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3 Minnesota Vikings wide receiver targets in NFL Draft

Some might say the Minnesota Vikings already had a fairly strong need to add to their wide receiver group prior to releasing Adam Thielen. But now that the team’s second-leading receiver is no longer in his home state, the Vikings’ need to add to the position has only grown.

Sure, we can make a case that K.J. Osborn is ready for a starting role, but then who takes over the third receiver position? A group featuring Jalen Reagor, Jalen Nailor, and not much else doesn’t exactly strike fear in opponents.

Another case could be made that the presence of Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson reduces the need for another capable playmaker next to Justin Jefferson, but even having those two, plus Thielen, wasn’t an explosive enough attack to get past the New York Giants in the Wild Card. While a poor defense is surely also to blame, are we sure the Vikings have enough offensive weapons to maintain their top-ten offense from a year ago?

It never hurts to have more playmakers capable of moving the chains and breaking the game wide open with a single play. This is what receivers are all about. While Osborn may be able to take another step, the Vikings still need more options to keep opponents guessing.

Despite the Vikings having other needs that may be more pressing, ignoring the receiver position altogether would be a mistake. Here are three potential wide receiver solutions for the Minnesota Vikings in the upcoming NFL Draft.

Related: Minnesota Vikings mock draft 2023: Rebuilding the Brian Flores-led defense

Josh Downs

NCAA Football: ACC Football Championship-Clemson at North Carolina
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Selecting North Carolina’s Josh Downs wouldn’t happen in the first round. Consider this a trade down scenario, allowing the Vikings to add more draft capital. They currently have just five picks, with the 23rd and 87th being their highest selections. You can add an immediate contributor with the 23rd pick, but the 87th is a long shot. One alternative is to do what general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah did last year and trade down.

This may offer the Vikings an opportunity to add two instantly productive players, possibly early in the second round and earlier in the third or something similar. If so, a player like Josh Downs may become a top target somewhere in the second round.

Downs is not a candidate to be selected in the first round, mainly because of his lack of ideal height for an NFL receiver at just 5-foot-9. But the Vikings aren’t necessarily in need of another starter. Having Downs come in and operate out of the slot can be just as effective.

He’s suited perfectly for the role as a human joystick who can stop, start, and change direction with the best of them. As is, the Vikings don’t really have that skillset in their top contributors, which is why Downs would appear to be a good fit on paper. But only if they trade down from No. 23.

Zay Flowers

NCAA Football: Syracuse at Boston College
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

If Downs intrigues you, then Boston College’s Zay Flowers will leave you drooling. They’re similar prospects in that Flowers also has a slight frame, at just 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, but this prospect is much more polished and is viewed as a first-round talent.

Flowers does appear to have what it takes to be a Day One starter, thanks to having a developed route tree and being able to create separation in spades. Flowers blazed a 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and makes a habit out of making defenders look silly in the open field, grasping for air as he speeds on by.

When it comes to having gamebreaking potential, Flowers fits the mold to a ‘T.’ While he would cost the Vikings their first-round selection, he has the ability to become a dangerous weapon at the next level, where having Jefferson and Hockenson draw defenders away would leave opponents with a true pick-your-poison scenario.

Consider Flowers to be a yards-after-catch specialist who can take short plays into long gains, helping the Vikings convert 3rd-and-shorts and other similar scenarios that call for a player to make a defender or two miss. In essence, we believe he’d be the perfect fit in Minnesota’s offense, more so than any other receiver prospect in this draft class.

Jordan Addison

NCAA Football: Southern California at UCLA
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

If the Vikings wanted a more traditional first-round receiver prospect who can start as an outside receiver yet is still incredibly polished as a route runner, look no further than USC’s Jordan Addison. Once viewed as potentially the top receiver prospect in the draft class, Addison seemingly has only been passed by due to outstanding performances by Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba and TCU’s Quentin Johnston.

But we can’t overlook the overall body of work Addison has put together both at Pittsburgh and this past year with Caleb Williams at USC. At 5-foot-11, he still doesn’t have the prototypical size for an outside receiver, but this concept isn’t as crucial for Minnesota since Jefferson is their No. 1 wideout, and he never lacks for production.

Anyone who comes into the locker room won’t be expected to match Jefferson’s production levels, but if they can approach something like 800 yards, with Hockenson producing a similar amount, the Vikings would have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to pass-catchers. To have an explosive offense that keeps defenders fearful and unpredictable, the Vikings must address the receiver position yet this offseason, either in the draft or via free agency. Addison would be a fine addition in the first round.

Related: 3 biggest Minnesota Vikings team needs after free agency

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