Vikings WR K.J. Osborn Is Ready to Take on a Leadership Role in 2023
The 2023 Minnesota Vikings wide receiver room is going to look very different than the ones in years past for one major reason: Adam Thielen is no longer there. After a decade with the franchise, Thielen was a cap casualty this offseason and recently signed a lucrative deal with the Carolina Panthers.
Thielen’s absence in the offense leaves a major void to be filled, and one player that should be a big factor in how the 2023 offense fills that absence is Vikings WR K.J. Osborn. On Monday afternoon, Osborn spoke with the media, answering questions on what he thinks it will be like playing in an offense without Thielen and the challenges that he could face this season.
“It’s a little different, not only Adam, EK, Pat Pete, last year it was AB, some of the guys, you know, Dalvin isn’t in the building right now. It’s a little bit different… you know, that’s the NFL, but it’s a little different without AT in the room.”
After being selected in the fifth round of the 2020 draft, being a bit overshadowed by the selection of Justin Jefferson earlier in the weekend, no one would have expected a ton of production from the Buffalo and Miami product. In his rookie year, he appeared in just nine games, exclusively taking snaps with the special teams.
However, Osborn’s work ethic soon saw him rise up the depth chart one year later, and he broke onto the scene in 2021 with 50 receptions, 655 yards, and 7 TDs. During his third NFL season in 2022, Osborn answered any questions of whether he could replicate such production with another steady season of 60 receptions, 650 receiving yards, and 5 TDs.
Now, Osborn heads into 2023 again facing questions of whether or not he can be the true WR2 in the Vikings offense. Here is what the fourth-year receiver had to say of how he is approaching this role as a leader in Minnesota’s offense after his slow rise to where he is today.
“At the end of the day, I’m blessed. I woke up this morning, and if I’m being honest with you, I was almost like, emotional. You know, I’m going on year four, I was a fifth-round pick, a lot of people didn’t think I was going to be able to get drafted or run 4.4, there was all types of stuff. And I wake up this morning, and I’m like, wow, they say time flies, but I’m going on year four, and people didn’t expect me to be here.”
Obviously, it takes a lot of patience and fortitude to go down the long path that Osborn has taken towards NFL success. He spoke during the presser of being a backup running back in little league, then being a third-string punt returner at the University of Buffalo before injuries allowed him to finally get his shot.
Then, even in 2022, things got off to a bit of a rocky start, eclipsing 50 receiving yards just once over the first 13 games before averaging 87.5 yards per game over the final four regular season contests. Here is what Osborn said of his mindset when asked about how he figure things out down the stretch of that year.
“The first thing I thought of was a book I read, Chop Wood, Carry Water. You know, I just continue to work every single day, and I stay patient, and I stay consistent. I try to show up every day, and I try to be, as one of my old coaches said, ‘consistently good over occasionally great.'”
Throughout his Vikings career, Thielen didn’t necessarily get praised because of his peaks, but because he continuously brought that consistency to the table every week. Now, the Vikings look like they may turn to Osborn for that same consistency.
Interestingly, Osborn also brought up the absence of Dalvin Cook at the beginning of this presser, whose lack of attendance appears to be contractually motivated. Here is what the wide receiver had to say of Cook and where things stand between the Pro Bowl running back and the Vikings.
“Like I said, that’s the NFL. He’s going through whatever his situation is, and he’s handling it the best that he can, his team, stuff like that, so I just leave that to the people upstairs, and I’m sure they’ll get it figured out.”
If for whatever reason the Vikings were to part ways with Cook this offseason via release or trade, it would put an even bigger task on the shoulders of Osborn to lead the way as he suddenly becomes one of the older veterans on the offense. Based on his comments, he seems more than ready to do so regardless of who actually suits up in Week 1.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.