The Draft Wire Sends the Vikings an Offensive Weapon in 2023 Mock Draft

The Draft Wire Sends the Vikings an Offensive Weapon in Latest 2023 Mock Draft
Sep 17, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) celebrates the win against the Toledo Rockets at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Minnesota Vikings have been eliminated from the playoffs, and their 2022 season is complete, all the focus now turns to the offseason and how Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and the front office will construct the roster for 2023.

One major way that they will do that is through the 2023 NFL Draft, and The Draft Wire of USA Today released their latest mock draft following the Wild Card round of the playoffs. In that mock draft, Luke Easterling sends the Vikings an offensive weapon to complement Justin Jefferson at wide receiver. That weapon is Jaxon Smith-Njigba out of Ohio State. For a full breakdown of his draft profile, check out our Vikings Draft Thermometer series breakdown of skillset.

Apr 16, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes Scarlett wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) with the touchdown during the Annual Scarlett and Gray Spring game at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Smith-Njigba was a major producer for the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2021, but his 2022 season was derailed by injury. He appeared in just three games, catching 5 passes for 43 yards. However, his 2021 season where he caught 95 passes for 1606 yards and 9 TDs showed that he has the capability of racking up huge numbers.

The problem is, he put those numbers up exclusively in the slot with an offense that also featured Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson at wide receiver. 2022 was supposed to be the season where he showed what he can do as a true WR1 playing as an X receiver, but that never really happened.

Regardless, if Smith-Njigba landed with the Vikings, there should be little doubt that he can be productive opposite the best receiver in the league, Justin Jefferson. Additionally, he was one of the best one-on-one receivers in the NCAA during 2021, making tons of contested catches despite being of a smaller stature.

Sat., Jan. 1, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) races to the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of the 108th Rose Bowl Game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Utah Utes at the Rose Bowl. Rose Bowl Game Ohio State Buckeyes Against Utah Utes

That being said, I have Smith-Njigba graded as a second-round receiver for a couple reasons. One of those reasons is his lack of production outside of the slot, but there are also question marks surrounding his athletic ability. He bursts off the line of scrimmage adequately, but there isn’t much of a second or third gear in his repertoire. What you see is what you get from him.

This could limit his ability as a true deep threat in the NFL, and that lessens his appeal for the Vikings who already have dominant short-intermediate receivers in Jefferson and T.J. Hockenson. What the Vikings really need is an elite playmaker on deep balls, so that could cause the Vikings to look elsewhere at receiver. Personally, I think Nathaniel “Tank” Dell out of Houston could be a good option.

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.