The Forgotten Aspect of the 2023 Vikings Draft

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Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired in 2022, promising a collaborative approach with head coach Kevin O’Connell to guide the franchise through a rebuild while trying to stay competitive. It is undoubtedly the most entertaining way to rebuild a roster, as the fans don’t have to endure a couple of three-win seasons, but only if it is working.

The Forgotten Aspect of the 2023 Vikings Draft

For rebuilding purposes, the GM must hit his draft picks and add new talent to the roster. Adofo-Mensah has rightfully been criticized for his first draft class as the players simply haven’t been difference-makers, although he didn’t have the time to overhaul the scouting department, still working primarily with Spielman-guys.

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After the disappointing 2022 class, he was under pressure in 2023 despite entering draft night with only five picks, adding a sixth via trade. Jordan Addison and Mekhi Blackmon, his first two selections, look like decent players for the team’s future, while UDFA Ivan Pace extended the class, adding even more value.

The jury is still out on Jay Ward, Jaquelin Roy, Jaren Hall, and DeWayne McBride. They were all selected on the third day of the draft, and those guys usually require time to develop into rotational roles.

The Forgotten Aspect of the 2023 Vikings Draft
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But one element should be considered when evaluating Adofo-Mensah’s class. He traded the second-round pick to Detroit to add T.J. Hockenson.

Therefore, he couldn’t spend his second-rounder on a draft prospect, and those are expected to contribute. So, the expectations for the draft class should be lowered. With the picks he had–only one in the top 100 of the draft–it shouldn’t be envisioned that he found a bunch of franchise-changing players.

The New York Jets, for comparison, drafted Sauce Gardner, Garrett Wilson, and Jermaine Johnson in the first round in 2022, followed by Breece Hall in the second. With that kind of draft capital, they found multiple excellent players. That is possible but unlikely with Adofo-Mensah’s limited capital.

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In addition to that, Hockenson is a fantastic football player. He is one of those franchise cornerstones. The Vikings traded a 2023 second-round pick and a 2024 third-round pick for Hockenson and a fourth-rounder in each 2023 and 2024.

Had the Vikings picked Hockenson in the draft, everyone would’ve been excited and called Adofo-Mensah a genius. The added value certainly changes the view we should have on his second class. Instead, the general focus is more on his drafted players, and Addison is the only high-end player he has drafted so far.

But he still added Hockenson and his production. In 25 regular season games with the Vikings, Hockenson has tabulated 155 catches for 1,479 yards and 8 touchdowns. The tight end finished the playoff game with ten receptions for 129 yards.

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Of course, it should be noted that Hockenson is much more expensive than a rookie, which is why he cost only a second-round pick and some change. He signed a four-year $66 million deal, making him an expensive tight end, but his production matches the cost.

And there is no reason to believe that Hockenson isn’t a big part of Adofo-Mensah’s future plans. He was acquired as a cornerstone of the organization and has proven to be one of the best tight ends in the NFL. Unfortunately, his torn ACL rules him out for any offseason workouts, and he might miss the start of the 2024 campaign.

While Adofo-Mensah didn’t draft Hockenson, he is still part of that draft class, at least to some extent.

Championship Helped
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Iowa during the first half of the Big Ten championship game at Luca Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

In his third draft, the GM holds the 11th overall pick, a valuable piece as he can use it to add a talented piece to the defense or to take a shot at a new franchise quarterback.

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