WR2 Draft Prospects for the Vikings

Dec 31, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; TCU Horned Frogs wide receiver Quentin Johnston (1) runs for a 76-yard touchdown after a catch against the Michigan Wolverines in the second half of the 2022 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Will the Minnesota Vikings draft a wide receiver in the first round? It’s one of several popular scenarios that continues to be discussed.

There are several WR2 draft prospects for the Vikings in this year’s draft. Do they want someone who can partner with Justin Jefferson and take some of the attention and pressure off Minnesota’s superstar? It is one of the more plausible possibilities since the Vikings parted ways with Adam Thielen.

The Vikings could be happy with giving KJ Osborn a sort of promotion to WR2 while making TJ Hockenson the defacto second receiver from tight end. Is filling out the roster with Jalen Nailor, Jalen Reagor, and FA signing Brandon Powell enough? Ideally, another WR would be great, but the Vikings have a lot of needs, so what do they prioritize? That’s the question Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell have to answer.

WR2 Draft Prospects for the Vikings

If the plan is WR in the first round, five players can come in and have the immediate impact the Vikings will want from a first-round draft pick.

Jaxson Smith-Njigba

WR2 Draft
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.

My 2023 draft crush is Ohio State WR Jaxson Smith-Njigba. Despite missing a lot of the 2022 season with an injury, Smith-Njigba could be the first wide receiver taken in this year’s draft. His 2021 season was that good; he caught 95 passes for 1,595 yards and nine touchdowns. He has good size at 6’1 and 196 lbs, and while his speed isn’t outstanding — he never ran the 40-yard dash at the combine and had an unofficial time of 4.53s. He moves quickly enough with uncoachable route-running ability and ball skills.

Smith-Njigba played mainly from the slot in his college career — so did Justin Jefferson – so the question is whether he is just a slot receiver? If he is better suited to staying there most of the time, that will be fine, but the Vikings will likely move around their receivers and give Smith-Njigba chances to show what he can do on the outside. His deceptive footwork, body control, ability to read, leverage, make sight adjustments, and run to open space make him an exciting prospect with a great chance at succeeding.

Quentin Johnston

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.

Quentin Johnston is an exciting blend of size and speed. The TCU WR comes in at 6’3 and 208 lbs while being recognized as an explosive playmaker with elite speed. What more could a team want? He does have reasons for concern, particularly in two areas he should thrive in. Despite his physical presence, he has shown difficulty defeating press coverage and needs to do better in contested catches. Improved technique to go with his physical presence can solve these issues.

Johnston has the tools to step in as a team’s WR1. If he comes to Minnesota, he won’t have to shoulder that burden and could thrive opposite Jefferson. While Smith-Njigba is almost universally expected to come off the board early. Opinions on Johnston and the remaining two WRs vary, and the Vikings could have a chance at 23.

Jordan Addison

CBS Sports Says WR
Nov 19, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) celebrates his touchdown scored against the UCLA Bruins during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports.

To me, Jordan Addison seems the most likely available at 23, and even maybe still available after a small trade-back – which would be ideal. The USC WR excels in route-running, ball skills, and big-play ability and would be an excellent partner for Jefferson. He has crafty release packages and can get separation on all three levels.

The doubts with Addison are his size at only 5”11 and 173 lbs. Players like Eagles WR Devonta Smith have proved smaller receivers can work in the NFL. Addison’s route-running ability and football intelligence leave me unconcerned by his diminutive stature. Addison will be an excellent draft pick if the Vikings are looking for a wide receiver early in the draft.

Josh Downs

Oct 29, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Josh Downs (11) catches a touchdown in the fourth quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium—mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

Josh Downs is another small receiver (5’9, 171 lbs) projected to play from the slot. Downs had a productive college career with back-to-back 1000-yard seasons and 32 touchdowns for North Carolina. A dynamic player who is a crafty and sudden route runner, Downs will find success if a team schemes up opportunities for him to show his talents. The Vikings and O’Connell can be a good fit in that regard.

With doubts surrounding his ability to play on the outside due to his size, Downs is a very late first-round/second-round prospect. Good news if the Vikings are looking to trade back from 23, which would seem sensible and highly possible.

Zay Flowers

Another WR to Circle
Oct 1, 2022; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Boston College Eagles wide receiver Zay Flowers (4) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the first half against the Louisville Cardinals at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Last but by no means least, we have Boston College WR Zay Flowers, who is an intriguing prospect. Flowers is another in the category of a small receiver at just 5’9 and 182 lbs. He is not a polished route runner, but if you want to add dynamism to your offense, Flowers is the man for you.

He has a good 40-yard dash time of 4.42s, but it’s his suddenness and ability to change direction that impresses. Get the ball to Flowers in space, and he’s a big play waiting to happen. His stock has risen as we get closer to the draft; at one time, he might have been a Day 2 option, but now he is almost certainly a first-rounder with no certainty he’ll be available at 23.