Kevin O’Connell Weighs in on WR Matters

Explained: 8 Strengths of the 2022 Vikings thru 6 Games
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The Minnesota Vikings lost Adam Thielen to the Carolina Panthers on March 19th, and it remains unclear if the club requires an external replacement.

Thielen served as the WR1 or WR2 — depending on the game or season — from 2016 to 2022, joining the franchise as an undrafted free agent in 2013. But now he’s gone and isn’t coming back, at least not anytime soon.

Kevin O’Connell Weighs in on WR Matters

Accordingly, Vikings fans have wondered who will replace Thielen — incumbent WR3 K.J. Osborn, a potential newcomer like Odell Beckham from free agency, or a rookie from the 2023 NFL Draft?

Weighs in on WR
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Based on head coach Kevin O’Connell’s musings Tuesday at the NFL’s ‘Annual Meeting,’ the second-year head coach seems to enjoy what he has on the current roster, outsiders be damned. O’Connell began by establishing Justin Jefferson as the headliner — not exactly breaking news — in saying, “It’s always a great starting point when you mention Justin Jefferson. He’ll always be our number one. He’ll always be our guy that we’re trying to build a passing game around.”

Thereafter, he was also complimentary of the aforementioned Osborn, “The versatility he has and really how he understands; he’s a really smart player, understands how he pairs with Justin and trying to beat some of that coverage that Justin tends to see.”

Looming Departure
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Osborn tweeted Sunday a rather defiant statement, “Just know I’m keeping tabs ?,” implying he knows folks aren’t universally sold on his WR2 resume, an opinion he flatly rejects. According to Osborn and his tabs, he’s indeed eyeing WR2 responsibilities.

O’Connell wasn’t done, touting the capabilities of the Jalens, “I’m excited for a guy like Jalen Nailor and Jalen Reagor, to get a chance to really compete and have the ability in year two to play multiple spots, and handle that, which is really, really important.”

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General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded for Reagor late last summer, and the ex-Eagle mainly filled punt returning duties — in varying degrees of success. Reagor failed to latch on as a productive WR4 and caused a couple of interceptions in the Vikings now-legendary game versus the Indianapolis Colts. Perhaps he can blossom in a second year with the Vikings.

Otherwise, the other Jalen, Nailor, finished the season strong with impressive showings at the Green Bay Packers (in garbage time) and the Chicago Bears to close out 2022. He could be on deck from WR3 or WR4 services, contingent on Osborn’s promotion or lack thereof.

Meanwhile, many mock-draft brains believe Minnesota will choose a wide receiver with its 23rd overall pick in the draft. Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State), Quentin Johnston (TCU), Zay Flowers (Boston College), or Jordan Addison (USC) are names to monitor if Adofo-Mensah stays put at No. 23 and selects a WR on the draft menu.

The Vikings could easily add a WR2 before summer, but if they do not, O’Connell doesn’t sound too panicked about the current group.


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.