A Good but Surprising Pick in Jordan Addison + Defense a Must for Vikings in Days 2 and 3

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings threw a slight curve ball at most of the draft analysts with their pick of USC wide receiver Jordan Addison in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Much of the speculation centered on a cornerback or defensive lineman to aid Minnesota’s 31st ranked pass defense. Or perhaps a quarterback of the future to play on a cheap rookie deal with Kirk Cousins entering his final season under contract and seeking over $40 million per year.  

A Surprising Pick in Jordan Addison

I expected the Vikings to take a corner from a loaded draft class at the position and Deonte Banks, who would’ve been a great fit in new coordinator Brian Flores man-cover heavy scheme, went to the Giants at No. 24 after the Vikings took Addison. I figured Coach Kevin O’Connell would want another quality receiver for his base three wide receiver offense but I thought he and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah would wait until possibly the third round for a wide out (or trade up into the second round as I now think they may try to do for a starting-caliber corner such as Joey Porter, Jr.).  

The Vikings obviously had a higher grade on Addison compared to defensive players such as Banks, Porter or speedy edge rusher Nolan Smith (the Eagles’ pick at No. 30) or talented defensive end Myles Murphy (who went to the Bengals at No. 28). I think it’s wise to go with the best player available and more so if he fits a need and that appears to be the case with Addison after the departure of Adam Thielen. 

A Good But Surprising Pick in Jordan Addison
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports.

I think the Vikings brass figure they went hard for defense last year with safety Lewis Cine, corners Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans and linebacker Brian Asamoah who were all picked in the first four rounds and they’re counting on those players being bigger contributors in their second seasons. And they surely will pick another corner or two on Days 2 and 3 along with defensive line/edge rusher help.  

O’Connell wanted Addison so his preferred three wide receiver scheme would have a productive option to replace a quality receiver in Thielen and join superstar Justin Jefferson and a fine receiver in K.J. Osborn as the starting trio. I like what I’ve seen of Addison as a great route runner (like Thielen) and Addison brings quickness and acceleration into and out of his breaks so he separates well from corners.  

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

He’s not a big guy (5-11, 171 pounds) and not a burner at 4.49 speed, but he was judged the best receiver in college football when he won the Biletnikoff Award at Pittsburgh in 2021. He had 1,593 receiving yards and 17 TDs that season while playing with now-Steelers QB Kenny Pickett. Then he transferred to USC and had 875 receiving yards and 8 TDs in 11 games while dealing with an ankle injury.  

Addison should be a big help to Jefferson, who has faced constant double teams and bracket coverage, as the newcomer will force defenses to worry about the threesome of Jefferson, Addison and Osborn (along with Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson) compared to having Jalen Reagor or last year’s sixth round pick Jalen Nailor (who could still become a fine player) as the third receiver. Addison should see a lot of single coverage which will be a boon to Kirk Cousins and the Vikings offense and he brings the flexibility of being an excellent slot or outside receiver.  

It’s interesting that three years after selecting Jefferson 22nd overall as the fifth wide receiver taken in the 2020 first round, the Vikings picked Addison 23rd overall as the fourth wide receiver in this draft who were all taken in succession—Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Seattle), Quentin Johnston (Chargers), Zay Flowers (Baltimore) and Addison. The Vikings would be thrilled if Addison turns into anything close to Jefferson who is now the NFL’s best receiver. 

Defense Is a Must in Days 2 and 3

I expect Adofo-Mensah to work hard to acquire additional picks beyond the third, fourth, fifth and sixth rounders they currently have remaining. It will be very tough for Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell to wait until Pick No. 87 in the third round and see 55 players selected before Minnesota is on the clock.

So, a trade up into the second round or early third round is very possible if it’s not too costly (and hopefully for their sake doesn’t involve the Vikings giving up their first round pick in 2024).  

As I wrote earlier this week, it will be a good draft for the Vikings if they come out of it with a quality corner or two, a defensive lineman or edge rusher with ability to rush the passer and stop the run, an inside linebacker to possibly step in for Jordan Hicks in 2024 and be a good special teamer this year and a young QB to be developed along with an impact receiver which appears to be the case with Addison.  

Around the NFL Observations

1. First day takeaways besides the Addison pick by the Vikings: thinking about that Eagles defense that ranked second in the league last season, and they picked two Georgia stars in the first round, problematic but talented defensive tackle Jalen Carter and defensive end Nolan Smith who looks like he could be a clone of Philly All-Pro Haason Reddick.

Yikes—they lost some good players in free agency on D in Javon Hargrave, T.J. Edwards and C.J. Gardner-Johnson among others but the Eagles are reloading quickly in this draft. I still see Carter as a character risk but he’s in a good spot to potentially succeed on a defense with veteran leaders who can mentor him in Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham.  

More on the NFC North drafts of the Vikings division-mates next week (along with a complete analysis of the Vikings draft) but I was not impressed with the Lions first round choices of running back Jahmyr Gibbs (No. 12 overall) and linebacker Jack Campbell (No. 18) when they were projected to go in the late first or early second round and the Lions passed on more impactful players to help their defense that ranked last in the league in 2022.  

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell gestures during a game against Northwestern, Oct. 29, 2022, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. Syndication Hawkcentral

The Bears and Packers picked good players at their spots. Offensive tackle Darnell Wright went No. 10 to Chicago and he’ll help protect Justin Fields. Edge rusher Lukas Van Ness was taken by Green Bay and he brings good upside at a need position but once again the Packers did not draft a wide receiver in the first round or a top tight end to help new QB Jordan Love. 

2. The other big first round story was the slide by Kentucky QB Will Levis. He should be picked early in Round 2 by the Raiders, Rams, Titans, Falcons, Commanders, Buccaneers or possibly the Lions (they all have picks between No. 32 and 50). It’s always painful to watch a supposed top prospect fall as the cameras are focused on them. The rumblings are that teams may be concerned about a toe injury which could require surgery. I don’t think that is a big enough injury to cause a drop out of the first round. I think it’s more about the 23 interceptions he threw over the last two seasons and a perceived arrogance from a personality standpoint. One thing is certain: Levis will enter the league with a huge chip on his shoulder after he was projected by many mock drafters to go in the top 10.  

3. Lamar Jackson is a big winner this week with his new five-year, $260 million extension (not fully guaranteed as he hoped but $185 million is guaranteed which he can certainly live with). Then the Ravens added to his joy by picking talented wide receiver Zay Flowers in the first round to go along with the team’s recent signing of Odell Beckham and the return from a foot injury of 2021 first round pick Rashod Bateman (from the Gophers).     

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl