The Minnesota Vikings have recently dabbled in Kirk Cousins trade rumors, the usual sign-this-guy fodder from pre-free agency, and the typical draft hubbub. It is simply that time of year.
A neglected area – by both Vikings fans and the team – involves the WR3 position. Mike Zimmer-led offenses do not emphasize too much production at WR3. If those WR3-types happen to excel, so be it. But this is not a cultural focal point of the Vikings offense.
It remains to be seen if that will actually change in 2021. A new offensive coordinator will take charge of the offense – surprise, surprise. When 2021 kicks off, the Vikings will have employed their sixth offensive coordinator in eight seasons under Zimmer. Perhaps Klint Kubiak, the new offensive boss man, will pull Zimmer aside and proclaim 2021 as a new era of Vikings WR3 supremacy. Or – it could remain the same while the team devotes attention to developing Irv Smith Jr. – a tight end that has potential for WR3 production if allotted targets.
WR3s aplenty will flood the free-agent market next month. Teams can grab proven WR3s or nominate ones as prospective versions. And the Vikings are evidently in the sweepstakes.
Per a rumor-themed Twitter account – quite literally named NFL Rumors – Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Keelan Cole is in the mix for Minnesota.
Not a bad fit for a WR3-starved franchise.
Cole is a Quintessential WR3
One would be hard-pressed to build in a laboratory a better WR3 than Keelan Cole. He played on a Jaguars franchise in 2020 that was more crowded in its wide receiver room than the Mong Kokdistrict of China. Jacksonville utilized D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Laviska Shenault Jr., Chris Conley, and Collin Johnson. Outside of Chark, all five of those men – Cole included – are perceived as quasi-equals. It’s fantasy football hell.
Yet, Cole has sustainability. He has never missed a professional football game since entering the league in 2017. Cole accrues 350-750 receiving yards per year like clockwork – even with embarrassing Jaguars quarterbacks at the helm. So, he is durable as hell — and he consistently contributes. Cole also tallies about four touchdowns per season.
The Vikings do not need a target-needy mouth to satisfy. Those are the roles for Adam Thielen and Justin to Jefferson to fill. Minnesota just needs a go-to WR3. Cole can be that.
A McCardell Special if it Happens
Keenan McCardell joined the Vikings a few weeks ago to serve as the team’s wide receiver coach. The hire was universally applauded by Vikings faithful.
What’s his link to Cole? Oh, only coaching him in every game of his NFL career. McCardell became the Jaguars wide receivers coach in 2017 – the same year Cole waltzed to Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent. There you have it – “McCardell’s ties to Cole” are explicit. The two didn’t cross paths for a few games five years ago or something menial like that. McCardell and Cole have been hip-linked for four seasons.
In Minnesota, Cole would thrive because of the attention directed at Thielen and Jefferson. In no time, Jefferson will command ample double-teams in secondaries, and Thielen is no slouch either. That means that an enticing workload would await Cole – if the Vikings opt for a smarter gameplan at WR3 [and decide to throw the ball more than usual].
WR3 Long Ignored by Vikings
It’s time for the Vikings to rejoin the rest of the civilized world and promote WR3 relevance. Annually, Minnesota skimps at the spot, crosses fingers, and hopes for the best. They are one of the only NFL teams that outlandishly says “no thanks” to a productive WR3 – instead boasting good tight ends and tailbacks like Dalvin Cook that catch the ball out of the backfield. Newsflash: General Manager Rick Spielman can have all of these nice things if he wants them.
The last time the team truly had a threat at WR3 was Jarius Wright – and he was just pretty-good. Wright made clutch catches and was dependable. But Minnesota rarely implements a third wide receiver that can threaten the 700-yard-or-so plateau. With Kirk Cousins, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson, Cole would be more than suited to advance the drought-worthy WR3 position of the Vikings depth chart.
Too, Cousins has a documented history of distributing the football in Washington. He is not a one-trick pony that laser-pinpoints only superstar wide receivers. In fact, an argument can be delivered that Cousins is better when asked to distribute the ball to multiple folks – a dynamic Cole would bring to the Twin Cities.