The ‘Other Way’ to Think about the Vikings Draft

Need Big Seasons
Apr 27, 2023; Kansas City, MO, USA; USC wide receiver Jordan Addison with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell 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.

The Minnesota Vikings kicked off the 2023 NFL Draft by staying put at their No. 23 pick and selecting wide receiver Jordan Addison from USC. The move certainly wasn’t unforeseen — Addison was the Vegas odds-on favorite and fans’ prediction to join the club in Round 1.

But after a flurry of trades last year and the team’s defensive needs, many believed Minnesota would trade down and target a defender, like a cornerback or interior defensive lineman, before becoming embarrassingly rich on offense.

The ‘Other Way’ to Think about the Vikings Draft

General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said about his second 1st-Round draft pick in his young career, “This guy’s consistently open. He can make plays with the ball in his hand.”

Other Way
Dec 2, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Southern California Trojans wide receiver Jordan Addison (3) runs the ball against the Utah Utes during the second half in the PAC-12 Football Championship at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports.

So, the grand takeaway from Draft Night No. 1? The offense-first head coach targeted an offense-first enterprise, using a hopeful plan that new defensive coordinator Brian Flores can do more with less. This offseason, the Vikings watched as Cameron Dantzler (CB, Commanders), Eric Kendricks (LB, Chargers), Patrick Peterson (CB, Steelers), Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Browns),¬†and Duke Shelley (CB, Raiders) depart, making the league’s second-worst defense per yards allowed even leaner.

For context, however, there’s the ‘other way’ to think about the Vikings draft — players already obtained via trade with 2023 picks.

Hockenson Chatter
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson (87) reacts after a play against the New York Giants during the second quarter of a wild card game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Fans may stare at the final draft card Saturday night and think, “That’s it?” The Vikings have just four picks remaining and only skimpy options for trade to add more. In theory, Adofo-Mensah could trade Dalvin Cook and Za’Darius Smith for late-rounders or dig into the 2024 draft-capital basket, but the “easiest” way to accumulate more draft capital would’ve been to trade down at No. 23 via domino effect.

Through one night of the 2023 NFL Draft, this is the Vikings honest-to-goodness draft haul:

R1: Jordan Addison
R2: T.J. Hockenson*
R4: Akayleb Evans*
R6: Ross Blacklock*
R7: Jalen Reagor**

*via previous trade
**cost a 5th next year, too

as April Arrives
Oct 16, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Akayleb Evans (21) after a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports.

Adofo-Mensah strategically chose months ago to implement non-2023-rookies in Hockenson, Evans, Blacklock, and Reagor via trade, so by default, they’re fruit of this draft, not rookie lottery tickets.

Folks aren’t terribly enthused by Blacklock or Reagor, but Hockenson was a homerun addition, and Evans is on deck to start in 2023, especially if Minnesota adds no veteran cornerbacks in free agency like Marcus Peters, Rock Ya-Sin, or Shaquill Griffin.

Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Jalen Reagor (5) makes a catch while New York Jets safety Lamarcus Joyner (29) defends during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Hockenson is the almighty gem from the 2023 draft class, a shoo-in to be productive in 2023 and beyond, sans a freaky injury. He, Justin Jefferson, and the newcomer Addison should feast this autumn. Hockenson is the Vikings faux 2nd-Round pick tonight, an important nugget of context when it feels like Minnesota is “doing nothing” as other teams draft more rookies.

The Vikings next pick is Round 3, the 87th plank on the ladder.

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).

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