12 Juicy Vikings Storylines | Pre-Draft

The first wave of free agency is over, but the Minnesota Vikings offseason is just heating up.

Accordingly, oodles of questions remain about the team’s roster construction and will be pondered for the next six weeks until the 2023 NFL Draft.

12 Juicy Vikings Storylines | Pre-Draft

These are the 12 big pre-draft Vikings storylines to monitor, ranked in ascending order of importance.

12. Where Do the “Other Guys” Land?

12 juicy
Adam Thielen of the Minnesota Vikings walks the red carpet before the NFL Honors awards special at the Phoenix Convention Center on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. © Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK.

This doesn’t have any bearing on the Vikings organization but will quench fans’ curiosity. Where does Adam Thielen sign? What about Irv Smith? If Minnesota lets Duke Shelley walk — more on that later — which team will reap the benefit?

This is primarily a Thielen item because he’s No. 1 in folks’ hearts, but let’s kick back and see where “the others” land.

11. Is Rookie Interior OL Help on the Way?

Are Vikings OL Improvements a Mirage?
Oct 31, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; The line of scrimmage between the Minnesota Vikings and the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings will have total offensive line continuity for the first time in over a decade. It’s glorious.

However, the guts of the line — Garrett Bradbury and Ed Ingram — certainly aren’t Pro Bowler-caliber. Sometimes those guts stink. Will Adofo-Mensah draft a guard or center in the mid-rounds of the draft to play it safe in case Bradbury or Ingram flounder? Quality guards and centers can be plucked outside Round 1, so this is one to watch.

10. Will a Rookie Kicker Challenge Greg Joseph?

How the Vikings Can Beat
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) celebrates the win after the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Joseph re-signed with the Vikings last week for guaranteed money, but the contract is tiny. Should the front office want to flirt with the idea of a competition kicker — like Gabe Brkic for a few days in 2022 — it’s assuredly feasible.

Or — do they just let it ride with Joseph, hoping he exorcises his extra-point demons?

9. Is Khyiris Tonga the New Nose Tackle?

Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga (95) and Washington Commanders wide receiver Dax Milne (15) exchange jerseys after their game at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

The answer here is likely yes, but it wouldn’t be unheard of for Adofo-Mensah to upgrade Tonga’s spot in free agency or the draft. Tonga feels like the apparent starting NT, but is that a done deal?

8. C.J. Ham Just Stays Put?

4 Things to Monitor for Vikings vs. 49ers
Sep 19, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham (30) prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports.

Ham is an expensive fullback, and teams hardly use fullbacks in the modern NFL. In addition, he was utilized on offensive snaps 15% of the time last year in Kevin O’Connell’s maiden voyage.

Do the Vikings just pay $3.8 million to a seldom-used fullback for special teams and locker room leadership purposes?

7. Do the Vikings Believe K.J. Osborn Is a WR2?

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.

If we knew the answer to this badboy, predicting the Vikings offseason plans would be a lot easier. Osborn has shown great skill in flashes; for example, the greatest comeback in NFL history when Minnesota upended the Indianapolis Colts.

But is he ready to be an every-game WR2? If not, the Vikings will be signing D.J. Chark or Odell Beckham — or exploring the draft’s early rounds for Adam Thielen’s replacement.

6. When Do the Big Extensions Hit?

Justin Jefferson Absolutely Deserves Award Recognition
Nov 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) reacts after a catch against the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Danielle Hunter — they’re all on tap for big paydays.

How long after free agency or the draft does it take to put pen to paper? Or are these big-ticket items put to bed before the draft?

5. A Duke Shelley Verdict?

Vikings Had 1 Pretty Ruthless Gaffe at Lambeau
Jan 1, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (9) rushes with the football in front of Minnesota Vikings cornerback Duke Shelley (20) during the third quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

A lot of men and women love Duke Shelley. Do none of them work at Vikings headquarters in Eagan?

This category could’ve also been titled What’s the Vikings final step to solidify the CB room?

Re-signing Duke Shelley would put a bow on the cornerback room, with high hopes that Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans bust out this summer. Patrick Peterson went to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Booth, Evans, and newly-acquired Byron Murphy are the team’s possibly- startable cornerbacks as of March 18th.

They need at least one more. You know, like Duke Shelley.

4. Is WR the First Pick of the Draft?

Nov 26, 2022; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Boston College Eagles wide receiver Zay Flowers (4) smiles before their game against the Syracuse Orange at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports.

In the event the Vikings don’t peg K.J. Osborn for WR2 duty and don’t sign Odell Beckham or D.J. Chark, they must use one of the first two draft picks in late April on a wide receiver.

Will it be Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, Zay Flowers, Quentin Johnston, Jalin Hyatt, Nathaniel Dell, or other?

3. Are Dalvin Cook and Za’Darius Smith Traded?

Vikings Depth Chart -- Week 15 vs. Colts
Dec 4, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) celebrates his touchdown against the New York Jets during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The most prudent one — Cook and Smith seem on the cusp of getting traded. When Alexander Mattison was re-signed late last week, that probably ended the Dalvin Cook era in Minnesota.

Then, Smith flat-out said goodbye to Minnesota and Minnesotans 11 days ago on Twitter. Will they both depart via trade? If so, what is the compensation, and from which team?

2. Does Adofo-Mensah Land One More ‘Big Name’ in Free Agency?

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah who was hired in January 2022 after the club parted ways with Rick Spielman. The Vikings finished 13-4 in Adofo-Mensah’s first season as general manager.

Last year, Adof0-Mensah’s splashiest free-agent addition occurred during Week 2 of free agency. That was Za’Darius Smith. Does he pull another rabbit out of a hat during his second year on the job?

Odell Beckham, D.J. Chark, and a handful of other “big names” are unsigned. If the Vikings start to clear cap space on a random weekday, know that you’ve seen this move before when Za’Darius Smith was welcomed 12 months ago.

1. If the Vikings Draft a Rookie QB, Who Is It?

Kevin O’Connell after his first season with the Minnesota Vikings. The team finished 13-4, won the NFC North for the first time in five years, and produced the best season by a first-year head coach in franchise history.

If you’re the kind of Vikings fan who soaks up Vikings-related news daily, this question should utterly engulf your soul for the next six weeks.

Minnesota finally has one chance to replicate the 2017 Kansas City Chiefs or the always-Green-Bay-Packers via drafting a quarterback as a luxury. The Chiefs did it with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes six years ago. The Packers did it in 2005.

Cousins will be back this autumn to throw his automatic 4,000 passing yards and 30+ touchdowns. But the difference this year is that he has no guaranteed time left on his deal after 2023.

Now is the time to draft a quarterback, let him cook on the bench for one season, and let her rip. But who will it be?

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 OverTheCap.com.