1 Vikings Offseason Theory Is All the Craze

roadmap from
Sep 8, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) runs on to the field during team introductions before a game against the Atlanta Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings offseason began on Sunday night, January 15th, after a flummoxing playoff loss to the New York Giants. New York’s season would end six days later, but Brian Daboll’s men took it to the Vikings defense, an embarrassing outcome for a team that won 13 games and an NFC North crown.

So, Vikings fans speculated the team’s next steps — get better on defense, examine Kirk Cousins’ future, cut fat contracts from the roster, etc. — but one theory reigns supreme some eight days into the offseason — find a formidable and productive WR2.

1 Vikings Offseason Theory Is All the Craze

Vikings loyalists are wontless with unproductive WR2 play, so when Adam Thielen appeared to take a noticeable step back in 2022, speculation began on “what’s next” for Minnesota and a suitable sidekick for soon-to-be Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson.

1 Vikings Offseason Theory
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen (19) during warmups prior to the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

And the theory is widespread, even mainstream, as of January 24 — Minnesota must find a WR2 to complement Jefferson as the LSU alumnus and phenom enters his physical prime. Glance at any Vikings-themed social media, and the hypothetical next WR2 is all the craze. Twitter user KAMAKA2EEE or Skolling Valhalla tweeted Tuesday, “From the mouth of the WR guru. Vikings fans, we need a WR2 desperately.”

“The Vikings need a true young WR2 to line up with Justin Jefferson,” was a tweet from VikesZone. Another prominent VikingsTwitter account, Joe Spinosa, added this week, “The Vikings need a legit WR2 more than they need any individual player on defense.”

Justin Jefferson Quietly
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates his touchdown against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Twitter user DalvinCookin or Phoenix tweeted back in October — when Vikings operations were humming — “People always refer to the Vikings weapons as ‘JJ, Cook and Thielen.’ AT isn’t that dude anymore. We need a legitimate WR2, and KJ isn’t him either.”

VikingsTerritory‘s Mitch Massman observed about Jalen Reagor and the probable return of WR coach Keenan McCardell to Minnesota after he failed to land the New England Patriots offensive coordinator job, “Can he turn around Reagor’s career and make him a viable WR2?”

Janik Eckardt, also from VikingsTerritory, theorized Kansas City Chiefs wideout Mecole Hardman as Minnesota’s next WR2 via free agency. He wrote about Hardman on Tuesday, “For the Vikings, he would be a valuable asset in the offense. His elite speed could take the top off the defense, allowing Jefferson and Hockenson to dominate the medium area even more because the safeties have to account for his deep speed.”

October 23, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (17) during the fourth quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

So, you get the hint — fans are evidently ready to turn the page on Mr. Minnesota Adam Thielen and recreate some semblance of the Thielen-Diggs era, where both men produced equally. That would be the dream, anyway.

Via free agency, if the Vikings agree with fans that a shiny new WR is needed, these are the contenders:

  • DJ Chark (Lions)
  • Mecole Harman (Chiefs)
  • Deonte Harty (Saints)
  • Jarvis Landry (Saints)
  • Allen Lazard (Packers)
  • Jakobi Meyers (Patriots)
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster (Chiefs)

This list will grow, too, as teams prepare for free agency and release players not yet a part of the free-agent pool.

Otherwise, the Vikings could promote from within, evaluating incumbents K.J. Osborn, rookie Jalen Nailor, or the aforementioned Reagor from Massman’s theory. Those are the in-house options, with a side dish of Bisi Johnson, who’s been sidelined in back-to-back seasons in 2021 and 2022.

Enough for the Vikings
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) 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.

Finally — the draft. Minnesota owns the 23rd overall pick, and if they don’t trade it, these are the men theorized to fly off the board in Round 1 or 2:

  • Jordan Addison (USC)
  • Nathaniel Dell (Houston)
  • Josh Downs (North Carolina)
  • Zay Flowers (Boston College)
  • Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee)
  • Quentin Johnson (TCU)
  • Rashee Rice (SMU)
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)
  • Rome Odunze (Washington)
  • Cedric Tillman (Tennessee)
  • Parker Washington (Penn State)

Addison, Downs, Hyatt, and Johnston are considered the “sure things” at WR by draft pundits in this year’s draft.

The Vikings finished eighth in the NFL in 2022 via points scored. NFL free agency begins on March 15th, and the draft starts on April 27th in Kansas City.

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.

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