Vikings Receiver Is Welcoming the Leadership Role

Vikings Did the Madden Meme
Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) and Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) dance during warmup prior to their game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports.

The loss of leaders in the locker room is something the Vikings have to overcome in the upcoming season. Four team captains departed. Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks, and Patrick Peterson will be missed, possibly even more in the locker room than on the field, as leadership continues to be an underrated quality.

Vikings Receiver Is Welcoming the Leadership Role

Whenever a veteran leaves a team, a spot is open on the playing field and in the locker room. New voices are needed, and the Vikings must rely on some new guys to step up. Younger players are slowly becoming the old guys in the room with the frequency of roster changes in the NFL. For example, only three players (Danielle Hunter, C.J. Ham, Harrison Smith) are still on the team that went to the NFC Championship Game in the 2017 season.

Vikings Receiver Is Welcoming the Leadership Role
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrates the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Thielen’s departure opened up the opportunity for K.J. Osborn to take over as a leader in the WR room and on the field as the second fiddle to Justin Jefferson – an upgrade from his days as WR3. Of course, first-round pick Jordan Addison will also compete for the latter.

Osborn talked about the leadership role during the mandatory minicamp:

That is something we have embraced. I’m very comfortable, I’ve talked about it before, with my leadership in the past – in college. Adam [Thielen] did an excellent job showing us the way to be able to lead all of those young guys.

K.J. Osborn

It is a young receiver room without a real veteran with years of experience under his belt. The top guys in terms of experience are Jefferson and Osborn, who are preparing for their fourth campaign.

The Vikings’ wide receiver room and the career catches:

  • Justin Jefferson – 324
  • K.J. Osborn – 110
  • Jalen Reagor – 72
  • Brandon Powell – 47
  • Jalen Nailor – 9
  • Jordan Addison – 0
  • Trishton Jackson – 0
  • Thayer Thomas – 0
  • Malik Knowles – 0
  • Lucky Jackson – 0
  • Garett Maag – 0
  • Cephus Johnson – 0
  • Blake Proehl – 0
New Viking Claims He's the Fastest Dude on Team
Keenan McCardell and Jalen Nailor at Vikings camp in the summer of 2022. Nailor was a 2022 rookie from Michigan State University.

It will be on Osborn and Jefferson to provide the leadership from within the WR room, while WR coach Keenan McCardell must be the outside voice. He had a long career himself, playing in 209 games in the NFL and recording 11,373 yards on 883 receptions.

Osborn was asked about players leaving:

It’s a little different, man. It’s a little different. The guys from our draft class, a lot of us are still around and we’re looking around and our OGs, our vets are gone. All of them, I can go down the list. We were just talking about the leadership and it’s me telling the stories. That wasn’t the case before. It’s definitely different but a lot of guys around here are excited for the future and we’re taking it one day at a time. It should be fun.

Looming Departure
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) warms up wearing a shirt honoring Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin (3) before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

The fourth-year receiver didn’t play on offense in his rookie campaign but blew everyone away in training camp in 2021 and carved out a nice role as the team’s third wideout. He recorded 655 and 650 yards in the last two seasons. Those are decent numbers for a WR3.

With Thielen off the team, he now has the chance to earn some more opportunities. More targets lead to more production and a higher demand in the league next offseason. Osborn is in the final year of his rookie contract and will hit free agency next year. Teams need more quality receivers than ever, and some break the bank. If he can prove that he can actually be a WR2 in an offense, he can be one of them.

To do that, he needs to fight off Addison and keep the job as the second WR. Not many Vikings have as much pressure to perform in 2023 as Osborn. His advantage is his experience and familiarity with the system and quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt