In recent news, there has been a lot of buzz around who the Vikings should pick up as a WR3. Daniel Jeremiah recently had Devonta Smith falling to the Vikings in his latest mock draft and there are reports that Keelan Cole could be interested in joining the team given his relationship with wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell. There is also the crowd that believes a combination of Adam Thielen/Justin Jefferson/Irv Smith/Chad Beebe would be enough to compete if Beebe doesn’t leave in free agency.
Why WR3 Needs to Be Addressed
While the Vikings’ receiving core is deadly with the combo of Thielen and Jefferson, there is certainly room for improvement. Minnesota had a few players have decent receiving stretches last season, but at the end of the day, no one outside of Thielen and Jefferson broke 400 yards.
Compared to both the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers who each had five players over that threshold, WR3 should be a position that the Vikings want to improve. In fact, the only other teams to only have two receivers above 400 yards were the Dolphins, Jets, and Patriots, all of whom ended up in the bottom 11 in total yards during 2020. With that in mind, it’s pretty incredible that the Vikings offense was as effective as it was, ending up fourth in total yards and 11th in scoring. Just think how dominant this team would be if they had three or four consistent receivers.
Where to Look
While WR3 needs to be on the radar, it isn’t a move they should hastily make in the first round of the draft if they don’t have to. First of all, it’d be extremely surprising if Smith fell to the Vikings at 14. If he did, then by all means, take him. Making a big three of Thielen/Jefferson/Smith would be a Chiefs-esque receiving core. I wouldn’t get my hopes up that it will happen, though. Jaylen Waddle would be another intriguing pick with his ability to fit in the slot, but I’d be surprised if he fell that low, either. Anyone else (Ja’Marr Chase will be off the board too) probably isn’t worth reaching for.
As for Cole, he would be a very good pick up as well. He’s had a very nice career in Jacksonville despite being surrounded by a ton of receivers that are essentially the same player. Should he leave Jacksonville, he could have a career year. I’m sure other teams realize that too, though, and if they do, the bidding war could get pricey. Depending on what other moves occur this offseason, they simply may not have the capital to pick him up.
Instead, there is a veteran receiver on my radar. The player I’m keeping an eye on is Danny Amendola.
First of all, Amendola has great playoff success. He has been on the NFL’s biggest stage and has come away with two Super Bowl titles in three appearances, all with New England. That is something no one in the Vikings receiver room can boast, and neither could Cole or any rookie that they would bring in. If a playoff game gets tight down the stretch, Amendola is a guy you can trust.
Minnesota wouldn’t have to worry about him demanding targets that should go to Thielen or Jefferson, either. In Detroit, he essentially played the WR3 role behind Marvin Jones and T.J. Hockenson. Before anyone starts typing, I realize Hockenson is a TE, but Amendola ranked third on the Lions in targets and yards while tying for third in receptions with D’Andre Swift. He finished the year with 46 receptions and 602 yards: a quintessential WR3 statline.
I am much more confident that the soon to be 36-year-old would come cheap as well. He made just under $5 million in 2020, and his price should be very similar given his age. That is not something I can guarantee with Cole who is nearly ten years his junior and on the verge of a breakout season with almost any team other than Jacksonville.
We need to see a clearer picture of what Minnesota’s financial situation will look like before deciding what path to go down. While Cole certainly has higher potential, a departure from Jacksonville could come not only with financial expectations, but with the expectation of a larger role in an offense. That is something Minnesota simply cannot offer him.
A rookie like Waddle would fit very well into the established offense as well, but it doesn’t allow Minnesota to address other needs with that first round pick. It doesn’t matter how many weapons an offense has if Cousins’ jersey is getting dirty.
Signing Amendola gives Minnesota a veteran weapon, and it allows them to put the majority of their money/draft capital into fixing other needs. Irv Smith and Tyler Conklin also have to be kept in mind because their roles in the offense should increase next year as well. If they continue to develop alongside a trio of very good receivers, there is no ceiling for how high this offense can go.