft 19th overall, a few weeks ago.

The draft is always a mystery. If the Vikings like Hooker and the decision makers, especially Kevin O’Connell, are convinced that he’ll be the new franchise quarterback, they must make sure to secure his rights. That said, trading up for a player with as many flaws as Hooker wouldn’t be considered a smart move and certainly draw some criticism.

Benjamin gave an alternative:

An alternative would be a move up for a Justin Jefferson running mate; pairing the All-Pro with a refined route-runner like Jaxon Smith-Njigba or a big-bodied playmaker in Quentin Johnston would theoretically enable Jefferson to find even more success downfield.

While the QB selection, especially Hooker, is a controversial decision, most folks in the Vikings space agree that the team needs another wideout to pair with Justin Jefferson. Adam Thielen was released, and the Vikings only have Jefferson and K.J. Osborn left on the team as reliable wide receivers.

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.

Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the best route runner in the draft. Some of his plays can even remind evaluators of Jefferson. He’s considered by most the top receiver in the class.

His only year with big production came in 2021 when he led the team with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, two first-rounders in 2022, in receiving yards. He did it in the slot, also similar to Jefferson coming out of college. The problem is he didn’t replicate that level of play in 2022. Injuries slowed him down, and Marvin Harrison Jr. stole the spotlight.

The aforementioned Quentin Johnston is a totally different player type. He is winning with size and speed but isn’t a refined technician like Smith-Njigba. The TCU standout was the top receiver on a team that went all the way to the national title game.

Both receivers are exciting potential additions to the team and could take some pressure off Jefferson, who is getting double-teamed a lot.

5 Players to
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The problem is that a potential trade only makes sense for a great prospect, someone who is much better than the other available players. Decent receivers can be found at position 23. Maybe Johnston even falls that far. Other wideouts like Jordan Addison or Jalin Hyatt are not much worse, if at all.

For all those reasons, a trade down into the final picks of the top round or even into the second round should be considered the more likely scenario to gain some more draft capital. The Vikings only have five draft selections and some more holes to fill.

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