The Minnesota Vikings head into the offseason with a long list of needs, especially on the defensive side. However, a franchise keeping an open mind to the future could seemingly take a surprising route in the 2023 NFL Draft.
While Minnesota finished near the top of the NFL standings during the regular season, winning the NFC North for the first time since 2017, it largely overachieved. Thanks to the defensive regression in the second half of the season, the Vikings suffered a first-round playoff exit with questions raised about their viability next season.
Amid lingering debate regarding the futures of offensive weapons Dalvin Cook and Adam Thielen, quarterback Kirk Cousins is one of the few stars guaranteed to return in 2023. However, there is a real possibility that Minnesota finds his successor early in the NFL Draft.
Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated addressed Cousins’ situation as part of his latest mailbag. Citing the team’s recent history, the NFL insider raised the possibility of the Vikings using their first-round pick on a quartebrack.
“Had Justin Fields slipped to where the team was initially picking in 2021 (No. 14), before dealing down and taking Christian Darrisaw with the 23rd pick, the now-Bears quarterback would’ve been a serious consideration. So if, say, Florida’s Anthony Richardson were to fall into their laps at 24, it’s easy for me to see the Vikings seeing a raw prospect who could develop for a year behind Cousins and wind up being a monster for them a few years down the line.”Albert Breer on Minnesota Vikings potentially using first-round pick on a quarterback in 2023
Reports surfaced after the 2021 NFL Draft that the Vikings explored trading up for Justin Fields before the Chicago Bears landed him. While a quarterback prospect of Fields’ caliber might not necessarily fall to Minnesota at the 23rd pick, Anthony Richardson is a compelling option.
Evaluators agree that Richardson is far from a finished product, requiring at least a full year of development with coaches behind the scenes before he would be ready to start NFL games.
- Anthony Richardson rushing stats (career): 1,116 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns, 6.9 ypc
- Anthony Richardson career pass stats: 3,105 passing yards, 24-15 TD-INT, 133.6 QB rating
It would make him a perfect target for a team like the Vikings. Cousins would start the entirety of the 2023 season, allowing Minnesota to remain in playoff contention while it works with Richardson throughout his rookie season.
If the former Florida Gators star is ready to take over in 2024, the Vikings are put in a position to build a roster around a starting quarterback who is only in the second year of his rookie contract. That’s the best recipe for long-term success in the NFL and it could be a blueprint the Vikings front office tries to follow this offseason.