Vikings

The Vikings Can Snag A Tyler Lockett-Type WR3 On Day 2

Photo credit: Junfu Han-USA TODAY NETWORK

The Minnesota Vikings’ needs coming into this draft are legion. The defensive line needs help, of course, on the interior and, sure, on the exterior as well. They’re looking a little thin at safety and corner. And there’s a running back dilemma to be solved. Oh, plus that whole franchise quarterback of the future thing. It’s enough to make a fan’s head spin.

But another need has quietly snuck up on this team: Now that K.J. Osborn and Brandon Powell are free agents, they suddenly lack a third wide receiver.

Bringing these two back is feasible for the Vikings. But given the limitations of both players, combined with how exceptionally talented this receiver class is, the Vikings might be better served looking to the draft’s middle rounds to find their future WR3.

Roman Wilson from the University of Michigan is one player they should seriously consider.

Wilson is on the shorter side, standing a bit over 5’10” and weighing around 190 lbs. But during his time with the Wolverines, he proved to be one of quarterback J.J. McCarthy‘s most trusted pass catchers. Wilson excelled in the vertical passing game, recording an average of 16.4 yards per reception in 2023 and hauling in 12 touchdowns, scoring on an eye-popping 25% of his catches.

Although Wilson performed well last year, he only finished with 789 yards on 48 grabs. But that was partially due to Michigan’s run-first offense, which flowed through Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Corrum and Donovan carried the ball over 375 times, limiting Wilson’s opportunities to improve his numbers. Whenever Michigan’s offense aired the ball out, Wilson showcased his skills. He led Michigan in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns.

While he might not have the stats or the overwhelming size, Wilson has the traits needed to be a solid wide receiver at the next level. Wilson reportedly ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash in Ann Arbor and had the second-best three-cone score out of all the Wolverines at 6.2 seconds. Wilson’s speed and ability to quickly change directions, combined with his already smooth route-running, make him a threat at all three levels.

That speed also allows Wilson to get yards after the catch and manufactured touches. Although he isn’t likely to violently break tackles and get yards after contact, he could have upside on to screen passes and designed RPO looks.

Wilson’s speed allows him to take the top off of defenses playing zone in deep thirds, and he does that exceptionally well. Wilson has elite ball skills and an incredible capacity to track the ball in the air. His longer arms also allow him to make up for his average height and enable him to high-point the ball better than most receivers. You might assume he couldn’t win 50/50 balls based on his stature, but Wilson will prove you wrong time and again with those long arms and strong hands.

Because Michigan was a run-heavy team, Wilson had his best opportunity to showcase his skills during the Senior Bowl. He took he took full advantage of his time in Mobile. Wilson was one of the Senior Bowl’s biggest winners. He routinely beat opposing cornerbacks on Days 1 and 2 and quickly went from a consensus Day 3 prospect to someone who could go on Day 2. Wilson even drew comparisons to Tyler Lockett from Senior Bowl executive Jim Nagy.

“He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s sturdy, he plays big on the ball for a little guy,” Nagy stated. “That’s why the Tyler Lockett comparison. I was lucky to be around Tyler for five years in Seattle. I think they’re really similar players.”

Wilson played most of his snaps on the outside at Michigan. But with his size, he might have to play more in the slot in the NFL. However, if he can win against bigger NFL corners, his ability to play outside would allow Justin Jefferson or Jordan Addison to draw more mismatches against slot corners.

Like Addison and Jefferson, the knock on Wilson out of college is that, due to his size, he can easily get jammed at the line and sometimes struggles to beat press coverage. That’s an issue. But Kevin O’Connell found ways to get Addison free releases last season, and Jefferson and Addison learned how to beat press early in their careers. Wilson could do the same and serve as a deep threat for this trio.

Wilson won’t likely be selected in the first two rounds of this draft due to the sheer quality of receivers in this class, but he could come in as a third or fourth-round pick and make an immediate impact. The Vikings, with their WR3 gap, should take notice.

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Photo credit: Junfu Han-USA TODAY NETWORK

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