The Ringer Sends the Vikings Their WR2 in First Mock Draft
The Minnesota Vikings have multiple needs heading into the 2023 offseason, but first and foremost among them may be the wide receiver position. Justin Jefferson is obviously a superstar, but behind him, the room is very thin. Well, Danny Kelly of The Ringer has decided to fix that problem with his first mock draft of 2023. Be sure to take a look at that mock draft as well as the big board for a full breakdown of the first round.
In the mock draft, Kelly sends the Vikings their WR2 to play alongside Justin Jefferson in North Carolina product Josh Downs. At 5’10 and 175 pounds, Downs certainly is smaller than the prototypical outside wide receiver, but he makes up for it with incredible speed and route-running ability. On his big board, Kelly has Downs as the 28th prospect and WR4 behind Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba, USC’s Jordan Addison, and TCU’s Quentin Johnston.
His fluid hip movements allow him to stop on a dime and suddenly change directions with ease, turning opposing defenders in circles as they try to keep up with him. Coming out of high school, Downs was a four-star recruit, and he showcased why throughout his three years at UNC.
In all, Downs recorded 202 receptions, 2483 receiving yards, and 22 TDs during his collegiate career, including 94 receptions, 1029 yards, and 11 TDs in 2022. Despite North Carolina being outclassed by Clemson in the ACC title game in Downs’ final game as a Tar Heel, he put together a strong showing with 11 receptions and 100 yards.
It’s also worth noting that Downs has experience as a punt returner, which could give him added value for the Vikings. In his 2021 and 2022 seasons, he combined to record 26 punt returns for a total of 289 yards, an average of 11.1 yards per return.
As Kelly notes in his reasoning for the Vikings going wide receiver, Adam Thielen is not getting younger. The veteran receiver will be 33 years old when the 2023 regular season begins, and he carries a cap hit of nearly $20 million, making him a candidate to be a cap casualty this offseason.
Outside of Thielen, K.J. Osborn is the only other wide receiver on this roster with much experience. Osborn was targeted 90 times in 2022, and after that, the target share plummeted, with the next highest target share for a wide receiver belonging to Jalen Reagor who had 13 targets in 2022.
At the very least, the Vikings need a consistent deep threat opposite of Jefferson to help spread the field. Downs is a playmaker at the position, and his skills should translate well to the NFL level.
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Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.
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