Former Vikings LB Not a Fan of WR in Round 1

A Minnesota Vikings fan greets other fans in front of the NFL Draft stage during the NFL Draft second and third rounds on Friday, April 26, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. © Mark Zaleski/ For The Tennessean.

You might find it wise for the Minnesota Vikings to explore drafting a wide receiver with the 23rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but a popular former Vikings linebacker doesn’t agree.

That’s Ben Leber, who played for the Vikings from 2006 to 2010 and is now part of the Vikings media machine.

Former Vikings LB Not a Fan of WR in Round 1

The New York Giants bounced the Vikings from the 2022 playoffs in Minneapolis because — you guessed it — Minnesota’s defense could not thwart New York’s offensive attack while quarterback Daniel Jones resembled Steve Young. Accordingly, many Vikings fans and pundits speculate the franchise will improve via defensive personnel this offseason, hiring Brian Flores from the Pittsburgh Steelers as a fancy first step.

Former Vikings LB Not
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Leber was perplexed this week by the notion that Minnesota should invest 1st-Round draft capital at wide receiver, a semi-prominent occurrence from dozens of mock drafters. Leber tweeted Thursday, “I don’t understand the League experts mocking a WR to the Vikings at 23… did they not watch our defense last year??”

The 2022 Vikings ranked 27th in defensive DVOA, 30th in points allowed, and 31st in yards allowed. And in that vein, Leber is correct — shouldn’t the Vikings focus on defensive improvement instead of some shiny new wideout?

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports.

Well, one working theory suggests the Vikings will “fix the defense” via free agency and the tutelage of Flores. If Minnesota can remedy personnel maladies at off-ball linebacker, cornerback, and interior defensive line on the open market, why wouldn’t the franchise select the best player available with its 1st-Round pick? That’s the idea from the draft-a-WR crowd.

We polled the Vikings fanbase a few weeks ago about their positional draft preference, and WR2 was actually low on the priority list.

Still, Leber is accurate that prominent “mock drafters” endorse a wide receiver for Minnesota at No. 23. ESPN’s Todd McShay — the man Leber is likely referring to — chose USC’s Jordan Addison for the Vikings in a Wednesday mock draft and defended the pick, “Adam Thielen is entering his age-33 season, so Minnesota could take the best player available here and get a speedy, instinctive running mate for Justin Jefferson. Addison was just shy of 1,600 receiving yards in 2021 at Pitt before transferring to USC and picking up another 875 yards and eight scores. He has versatility to line up outside or in the slot.”

“For those wondering why the Vikings would sidestep their defensive needs — they allowed 5.9 yards per play in 2022, third highest in the NFL — it really comes down to the board. Texas A&M safety Antonio Johnson or Arkansas linebacker Drew Sanders might fit, but this is still early for both. Remember, free agency still lies ahead,” McShay added.

The Zapruder Part of Vikings
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Two days before the McShay theory, Pro Football Focus also spitballed Addison to Minnesota in a mock draft authored by Mike Renner.

“Addison is a dream scenario for the Vikings. He’s not just a separator, but also one who will make you pay down the football field if you tilt your safeties toward Justin Jefferson,” Renner surmised.

If the Vikings move on from Adam Thielen — a real possibility — general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would be tasked with using free agency for his replacement, promoting K.J. Osborn to WR2, or hopping on the McShay and Renner train in the draft.

In the last 25 years, the Vikings have struck gold with Round 1 wide receivers in Randy Moss, Percy Harvin, Justin Jefferson, and to a degree, Cordarrelle Patterson.

The NFL Draft is 10 weeks away.

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