The Minnesota Vikings are a team with obvious needs. They may have made the playoffs last year by winning the NFC North title with a 13-4 record, but their defense let them down in all 4 of their regular-season losses and that unit was at its worst in the Wild Card playoff loss at home to the New York Giants.
The Vikings were unable to slow down quarterback Daniel Jones and the New York offense in that game, and that was a major indictment. Jones has potential, but he is far from a finished product. The Vikings’ inability to slow him down kept the team from advancing to the divisional playoffs.
Minnesota has brought in a new defensive coordinator in Brian Flores, and he should bring quite a bit of aggressiveness to the defense. They have also signed defensive lineman Dean Lowry from the Green Bay Packers, cornerback Byron Murphy from the Arizona Cardinals and outside linebacker Marcus Davenport from the Saints.
Those free agents should help, but the Vikings have more work to do in the NFL Draft.
However, they could surprise with the No. 23 pick in the draft. They could decide to use that 1st-round selection to bring in a big-name offensive player.
Quarterback Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
The Vikings are very happy with Kirk Cousins at quarterback for the upcoming season. However, they have not committed to him beyond 2023, and that’s probably a wise decision.
While Cousins had an excellent year and raised his status with the team, there are legitimate issues about how he will perform against the best opponents or in prime time situations. Cousins has struggled in those situations in the past, and that could continue to happen.
By drafting Hooker, the Vikings can have their quarterback of the future. While he suffered an ACL injury towards the conclusion of last season with the Volunteers, he was on track to earn strong consideration for the Heisman Trophy. Hooker threw for 3,135 yards, completed 69.6 percent of his passes with an eye-catching 27-2 TD-interception ratio last season.
Hooker is on track to be a healthy quarterback early in training camp, and if he is selected by the Vikings, he won’t have to play in the upcoming season. He will just need to learn the system and prepare himself for 2024.
Selecting Hooker would be the smartest long-term move for the Vikings.
Wide receiver Quentin Johnston, TCU
The Vikings have the No. 1 receiver in the NFL in Justin Jefferson, but they let veteran wideout Adam Thielen leave through free agency.
While they have a pretty solid No. 3 receiver in K.J. Osborn, there is no way general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah or head coach Kevin O’Connell can be sure he is up to the task of being a solid No. 2 receiver.
Johnston was a brilliant receiver for the Horned Frogs. At 6-2 3/4 and 208 pounds, Johnston has the size, strength and reach to fill the position.
He also has dynamic receiving skills and he is coming off a season in which he caught 60 passes for 1,069 yards and 6 touchdowns last year. He has the quickness to beat the jam off the line of scrimmage and he gets into and out of his cuts quickly.
He can find the football in tight coverage and high point it over defensive backs. If he can overcome a slight problem dropping the ball — he had 8 last season — he could be an excellent complementary receiver for the Vikings.
Edge rusher B.J. Ojulari, LSU
The Vikings may be thinking about offensive players like Hooker and Johnston, but the need to improve on defense is still paramount.
If those within the organization are successful in arguing for a defensive player, the likelihood is that they will want to get a player who can help their pass rush.
Ojulari, 6-2 3/8 and 248 pounds, is a tad undersized, but he can move quickly and make big plays. He had 58 tackles, 5.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss last season, along with 1 forced fumble.
Ojulari has explosive speed and he is able to dip a shoulder to get underneath the blocker and drive into the backfield. He plays with a tremendous effort, and that is something that the Vikings have been missing from some of their pass rushers.
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