The Minnesota Vikings took USC wide receiver Jordan Addison with the 23rd-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. A draft room video captured Kevin O’Connell saying Addison was an “instant starter.” The team had a clear need at WR, with only Justin Jefferson and K.J. Osborn remaining as proven veterans on a team that uses three receivers most of the time.
As someone who will be 21 years old next season, Addison was one of the youngest players in the draft. He was also one of the most productive. In 2021, Addison won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the most outstanding receiver in college football at Pitt before transferring to USC. Addison played fewer snaps at USC, but he nearly kept up his award-winning production on a per-snap basis:
His college career led draftniks to rate him highly, and he was consistently rated as one of the top four WRs in the draft. Per Arif Hasan’s Consensus Board, Addison was the No. 24-overall player and the third WR, so the Vikings got him right in the range where he was expected to go.
The biggest question about Addison is how his game will translate to the NFL level due to his size and athleticism. Addison tested as a good but not great athlete for a college prospect, which is compounded by the fact that he is small for a WR prospect at 5’11 1/8″ tall and 171 lbs.
See his RAS data below:
Addison’s testing data deserves a small caveat. He suffered back tightness at the Combine, which caused him to shut down his testing after the 40-yard dash. Heavy rain also flooded USC’s field during Addison’s Pro Day, where he ran his agility drills. These factors could mean that Addison’s true athleticism is better than the testing data above.
In scouting Addison, I watched his entire 2022 season (11 games) and three games from his 2021 season at Pitt (against Clemson, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech). Knowing his production and athleticism, I looked to answer two questions: What skills allowed Addison to produce at a high level, and how will those skills translate to the NFL considering his size and athleticism?
In 2021, Pitt’s offense did a lot of work for Addison pre-snap to give him favorable matchups. They regularly put him in motion and lined him up in the slot off of the line of scrimmage to give him a free release. But that changed at USC in 2022, where he regularly lined up outside. He went from playing 68% of his snaps in the slot to only 23%. Because of this change, there are clear examples of Addison’s ability against press coverage.
Addison begins reps by efficiently closing space between himself and the cornerback. That helps put CBs in a bind on routes that stem vertically. It’s something he clearly improved on from 2021 to 2022:
Addison has shown the tools to beat press when a DB attempts a jam. He can use a swim move or shoulder reduction to prevent the punch from landing and gain position:
However, Addison’s wins in press situations aren’t consistent. If an opponent can get their hands on him, Addison’s undersized frame shows up. He struggles to work through physicality and rarely wins outside releases against press because of this.
The plays below are some examples of Addison getting shut down:
Overall, his current strength issues will prevent Addison from winning consistently against press coverage in the NFL. He has the techniques to beat press in his toolbox, but he will not always win because of his lack of play strength.
Addison shines once he gets off the line of scrimmage. He will instantly be a high-level route runner, even among NFL players. Addison weaves a compelling story in his routes. That starts off with a strong vertical push where he lowers his shoulders and threatens vertically. Addison understands how to attack defender leverage and will lean into that leverage before breaking the opposite direction. He layers moves well to get defenders to flip their hips before he breaks in a different direction. He has an effective three-step hard cut and executes a one-step speed cut.
Here is an example of a great hard cut on a dig route:
On curls and comebacks, Addison gets on defenders’ toes before suddenly stopping and coming back to the ball. He accelerates quickly off of the line of scrimmage and maintains his play speed throughout his cuts. He sells routes with a head or shoulder fake.
Here is a compilation of Addison dusting defenders:
Addison will be a highly effective weapon on many of Minnesota’s favorite routes. He runs terrific dig routes and also destroys opponents on whip routes. Addison should also excel on option routes, another staple of the offense.
Addison clearly has the chops to beat man coverage, but he also shows a high level of awareness about opposing coverage design. Against zone coverage, he finds the holes and can pace his routes to create windows of opportunity for the quarterback to throw. On the play below, the defense is playing an inverted Tampa 2 look.
Addison throttles down underneath the defensive back who has him in a deep zone, and makes a game-winning catch:
Addison proactively comes back to the ball to make the catch rather than letting the ball come to him, leading to a chance the DB will break up the pass, like in the play below:
The plays above aren’t just one-off occurrences, Addison displayed both of these skills throughout the 2021 and 2022 seasons, as in the compilation below:
Addison has good but not great speed. He will not consistently roast NFL defenders deep on vertical routes. However, if Addison has a step on a defender, he can maintain that step. He will also use sudden bursts to blow by defenders who are on their heels. Because of his route-running prowess, Addison does not need elite speed to have an impact on the game, based on my projection. If I am wrong and he does have game-breaking speed, it showed up in two games: against Georgia Tech in 2021 and UCLA in 2022. I am attributing his wins in those games to slower competition, but I am open to being wrong.
The play below show’s Addison’s burst. He catches a screen pass and quickly accelerates up the field to get a significant chunk:
The following play is typical of the result for Addison on outside release vertical routes. He does not have the speed to blow by the defender, Kyu Blu Kelly. Defenders were typically able to stay in his hip pocket on pure vertical routes.
He is more effective on routes that have breaks, where his storytelling shines:
Addison’s speed is, however, a clear mismatch against non-DBs. On the play below, he easily runs by an LB for a TD:
Addison shows good catch technique. In contested situations, he will use his body to shield the ball from defenders. He will extend his hands away from his frame using proper technique rather than letting the ball come to him. He has some lapses where he uses underhand catch technique for balls thrown at his numbers. Notably, he had a high drop rate in 2021 (9.9%) before drastically lowering that in 2022 (3.0%).
Here is an example of Addison catching the ball away from his frame and sustaining the catch through significant contact to his back:
Addison shows late hands on deep throws, which help prevent the DB from getting a hand into his frame to break up the pass:
Addison will have an occasional lapse in technique. On the play below, he lets the ball into his chest rather than extending his hands away from his frame. It leads to a pass break-up:
Here, Addison’s underhand technique causes him to double-clutch the pass, but he is still able to reel it in:
Addison is an excellent ball tracker on over-the-shoulder throws like in the TD below:
Addison shows the ability to catch the ball outside of his frame. He will high point the ball with good timing on his jumps and catch balls that are low to the ground while sliding. He can make adjustments on throws behind him and continue to run in stride.
Here is Addison high pointing the ball and holding on while his legs are taken out:
Here is Addison making a sliding TD catch:
However, Addison’s radius is limited by his size. Some throws that taller receivers would be able to reel in go over his head. Addison has maximized his catch radius for his frame, but it’s worth noting that his frame is below average.
Here are some throws he just wasn’t able to bring in:
After the catch, Addison is a fluid athlete who recovers quickly from incidental contact and rarely stumbles. He has solid acceleration, as mentioned above. He has good, not great, change of direction ability.
Addison shows intelligence after the catch, understanding which direction to turn to maximize yardage and working off of blockers well. He will not often make defenders miss, and frequently gets tackled by the first player to wrap him up. He doesn’t have the strength to work through significant tackle attempts.
On this TD, Addison shows his fluidity and balance as he recovers from a spinning tackle attempt:
On this screen TD, Addison does a good job following his blockers and pacing his steps to be sprung for the TD:
Addison does a good job on the play below of finding space to get upfield and maximize yardage, but he isn’t going to put Dante Hall-level moves on defenders:
Addison is a competitive player who does not shy away from contact. He will try to maximize yardage after the catch by staying in bounds. He tries to fight through contact in his routes, even if he isn’t always successful because of his small frame. As will be discussed below, Addison is a willing blocker who fights hard.
On the play below, Addison has an easy option to go out of bounds after the first down. Instead, he tries to grind out some extra yards:
Addison will fight through contact at the route stem and sometimes win:
Addison goes full speed even when the play is not designed for him. If facing man coverage away from the play, he will “steal” a release by making a move on the DB. That can help set up moves later in the game:
More often, though, Addison will be shut down by physical contact at his route stem due to his frame. Compare his results on the play below to Justin Jefferson:
As a blocker, Addison is tenacious and willing to stick his nose into the fray. He will try his hardest to sustain blocks and understands the leverage he needs to help the runner. Addison has an ineffective punch when he attempts one and does not get push on defenders. His small frame will lead to some losses to players who are physically stronger than him. However, his ability to play with good position generally allows him to win as a blocker despite his size.
On the play below, the defender has a clear physical advantage against Addison, but he is able to fight and strain for an effective block because of his positioning:
Addison is willing to go inside and crack block safeties, a staple of the Vikings’ offense under Kevin O’Connell:
On this play, Addison is unable to generate push back on a block that leads to a tackle:
Addison will stalk block defenders to keep them out of the play:
Addison is a polished player with the skillset to contribute immediately in the NFL. He is a nuanced route runner who has the toolbox to beat press, tells a story with his routes, and has sharp footwork on cuts and route breaks. Addison addresses the football with good technique and can make catches outside of his frame effectively. He shows fluidity and athleticism after the catch, making strong decisions and setting up blockers well. However, he lacks the dynamism of a top-tier after-catch player. As a blocker, Addison understands his assignment and executes with good position.
Addison’s frame could limit his role at the next level. He is undersized and struggles to get off of press coverage against physical defenders or work through defenders at a route break. Addison can get bullied at the catch point and excluded from trying to make the catch. He has good but not great speed and struggles to separate from defenders on fade routes. He will fight hard as a blocker but can get physically overpowered.
Fit with the Vikings
Addison will be an excellent fit with the Minnesota Vikings as a complementary piece to Jefferson. Jefferson is a true X receiver who can line up and beat press or any other coverage. Osborn is built similar to a running back and is physical inside as a blocker while fighting through tough coverage. T.J. Hockenson can stretch the field vertically and has great size to make contested catches in the red zone.
These circumstances will free Addison up to be the Z receiver in the Vikings’ system. That will allow him to avoid press coverage and earn free releases where he can let his detailed route running shine. Addison’s ability to catch the ball and contribute after the catch will compound his effect on the offense when defenses sell out to guard Jefferson. Addison should feast early and often in his career with the Vikings, similar to how Calvin Ridley complemented Julio Jones or J.J. Smith-Schuster complemented Antonio Brown early in their careers. Opposing defenses will need to pick their poison between dedicating a single defender to Justin Jefferson or allowing Addison a free release.