Do the Vikings Have to Draft a Wide Receiver?

The Vikings Most Significant Area of Improvement This Offseason
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

Heading into the offseason it is clear that the Minnesota Vikings have the best receiver in the NFL. Justin Jefferson was an absolute monster in 2022, which should remain the case for years to come. The problem is, what wide receiver can play alongside him and provide help? Is it one that comes through the draft?

It seems nearly inevitable that the Vikings must work things out with Adam Thielen. He is no longer the player he once was, and generating separation is not something he can provide consistently. As the number two wideout for Minnesota, the production wasn’t enough to warrant additional coverage from opposing defenses.

Do the Vikings Have to Draft a Wide Receiver?

On top of his declining skillset, Thielen could find himself as a cap casualty. The Vikings aren’t going to allow his $19 million cap hit to exist this season, and without restructuring, he could be looking for a new home. That means a spot is open on the opposite side of Jefferson.

Do the Vikings Have
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Surely the Vikings will need to ask whether K.J. Osborn can fill that role, but it seems somewhat apparent that he may be best suited to be a third wideout. He has performed admirably in recent seasons and put up two 100-yard games this year, but being a focal point of the offense could stretch his skills a bit too thin.

It was a boost for Minnesota to get T.J. Hockenson at the tight end position through a trade, but his addition only masked the loss of Irv Smith Jr. as an option. Realistically the Vikings needed to add another wideout at the time and were reportedly exploring Houston Texans Brandin Cooks as an option.

Vikings Reportedly Shopping for Big-Name WR
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Looking at the free agent landscape, Minnesota may find themselves best suited to grab their number two wide receiver in the draft. D.J. Chark of JuJu Smith-Schuster may represent the highest-tiered options, but that group should have plenty of suitors, and the Vikings aren’t exactly rich when it comes to the cap.

Players like Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba will probably be gone by the time Minnesota makes its first-round selection. Still, if they target an additional prospect with a first-round grade, it could make some sense. Jefferson is in line for a massive payday this offseason, and pairing him with another talent on a rookie deal could help to soften that financial blow.

22. New York Giants — Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State. Syndication The Columbus Dispatch. © Joshua A. Bickel / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Anything other than a defensive selection with the first-round pick will raise eyebrows for the Vikings. Minnesota’s defense was beyond atrocious last season, and allowing that to continue will render any offensive production moot. That said, they still need to be cognizant of the best player available at any given time, and knowing wide receiver is such a huge need could make that a tempting option.

We still have more than two months until the NFL Draft, and free agency will provide a bit of clarity, but the Vikings must be open-minded when adjusting the roster for 2023.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.