Wild Vikings Draft Theory Makes Its Return

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings are happy with their draft haul roughly a month after the event. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has acquired J.J. McCarthy, who is supposed to become the franchise’s leader for years. Defender Dallas Turner has a high upside and could be a cornerstone in Minnesota’s revamped defense, with only Harrison Smith left from Mike Zimmer’s core.

Wild Vikings Draft Theory Makes Its Return

Wild Vikings Draft Theory Makes Its Return
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When the Vikings released a mini-documentary from the draft, the draft room was visibly excited about the newest players, mainly because they didn’t expect to get those two guys. Before the draft, however, the Vikings reportedly had a different idea, a somewhat crazy one.

Just hours after the first round, Mike Florio, known to spew outlandish theories from time to time, reported that the purple team was looking to trade for the fifth overall pick to snatch LSU’s receiver Malik Nabers, who some viewed as the top receiver in the draft class. He ultimately was picked sixth overall by the New York Giants. Chargers head coach Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t budge in his first draft in charge, taking offensive tackle Joe Alt, his preferred target, over some additional draft capital.

Tigers receiver Malik Nabers 8 runs the ball as the LSU Tigers take on Georgia State in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, November 18, 2023. © SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY Network / USA TODAY NETWORK.

The idea of Minnesota drafting Nabers didn’t make much sense because the organization employs Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison, one of the top duos in the NFL. At the same time, the QB position was vacant, and Brian Flores could’ve used some infusion of youth on his side of the ball. The Vikings targeted both positions while ignoring WR through seven rounds in the draft. Maybe Florio was wrong after all.

On Sunday, however, those theories surprisingly returned. Charley Walters from the St. Paul Pioneer Press revived that rumor. Unlike Florio, who made it sound like Kevin O’Connell wanted to build an outrageous trio, Walters clarified that the Vikings wanted to form a new duo and swap the two LSU wideouts. Jefferson out, Nabers in, was the supposed plan.

Pssst: There was buzz at draft time that the Vikings wanted to move from No. 11 to No. 5, not to pick a quarterback but to get LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers, who was picked No. 6 by the Giants. Had that trade occurred, Jefferson would have been traded and Nabers would have been the No. 1 receiver.

Charley Walters, St. Paul Pioneer Press

Jefferson is still waiting for his contract extension. It is fair to evaluate the situation and gauge some alternative routes. However, trading away the face of the franchise, the league’s best wideout and possibly the best skill position player in the NFL, is a crazy decision that immediately pushes Adofo-Mensah onto the hot seat. Unless Nabers instantly produces the crazy numbers Jefferson did in his debut season, the incoming scrutiny targeted at the general manager would be inevitable.

justin jefferson
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The former LSU standout set the NFL record for receiving yards through four seasons (5,899). He also broke the single-season franchise records previously held by Cris Carter and Randy Moss in receptions and receiving yards in 2022 on his way to winning the Offensive Player of the Year award, the first hardware in his professional career.

He has not been present at OTAs but is allowed to skip the voluntary workouts. The Vikings could fine him later in the offseason if he doesn’t attend mandatory workouts. Jefferson is currently waiting for his contract extension, which would likely top eclipse the compensation of A.J. Brown, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tyreek Hill, and all other wideouts, perhaps all non-QBs in the NFL.

mock draft
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) warms up before the Ohio State game at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

His attendance in practice and on the field is crucial to building a rapport with the two quarterbacks, Sam Darnold and J.J. McCarthy.

It will likely always stay a rumor rather than a confirmed report, but the scenario would’ve been mind-blowing. The Vikings might have landed McCarthy, Nabers, and Turner, but losing Jefferson would’ve overshadowed that haul.

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