Vikings’ Defender Enters Minnesota’s WR2 Debate

Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings linebacker Brian Asamoah. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota’s WR2 debate is alive and well among fans.

For a little while, Vikings fans have been discussing the merits of bringing someone else in to take on the roster’s WR2 opening. Adam Thielen has taken his talents to Carolina, so someone has some pretty large shoes to fill.

As a result, a tweet from soon-to-be sophomore LB Brian Asamoah is notable. In response to a PFF tweet asking about a better receiving tandem than Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, Asamoah responded with a simple, declarative statement: “JJ & KJ.”

The players he’s referencing, of course, are Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn.

To be clear, Chase and Higgins are both excellent receivers. In fact, it’d be fair to say that the Bengals boast two WR1s on their roster, an embarrassment of receiver riches that few teams can mirror. The team has found success largely because they have an elite young QB – Mr. Joe Burrow – slinging the football to Chase and Higgins.

Does that mean their duo is better than Minnesota’s duo? Not according to Asamoah.

Sep 11, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) reacts with wide receiver K.J. Osborn (left) after scoring a touchdown on a pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins (not pictured) against the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Jefferson is fresh off an Offensive Player of the Year Award. Astonishingly, he concluded his acceptance speech with a bold promise that should concern rival teams: “More to come.” Even after all that he has accomplished, Jefferson is still looking to ascend higher. At this point, can we really doubt him? He’s still only 23.

It’s hard to come up with an ironclad argument for someone other than Jefferson as the NFL’s best WR.

The Vikings’ young linebacker thinks that Jefferson alongside Osborn represents a more formidable receiver twosome than the one found in Cincinnati. For whatever it’s worth, combining some of the basic stats for each pair favors the Minnesota twosome:

Jefferson & Osborn188245913
Chase & Higgins161207516

Obviously, simply adding a few stat categories and then drawing a firm conclusion is foolish. Jefferson has a disproportionate impact on the overall numbers and we also need to remember that Chase missed time last season. Plus, a receiver’s effectiveness can’t be boiled down to these statistics, as important as they are.

Nevertheless, it’s notable that even as a WR3 Osborn put up a very respectable 60 catches, 650 yards, and 5 TDs in 2022. Don’t be surprised if he inches closer to 80 catches, 1,000 yards, and 8 TDs in 2023.

By indicating that he thinks Jefferson and Osborn are a top tandem, Asamoah indirectly enters Minnesota’s WR2 debate. Arguing that Minnesota’s receiver hierarchy already offers a top-notch pair certainly undermines the notion that the Vikings need to add more help through a trade, signing, or in the draft.

The team is entering the 2023 season with some uncertainty about their ability to replicate last season’s brilliance. At 13-4, Minnesota finished the season as one of the top 5 teams in the NFL. Unfortunately, all the naysayers were proven right in the playoffs’ opening round as Kevin O’Connell’s squad fell to an underwhelming Giants team.

In other words, more work needs to be done to keep improving the roster. Simply relying on Herculean efforts from #18 isn’t a great strategy (though it’ll undoubtedly be part of mix). The team needs to see meaningful improvement in other areas of the roster. Part of that improvement is going to need to arrive on offense.

K.J. Osborn will turn 26 in June. A 5th-round choice in 2020, he has already exceeded expectations in his still-young NFL career. Continuing to do so by proving Asamoah right would only increase Minnesota’s chances of thriving in 2023.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference helped with this piece.