Breaking down Vikings’ 2023 draft class: Best picks, sleepers, overall assessment

The Minnesota Vikings made six selections in the 2023 NFL draft. They started and finished on offense while splitting the picks equally between both sides of the football.

How did the class look overall and how do they project? Let’s take a look at best pick, sleepers and the overall assessment of the roster.

First pick: WR Jordan Addison

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When the Vikings struck out on trading up for a quarterback, they explored the idea of moving back in round one to recoup value due to their lack of picks. SKOR North’s Darren Wolfson reported that the Vikings received calls from both the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs about moving back and those offers were considered.

“We considered a lot. I promise Kevin and I did — man, a ton of work on all these options, all these scenarios. Ultimately we felt like the opportunities there didn’t make sense for us, and we’re ultimately just really happy that we ended up with the player we ended up with, and we think that’s the best course forward.”

The Vikings needed a wide receiver opposite of Justin Jefferson in the worst way. Adam Thielen and K.J. Osborn just couldn’t get open with any form of consistency against one-on-one coverage. That is something that Addison can do with a major form of consistency and should make a difference from day one.

Best pick: BYU QB Jaren Hall

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This was the best pick and the only other one that would come close is the Addison pick. Yes, the Vikings would have preferred to get a quarterback in the first round and get a quarterback that will for sure take over for Kirk Cousins in 2024. That didn’t happen, but the value for Hall is tremendous and it’s multi-faceted.

He is a talented individual that can make every throw and has the athleticism needed to play the game in today’s NFL. There are concerns that pushed him down to fifth round. He’s 25 years old, has some injury history and isn’t the most accurate, but the talent is there.

The biggest positive with this hire? Hall has already played in the Vikings offense at BYU and his development will take significantly less time.

Sleeper pick: RB DeWayne McBride

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The situation with running back Dalvin Cook has the running back position in flux. There are rumors that the Vikings have been shopping Cook and even as far as they have a post-June 1st trade worked out with another team. If he’s gone, they have a lot of production to replace.

McBride comes with great value in round seven. Sitting 83 spots higher on the consensus board at 139th overall, McBride was drafted later due to not having an athletic testing due to a hamstring injury and only being targeted nine times across three years in the passing game. Without having any of that information, the tremendous runner drops to a spot of great value.

Most intriguing pick: CB/S Jay Ward

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Ward is a talented player that has multiple starts in the slot, at deep safety and outside cornerback. That kind of versatility is great for a Brian Flores defense, but also raises the question of what exactly is he as a player?  To me, he’s a jack of all trades, master of none. He can do a little bit of everything, but isn’t any singular position. Flores loves those players and likes to be able to have his players do a variety of things. How he will fit in initially will be fascinating to watch, but there is a spot on the roster for a player that has his skillset.

Must follow position: Cornerback

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After drafting two cornerbacks in this class, the Vikings now have five intriguing players at the position under the age of 25. That is a lot of talent and youth, but who will emerge from the group? The only one that feels certain to have a starting job is free agent signing Byron Murphy Jr. who is going to likely be the nickel defender but will shift outside in base personnel packages. After Murphy Jr., the question marks begin. Andrew Booth Jr., Akayleb Evans, Joejuan Williams and the rookies will all be competing for playing time. Seeing that competition play out will be important.

Biggest winner: Justin Jefferson

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The Vikings star receiver set team records in receptions (128) and yards (1,809) but there were multiple games where teams sold out to shut him down and it worked. They did add T.J. Hockenson at the trade deadline last year and he made a difference, but Thielen and Osborn didn’t do enough winning against man coverage. The addition of Addison will, in theory, make a massive difference in alleviating the pressure off of Jefferson, allowing him to get open easier. That will setup the offense to make multiple waves moving forward.

Biggest loser: Za'Darius Smith

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The Vikings didn’t make any moves at the edge position this weekend, despite rumors that the Vikings might be trading the star edge rusher. He had asked to be released right before the start of free agency but the Vikings didn’t oblige. This weekend, they also didn’t trade him to grant his request of having a new home this upcoming season. Without making a major investment in the position this offseason outside of Marcus Davenport, it looks like Smith might be stuck in Minnesota for another season.

Strategy breakdown: Getting teammates

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One of the easiest ways to get information on a player outside of talking to the player directly is by talking to teammates of his. The Vikings did just that by getting not one, not two, but three sets of teammates. They drafted USC teammates in Addison and Blackmon, LSU teammates in Ward and Roy and Cincinnati linebacker teammates Ivan Pace Jr. and Wilson Huber. That is noteworthy and something that Rick Spielman did in over half of his drafts with the Vikings.

Overall assesment

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The Vikings didn’t panic during the draft and went out and got their guys. That to me was the most important thing. Addison will be an impact player this year while also being a long-term replacement. They added depth at positions where they needed to for the long-term and got a quarterback of the future. Ideally, they would have drafted more than one player in the top 100, but this draft looks like an overall success for now. We just need to see them play on the field.

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Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire