It’s another important year in the NFL Draft for the Minnesota Vikings. The team is coming off winning an NFC North Division title, but the Vikings are looking to take another step after a crushing loss in the divisional playoffs.
The Vikings have the No. 23 pick in this year’s draft. What they will do with that pick is anyone’s guess.
Will they find a game-changing wide receiver? Will they add more depth at the line of scrimmage? Could they find another athlete to mold in the secondary? Is the next star running back waiting in the wings?
Here are four names to keep an eye on for the Vikings at No. 23, assuming they stay there with that pick.
Josh Doctson (Wide Receiver, TCU)
The Vikings have a glaring need for a top wide receiver after the release of Mike Wallace. Rookie Stefon Diggs led the team in catches and yards last year, but the Vikings haven’t had a clear No. 1 receiver in a long time. One option with the No. 23 pick is former TCU star Josh Doctson. Gophers fans know him will after seeing him the last two years. As a junior, Doctson had 65 catches for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. He followed that with 78 catches for more than 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games last season. If he’s still available at No. 23, the Vikings should give him a strong look.
Michael Thomas (Wide Receiver, Ohio State)
If the Vikings take a receiver with the No. 23 pick, their choice will largely depend on what’s still available. It’s unlikely that Corey Coleman of Baylor, William Fuller of Notre Dame and Laquon Treadwell are still on the board. If Doctson is also gone, a name to keep an eye on is Michael Thomas of Ohio State. He’s been nothing short of consistent for one of the best offenses in college football the last two years. In 2014, he had 54 catches for nearly 800 yards and nine touchdowns on the way to a national championship. Last year, he had 56 catches for 781 yards and nine touchdowns.
Ezekiel Elliott (Running Back, Ohio State)
The Vikings should consider taking a look at running backs in the draft this year, though the class isn’t deep. Adrian Peterson just turned 31, and nobody knows how much longer he’ll play in the NFL. At No. 23, the Vikings have little chance that Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry from Alabama will still be on the board.
A name the Vikings should consider and jump on if he’s there is Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott. In the Buckeyes’ 2014 national title run, he finished with 1,878 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns in 15 games. Last year, he ran for 1,821 yards and 23 touchdowns. Elliott has a rare combination of speed and strength running the ball, and he’s a good pass catcher out of the backfield with 55 catches the last two seasons.
Karl Joseph (Safety, West Virginia)
You can never have enough help in the secondary, especially with a defensive-minded coach like Mike Zimmer. While Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo are locked in at their safety spots, it never hurts to have depth. That’s why Karl Joseph out of West Virginia could be a strong choice with the No. 23 pick. He was an All-Big 12 selection as a junior with 92 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, one interception, three pass break-ups and three forced fumbles. He had nine career interceptions and started every game in his first two seasons.
The Vikings used free agency to add depth to their offensive line, which needs to improve drastically in Teddy Bridgewater’s second full season as a starter. Getting John Sullivan and Phil Loadholt back helps. It will say a lot about where the Vikings are going with the future of their franchise by what they do with the No. 23 pick.