It’s a WR for the Vikings in Latest 2023 Mock Draft

Oct 22, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Southern Methodist Mustangs wide receiver Rashee Rice (11) warms up on the field prior to a game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Gerald J. Ford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season of the 2022 college football season is nearing its end, so that means we are growing ever closer to NFL Draft season. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, The Draft Wire published a new two-round 2023 mock draft written by Luke Easterling, and this time around, they send the Minnesota Vikings a wide receiver in the first round.

It’s not one of the typical wide receivers that you’ll frequently see in the first round of drafts such as Jordan Addison or Kayshon Boutte, either. Instead, the Vikings get a wide receiver from SMU, Rashee Rice.

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The senior wideout is having a banner year in 2022 with the Mustangs, already having surpassed 1000 receiving yards for the first time in his career. So far in 2022, he’s recorded 83 receptions, 1208 receiving yards, and 9 TDs, all of which are career highs. In fact, he leads the NCAA in receiving yards during the 2022 season ahead of Week 13’s action.

The Vikings certainly could have some interest in the wide receiver position this spring. Here’s what Easterling had to say about the Vikings selection of Rice:

Adam Thielen isn’t getting any younger, and the Vikings should find a younger understudy to eventually take over as Justin Jefferson’s running mate at receiver. Rice has flown up the draft board thanks to a stellar start to the 2022 season, and his size/speed combo would make him a perfect complement to Jefferson.

Luke Easterling on Rashee Rice

Rice is certainly not an NFL WR1 at this point in his development, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get there. The size/speed combo that Easterling suggests is certainly there. However, my one quarrel with Rice as a first-round pick comes with some of the drop issues. It doesn’t matter how open a guy gets if he can’t haul in the pass on a consistent basis.

These issues could transform Rice into more of a Jalen Reagor type than a Justin Jefferson; a difference that the Vikings have benefited from for the past three seasons. In the same breath though, when Rice is feeling it, he can be one of the best playmakers in the country.

Much of his production has come against the lesser opponents in the AAC, though. In games against Cincinnati and Tulane this year, he combined for just 10 receptions and 82 yards. SMU lost both games. Again, this brings some doubt as to how much of an immediate impact he can make on an NFL offense.

However, the beauty of Minnesota taking a WR early in this draft is that whoever they take likely doesn’t have to immediately step into a starting role. Adam Thielen should be around for the 2023 season, and perhaps KJ Osborn will sign a new contract as well.

If nothing else, Rice would at least get a grace period of a season before he needs to grow into a true role with the offense. Perhaps that development time would allow the SMU product to become a star WR out of the late first round.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. He also earned minors in History, Human Biology, and Journalism. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys marathon training, playing video games, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. For more of his opinions, check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.