Vikings Could Pump Brakes on Round 1 Draft Plan

Vikings Clearing Cap
Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah at the 2023 NFL Combine the Week of February 27th. The Vikings have the 23rd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

The Minnesota Vikings arguably have a roster need at wide receiver after longtime Minnesotan Adam Thielen trekked to the Carolina Panthers in March.

The club could explore a trade for someone like Tee Higgins or Courtland Sutton, promote fourth-year wideout K.J. Osborn to WR2, or draft Justin Jefferson’s 2023 running mate.

Vikings Could Pump Brakes on Round 1 Draft Plan

Well, if the plan is to draft Thielen’s replacement in Round 1 later this month, the plot thickened Monday. Former NFL scout Jim Nagy tweeted to start the week, “One thing has become clear on calls around league past couple weeks: NFL isn’t nearly as high on this year’s WR class as media. Frequently seeing 4-5 wideouts in mocks. Have spoken to numerous teams that have only one first round grade at the position. That guy is Jaxon Smith-Njigba.”

Brakes on Round 1
Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) runs on the sideline after taking a hard hit during the NCAA football game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-USA TODAY Sports.

Per Nagy, the media — so, the NFL’s mock draft community — is apparently overstating the value of this wide receiver class. What does this mean? It would indicate Quentin Johnston (TCU), Zay Flowers (Boston College), and Jordan Addison (USC) may not fly off the board as early as some believe.

Whether this is good or bad news for the Vikings is debatable. The downside: none of the wide receivers are good enough to command a 1st-Round grade, making the WR class generally underwhelming, especially compared to groups in recent years. The Nagy tweet seems to imply Smith-Njigba is the only Week-1-ready commodity.

Trade for Vikings in
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before a wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

The glass-half-full takeaway? The Vikings can trade back — like many fans expect the franchise to do before making a pick — and snag Johnston, Flowers, or Addison in Round 2, effectuating the fruit of the would-be “trade back for draft assets” plan possibly on deck for the Vikings.

Perhaps Minnesota can get lucky and be the team that lands Smith-Njigba. It’s what fans desire:

But the idea would involve Smith-Njigba falling all the way to No. 23 in a draft class evidently deficient of Round 1 WR talent. In that regard, if Nagy is correct, Smith-Njigba will become an even hotter commodity, likely scooped before the Vikings contemplate making a pick at No. 23.

The Vikings have other long-term roster needs, as well. The Nagy announcement could merely finalize a plan where Minnesota rules out a WR with its first pick. For now, the roster only employs Byron Murphy, Andrew Booth, and Akayleb Evans as startable cornerbacks. If Johnston, Flowers, and Addison will be available “later,” perhaps Adofo-Mensah chooses a cornerback like Deonte Banks (Maryland) before any wide receiver pick.

Another Pundit Piles
Nov 5, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Maryland Terrapins defensive back Deonte Banks (3) reacts following a play during the third quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports.

Adofo-Mensah may also act preemptively at quarterback with Kirk Cousins contractually committed to the Vikings for just one more season. He could trade up the board for an Anthony Richardson type, hope Will Levis falls to Vikings 23rd spot, or reach for Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker.

If Nagy is to be believed, though, don’t count on an automatic slew of wide receivers drafted in Round 1. They could be Round 2 finds.

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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