The Vikings WR Stakes in the Draft

The Vikings 2022 Offense by the Numbers: After Week 12
Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) stands on the field during warmup prior to the game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

The odds-on favorite position for the Minnesota Vikings to draft Thursday night with their first pick is wide receiver. Cornerback closely follows at second, with quarterback and defensive line third and fourth per sportsbooks.

Minnesota cut ties with Adam Thielen in March, and he joined the Carolina Panthers days after the release.

The Vikings WR Stakes in the Draft

Now, the Vikings may be draft shopping for Thielen’s replacement if they are not sold on the current depth behind Justin Jefferson. Here’s the WR depth chart one day before the 2023 NFL Draft:

  • WR1: Justin Jefferson
  • WR2: K.J. Osborn
  • WR3: Jalen Nailor
  • WR4: Jalen Reagor
  • WR5: Brandon Powell
  • WR6: Blake Proehl
  • WR7: Trishton Jackson

And here are the WR stakes for Minnesota in the draft.

If It’s a WR in Round 1 or 2

Dec 31, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; TCU Horned Frogs wide receiver Quentin Johnston (1) against the Michigan Wolverines during the 2022 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports.

Then What: K.J. Osborn encounters an abrupt hot seat and will likely remain WR3.

Perhaps the Vikings second-most intriguing offseason mystery — after the team’s revelation of the QB plan for life after Kirk Cousins — the identity of the 2023 WR2 is unknown. It could be Osborn; it may be Jordan Addison (USC), Quentin Johnston (TCU), or Zay Flowers (Boston College).

Minnesota signed no WR2 contender from free agency when it could’ve onboarded D.J. Chark or Darius Slaton for cheap. But no cigar. Ergo, it either knew in its heart of hearts that Osborn was the WR2 on deck — or an early-round draft pick at WR is on the way.

One item is certain — no more WR2 candidates are available on the free-agent market. It’s Osborn, 1st- or 2nd-Round WR, or bust.

Round 3 or 4

The Vikings WR Stakes
Oct 29, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA; Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Jonathan Mingo (1) catches a pass against the Texas A&M Aggies in the second half at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports.

Then What: Osborn is the presumptive WR2 in 2023, but ‘the new guy’ could be in line for 2024 WR2 duty if Osborn’s contract isn’t renewed next offseason.

Quietly, Osborn enters a contract year in 2023. If he excels and truly produces WR2 numbers, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah must pay him a hefty contract extension accordingly. That’s how it works.

However, if Osborn shows up this September and very much proves he’s more slated for WR3 duty, a mid-round wide receiver like Jonathan Mingo (Ole Miss) or A.T. Perry (Wake Forest) could use 2023 as a springboard to a 2024 WR2 assignment.

Minnesota’s selection of a wideout after Round 2 temporarily endorses Osborn as the WR2.

Round 5, 6, 7, or None

Explained: The WR Section of the Vikings New Depth Chart
Jun 8, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) looks on during mandatory minicamp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Then What: The K.J. Osborn Show, unfettered.

Maybe the Vikings absolutely adore Osborn, and his WR2 outlook has been a no-brainer all along. He assuredly has the chip on his shoulder to prove the detractors wrong.

There’s a decent chance Vikings fans and pundits have overthought this one for three months, and Osborn was tabbed for WR2 duty the moment Thielen left.

A late-round WR or no WRs at all would confirm this. A healthy portion of TE T.J. Hockenson would also ensue this autumn.

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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