The Minnesota Vikings have been rumored to be interested in former Jacksonville Jaguars wideout Dede Westbrook. The former 2016 Biletnikoff winner was impressive during his two seasons at the University of Oklahoma, recording 1,524 yards on 80 receptions for 17 touchdowns in his senior season.
Despite his high-level play at the college level, his draft stock took a massive hit as the news came out that he had been arrested twice on misdemeanor family violence complaints before he arrived in Norman. These arrests caused him to slip from a projected second-round pick to the fourth.
During his four years in Jacksonville, Westbrook has failed to deliver on the promise he had coming out of Oklahoma. He has never eclipsed more than 750 yards in a single season. Westbrook was placed as the fourth wideout on the depth chart last year, and to make matters worse, he tore his ACL in Week 7 and missed the rest of the season.
The main question on everyone’s mind is what would Westbrook add to the Vikings?
If he signs with Minnesota, he will be following his wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell who also made it to the Twin Cities by way of Jacksonville. Because he’s worked with McCardell in the past, Westbrook could help the other wideouts understand McCardell’s concepts.
If Westbrook were to sign with the Vikings, he would already be the frontrunner for the WR3 spot. While his time in Jacksonville was average at best, it is sure to surpass anything the other Vikings wideouts vying for the WR3 role have done. Last year Chad Beebe had 201 yards — significantly less than Westbrook’s best season. Beebe can be a good rotational wideout, but he shouldn’t be the third guy on the depth chart.
In his last notable action two years ago, Westbrook lined up in the slot on over 70 percent of his snaps. The Vikings need to find an outside-the-numbers receiver to allow either Justin Jefferson or Adam Thielen to operate in the slot and take advantage of the mismatches. But as an alternative, they can add a productive wideout in the slot, allowing them to let Jefferson and Thielen stay on the outside.
Westbrook’s 4.39 40-yard dash time shows that he has more than enough straight-line speed to be a significant asset in Minnesota’s vertical passing game, which was a bit lacking last season. During his time with the Jaguars, I feel that he may have been poorly utilized and restricted to just operating on short routes. While he did average 10 yards per catch, 4.7 of those yards came after the catch.
While the Vikings should use his speed on screens and short routes, I feel that he would be most effective when operating as a deep threat in the slot, taking pressure off Jefferson and Thielen, allowing them to work more on intermediary and short routes. His addition could complete the current stable of wideouts the Vikings currently have, creating a trio to be reckoned with.
Something that Westbrook might also add to the team is a potential mentor for this season’s fifth-round pick Ihmir Smith-Marsette. While fans might want to see Smith-Marsette start right away, it might behoove the Vikings to have him learn under someone who plays a similar role.
While his time in Jacksonville was underwhelming, Westbrook was a big play waiting to happen at Oklahoma. He averaged 19.1 yards per catch as a senior. Westbrook and Smith-Marsette both have speed and could contribute to Minnesota’s vertical passing game early. While I think that Smith-Marsette could start next season, it might be more beneficial to him if he takes his time with his development and looks to absorb information from Westbrook as he learns behind him and takes over his role soon.
Though fans might clamor for the Vikings to bring hometown hero and potential Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to U.S. Bank Stadium, it might be a better idea in theory rather than in practicality. Given that he’s 37 and is experiencing diminishing levels of athleticism and production, it would probably be in their best interest to look to bring in Westbrook. He is a decade younger and still can offer himself as a vertical threat who can take the top off the defense.