Vikings ‘Supporting Cast Ranking’ Is Pretty Nifty

Justin Jefferson Weighs in
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) celebrates his touchdown with wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) during the first quarter against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings lost two key components on offense this offseason, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook, in addition to a total overhaul on defense.

On paper and in the annals of Vikings history, losing Thielen and Cook is a big damn deal. But it doesn’t quite send operational shockwaves through the organization, at least not according to ESPN.

Vikings ‘Supporting Cast Ranking’ Is Pretty Nifty

The sports media giant ranked ‘supporting casts’ for every quarterback and team on Monday, including a QB1’s wide receivers, running back, and tight end. The Vikings checked in at No. 6 in the NFL.

Supporting Cast Ranking
Oct 30, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) warms up before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Only the 49ers (No. 1), Bengals (No. 2), Eagles (No. 3), Seahawks (No. 4), and Chargers (No. 5) bested Minnesota in Bill Barnwell’s pecking order. The Texans (No. 32), Thielen’s Panthers (No. 31), and Cardinals (No. 30) rounded out the league’s basements for supporting cast’s sake.

The Vikings supporting cast in this vein can be considered wide receivers Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, tight end T.J. Hockenson, and running back Alexander Mattison.

Barnwell explained the Vikings ranking, “I don’t need to say too much about Justin Jefferson, who is close to a consensus best receiver in football. He just turned 24, and there’s a chance we haven’t even seen his best, which would be a terrifying sight for opposing cornerbacks.”

prediction for jordan
Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison on stage after being selected by the Minnesota Vikings twenty-third overall in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft at Union Station. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Many expected Minnesota to draft a defensive player in April, but the franchise remained steadfast about adding a running mate for Jefferson in an ever-increasing offense-happy NFL.

“What looked like a breakout for new tight end T.J. Hockenson was realistically just more opportunities to play. During his seven-game stretch to begin the season with the Lions, Hockenson ran 29 routes per game and was targeted on 22.4% of those routes. After joining Minnesota, he averaged just under 35 routes per game and was targeted on just over 24% of his targets. The 2019 first-round pick was actually less efficient, as he fell from 1.8 yards per route run to 1.6 after joining the Vikings, but the added volume was king,” Barnwell continued about the Vikings tight end.

Hockenson tabulated more catches (60) in his first 10 games with the Vikings than any TE in NFL history in his first 10 games with a new team.

Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) walks off the field after the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports.

Barnwell concluded by mentioning Cook’s release and new RB1 Alexander Mattison’s prognosis, “The release pushes Alexander Mattison into a leading role, and Mattison wasn’t very good last season, either; he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, didn’t do much as a receiver and averaged minus-0.6 rushing yards over expected per carry. (Cook was at minus-0.1.) The concerns at running back are enough to keep Minnesota out of the top five.”

Mattison has been a Viking for four years and gets a crack at the RB1 job for the first time. Meanwhile, Cook is a free agent.

Could Have Certain
Sep 26, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison (25) carries the ball during the fourth quarter against Seattle Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports.

It’s more than fair to question the Vikings defensive outlook after the club parted ways with Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Tomlinson, Patrick Peterson, Za’Darius Smith, and Duke Shelley, among others, but according to ESPN, one shouldn’t panic about the offensive weaponry.

The Vikings ranked eighth in points scored last year, O’Connell’s first season as head coach.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by