With their win over the New England Patriots, the Minnesota Vikings are 9-2 and battling for home-field advantage in the NFC.
The Vikings have just about everything they need to be a legitimate contender on offense. They have a young head coach to put his players in a position to succeed. They have a running game that is explosive enough to keep defenses honest. Minnesota’s passing game has one of the greatest receivers in the NFL, and their offensive line should eventually get their All-Pro left tackle back.
All of these things are great, except they need one more receiver. Fortunately for the Vikings, Odell Beckham Jr. is still on the market, and there are enough LSU connections on the roster to get him to sign on the dotted line. But why would Beckham come to Minnesota? And why would the Vikings add another receiver? Let’s take a look at the roster and find out.
Justin Jefferson has established himself as one of the best receivers in the NFL this season, but his supporting cast has left something to be desired.
Adam Thielen had a touchdown in Thursday’s win over the Patriots, but he’s no longer a deep threat at 32. K.J. Osborn invoked memories of the “Three Deep” combination of Randy Moss, Cris Carter, and Jake Reed at the beginning of the year. However, he hasn’t built off his breakout campaign. Jalen Reagor is mostly a special teamer, and the rest of the group doesn’t have much of an established role.
That allows defenses to have a simple game plan late in the season. Throw everything you can at Jefferson and dare someone else to step up.
Through the first 11 weeks, the Vikings have been able to survive. Osborn’s late touchdown helped beat the Detroit Lions in Week 3. Jefferson has had enough incredible performances to spur a dark horse MVP campaign. Thielen has done just enough to be a consistent threat, à la Carter in the late ‘90s, but there’s always room for one more.
Just ask Kevin O’Connell.
At this time last year, the Los Angeles Rams appeared to be set at receiver. Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods were reliable targets for Matthew Stafford. Despite suffering a four-game losing streak, they had enough firepower to contend in the NFC before signing Beckham to a one-year deal.
Shortly after Beckham signed, Woods suffered a torn ACL in practice. Instead of being a highly paid ring-chaser, LA suddenly elevated Beckham into a key role. He responded by catching 27 passes for 305 yards and five touchdowns over the final eight games. These appear to be modest numbers, but it was just enough to keep the Rams afloat and make the playoffs.
Beckham’s role continued to grow in the playoffs, where he caught 25 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns. The performance included a nine-catch, 113-yard performance against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. However, he may have provided the most value in the early stages of the Super Bowl.
Beckham caught two passes for 52 yards and a touchdown before tearing his ACL. Van Jefferson ascended into the No. 2 role and didn’t have much of an impact. At that point, though, Stafford only had to rely on targeting Kupp for roughly 30 more minutes to win the Super Bowl.
One could argue that if Beckham had never signed, the Rams would never get to the Super Bowl and that Van Jefferson wouldn’t have had the same impact.
Now think about the Vikings. Thielen may not be the same player he was in his prime, but Minnesota would be in trouble if he got hurt. Osborn stepped in and performed well for Thielen last year, but he hasn’t had the same success this year. Things would be even worse if Jefferson went down, creating a doomsday scenario nobody wants any part of.
That’s not even taking into account that Beckham could take the Vikings to another level offensively. Defenses keying in on Jefferson know they can limit Minnesota’s passing game if they keep Thielen in front of them. Getting Beckham on the other side could not only draw attention away from Jefferson, but it could open up more opportunities for Thielen and open lanes in the running game.
The Vikings should have added one more explosive player in the offseason. They arguably spent their limited cap space on more pressing needs, like Za’Darius Smith. But Minnesota would be in a much better position had they done something like drafting Jameson Williams.
The injured Williams hasn’t proven anything in the NFL, but he could have become one more downfield threat who would have kept defenses honest. There would at least be another wrinkle for defenses to consider in an offense that feels like there’s one priority – getting the ball to Jefferson.
The Vikings could be out of the running as Beckham continues to flirt with the Dallas Cowboys, but Minnesota would also be a good spot for him. With Jefferson, Patrick Peterson, and Ed Ingram on the roster, there are enough Baton Rouge bloodlines to inspire a Bayou reunion. Beckham already knows what O’Connell can do to accentuate his talents.
It remains a long shot that Beckham will wind up in Minnesota. But until he puts pen to paper, the Vikings should keep trying to get him here.