Our 2023 Draft Endorsement for Vikings

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Minnesota Vikings fans, as a prediction, believe the franchise will end up with USC WR Jordan Addison in the 2023 NFL Draft Thursday night.

The collective body of VikingsTerritory writers forecast TCU wideout Quentin Johnston as the pick. And VT‘s Janik Eckardt + Dustin Baker individually foresee the team ending up with a defensive tackle after a trade out of the 23rd pick. Eckardt says Mazi Smith (Michigan); Baker predicts Bryan Bresee (Clemson).

Our 2023 Draft Endorsement for Vikings

Those are the predictions — what folks think will happen. Here is the official VikingsTerritory endorsement: Trade into the Top 10 for Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.

Our 2023 Draft
Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) walks off the field during the second quarter of the NCAA football game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Ohio State Buckeyes At Michigan Wolverines. © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The price will be lucrative. That is undebatable and undeniable. While it’s painstaking to offload precious draft assets, especially from the future, our staff suggests the lemon is worth the squeeze. After hours upon hours of film study, analysis, and dialogue, we landed on Stroud as the guy to take the mantle after Kirk Cousins leaves the franchise.

Trading into the Top 10 could be as expensive as this year’s 1st-Rounder, plus two more from 2024 and 2025. Ideally, for these purposes, Stroud falls to the 10th or 11th pick, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah pounces via trade. At No. 10 or 11, the trade package should involve two 1st-Round picks, not three.

Josh Frey's 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports.

Here’s our mindest, in the easiest digestible format:

  1. If Stroud is good and the QB1 for the future, the trade cost won’t matter in 2026. Nobody will care. Ask Kansas City Chiefs fans if the Patrick Mahomes’ trade pricetag was worth it.
  2. If he’s not good, the Vikings will be in rough shape for the next three years anyway, and bottoming out with Stroud as “a failure” will coincide with the return of 1st-Round picks.

No matter what, should the Vikings effectuate this endorsement — a longshot — Stroud will determine the course of the franchise and head coach Kevin O’Connell’s employment. If Stroud flops a la Christian Ponder, Minnesota will be in dire straits four years from now, onboarding a new head coach, and draft capital will return. Bottom line: Stroud needs four years for a full assessment, and that’s when draft picks flow back into the system.

Dec 31, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) drops back to throw the ball against Georgia Bulldogs in the third quarter during the Peach Bowl in the College Football Playoff semifinal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. © Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Ironically, we also believe current quarterback Kirk Cousins will have a fabulous year in 2023, his first hurrah with back-to-back offensive playcalling continuity in years. A productive Cousins — to the tune of 4,500 passing yards, 35 touchdown passes, and 10 interceptions — will make the inevitable switch to Stroud feel very weird. And that’s a very Vikings-like paradox to contemplate.

With one voice, we recommend the Vikings obtain whichever quarterback they enamor from this draft now, enabling Quarterback X to watch and learn for a season and take the reins in 2024. With this mindset, Stroud seems like the wisest bet, although Minnesota could adore Anthony Richardson (Florida), Will Levis (Kentucky), Hendon Hooker (Tennessee), or Dorian Thompson-Robinson (UCLA).

The Vikings front office should identify that person now — and go get him. Hell or high water.

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.