The K.J. Osborn Breakout Happened at the Perfect Time

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) reacts to his catch against the Indianapolis Colts during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

In 2021, K.J. Osborn surprised folks by becoming a very reliable WR3. After the 2020 fifth-round pick received zero targets in his rookie season, he broke onto the scene with 50 catches for 655 yards and 7 touchdowns during the 2021 season. So far in 2022, it’s been a bit of a struggle to maintain the level of consistency that we saw a season ago.

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That is, until Week 15. As it turns out, the K.J. Osborn breakout happened at the perfect time right when the Vikings needed it. On Saturday against the Colts, Osborn was targeted 16 times, caught 10 passes, and recorded 157 yards and a touchdown. As the Vikings mounted a 33-point comeback, the largest in NFL history, they needed every single one of those 10 catches.

Saturday marked Osborn’s first career 10-catch game as well as his first 150-yard game, and the crazy part is that it could have been even more. There were six passes that went his way that didn’t get hauled in for catches. This includes a 40-yard bomb that was initially ruled a catch before being overturned by the refs.

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) celebrates the win against the Indianapolis Colts after the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. With the win, the Minnesota Vikings clinched the NFC North. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

If that catch had counted, Osborn would be flirting with a 200-yard day just one week after Justin Jefferson finally surpassed that mark with 223 yards to break the Vikings single-game franchise record.

The most interesting part of this game, though, is the fact that Osborn seemed to replace Adam Thielen in terms of target share. Thielen had just 4 targets on Saturday, catching 3 of them for 41 yards and a touchdown. To this point in 2022, it’s been a rather quiet season for the Vikings veteran receiver.

Part of the reason for trading T.J. Hockenson at the trade deadline was to establish a consistent receiver alongside Jefferson because of the inconsistencies from Osborn and Thielen this year. However, Saturday feels like it could be a game that could turn Osborn’s career towards being the Vikings future WR2, which is something that we thought could have come to fruition prior to the season’s start.

Overall, the Vikings 2022 season has been defined by inconsistency. It’s forced them to make huge comebacks multiple times, regardless of the quality of opponent. If Osborn can turn into that WR2 for the Vikings down the stretch of the season and into the playoffs, perhaps that could be the answer to more consistency.

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.