The Vikings Have a New Contender for the WR3 Job

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
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Nicknamed Mighty Mouse, Brandon Powell is easy to overlook on a football field.

The diminutive receiver was brought to Minnesota primarily to help on special teams. He has become the Vikings’ punt returner, ousting the highly-drafted Jalen Reagor once he proved himself more worthy of the job. What’s been a pleasant surprise, though, is the journeyman’s capacity to add an extra element to the offense.

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Last week, Powell proved to be vital in overcoming the San Francisco 49ers. True, Jordan Addison stole the headlines since he blew up on Monday Night Football, and T.J. Hockenson has very reasonably stepped back into the spotlight. But, let’s not forget, that the 5’8″, 181-pound receiver turned 5 targets into 4 catches for 64 yards.

The 16.0 yards-per-catch average was second only to Addison’s 17.6 average.

Brandon Powell and The Vikings’ WR3 Job

K.J. Osborn has proven to be steady. Ultra competitive, a willing blocker, and a strong leader. But, unfortunately, not a top-tier receiver who is going to be a weekly difference maker.

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Now, seeing Osborn function from within a less-than-extravagant role isn’t the end of the world. After all, he was a 5th-round selection a few years ago. Initially, the hope was that he could take over as the PR1 while developing into a contributor on offense. The role on offense has indeed developed, but the special teams aspect of his game never got off the ground in the NFL.

Enter Brandon Powell.

The 28-year-old is the definition of a journeyman. In his NFL career, Powell has been employed by the Lions, Falcons, Bills, Dolphins, Rams, and Vikings. Such is life for an UDFA WR/PR who played college RB. Not an easy road.

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Currently, Powell sits at 12 catches (16 targets) and 132 receiving yards for the season. His season highs — 24 catches for 156 yards — are in peril of being toppled before long. What’s especially notable about his current numbers is that he’s already up to a career high in first down catches. A full two-thirds of his catches — 8 of the 12 — have involved the pass catcher picking up a first down.

Fans who have been around for a few years may think back to Jarius Wright. He didn’t make too many plays in that magical 2017 season, but he was commonly relied on to move the sticks.

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Kirk Cousins has certainly taken notice of Brandon Powell’s strong play. Per the QB, Powell is adept at creating room for himself: “Watching him in training camp, the way he played, you could just see – this guy separates versus man coverage, and those guys are hard to find. He’s a playmaker, and he’s pretty natural.”

Cousins goes on to explain that he texted the WR following the MNF game to explain that he sees Powell playing a similar role every week.

The team’s coaches have also noticed what’s happening. In Week 5, Powell picked up 18 snaps in the passing game. In Week 6, Powell picked up 26 snaps in the passing game. In Week 7, Powell picked up 34 snaps in the passing game.

See the trend?

Of course, Powell’s emergence coincides perfectly with the absence of Justin Jefferson. Losing the WR1 has meant that Minnesota has had to pivot toward other playmakers. Plus, Addison had to miss some time in the 49ers game, opening more chances for the other receivers.

To his credit, Powell hasn’t squandered his opportunity. On the contrary, he is proving to the coaches that he deserves attention in the passing game.

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Once Jefferson is back, he’ll very rightly take back his crown, rising to WR1 in Minnesota’s offense. Addison will slide over to WR2, distinguishing himself as one of the most fearsome #2 receivers in the NFL even though he’s still operating in his rookie season. Who gets to be the WR3, though?

Osborn is certainly the favorite. Kevin O’Connell genuinely likes the fourth-year receiver. However, Powell has made the decision difficult, so one wonders if his strong effort in recent weeks will prompt the coaching staff to find creative ways of getting Mighty Mouse onto the field.

Brandon Powell is playing on a 1-year, $1,232,500 contract. Don’t be at all surprised if Kwesi Adofo-Mensah is quick to re-sign him once the offseason arrives.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference, PFF, and Over the Cap helped with this piece.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.