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Monday Morning Mailbag: Draft Class, Undrafted Rookies Heading Toward Minicamp

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we'll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag. Although we can't post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

Click here to submit a comment or question to the Mailbag. Remember to include your name and town on the email. If Twitter is your jam, you can send a question to me that way as well.

We've got a big week ahead of us with rookie minicamp on the way. Reports also indicate the 2023 Schedule Release is imminent. NFL Network has been promoting it will be "soon" during ads. Let's get right to the questions after this brief reminder of Minnesota's draft class.

2023 Vikings Draft Class

Round 1, 23rd overall: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

Round 3, 102nd overall: Mekhi Blackmon, CB, USC

Round 4, 134th overall: Jay Ward, DB, LSU

Round 5, 141st overall: Jaquelin Roy, DL, LSU

Round 5, 164th overall: Jaren Hall, QB, BYU

Round 7, 222nd overall: DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB

Hello from San Diego. I am a lifelong Vikings fan (youth in MN), longtime Mailbag reader, first time submitter.

I know our fan base is passionate, and everyone is entitled to an opinion, but after reading last week's Mailbag, it bothers me there can be such angst by others over draft decisions.

I know there are those who do not like Cousins and wanted to replace him. I personally like a guy who is one of the most durable QBs playing, who ranks top 5 or 10 in almost every desirable category, who restructured his contract for cap considerations; we don't have to worry about him embarrassing the franchise, etc. I don't think for the next 2 to 4 years we can do better than keep Kirk.

For those who did not like us picking a WR, I have two stories: 1997 we had Cris Carter and Jake Reed who combined for roughly 2,400 yards and 19 TDs. Some would say we had bigger needs than a WR. I am certainly glad we took Randy Moss. Then in 2006 we had Chester Taylor coming off a 1,200-yard season, and our WRs were Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson. I am glad we took Adrian Peterson. I am not saying Addison will join that tier, but who knows what he and J. Jet will do together.

Our defense was terrible last year, but it was not because of the players. I have never seen such a vanilla scheme attempted to be used. Line up rushers and declare who is coming and from where so the OL can determine assignments, have the LBs drop back 10–12 yards, and the DBs drop back 12-15 yards. When the ball is caught in front of you, don't tackle them, stop their progress and allow others to come assist on the tackle, maybe strip the ball, although I did not see much of that effort, and not many results either. I think having Brian Flores will do a 180 on the effectiveness of our defense. We also have to remember that we have a first-round safety joining us (Lewis Cine) who has a year of knowledge but not the playing time. I think Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans both flashed at times last year and adding Mekhi Blackmon and Jay Ward were good choices, and I hope that Troy Dye or Brian Asamoah team up with Jordan Hicks and do well.

That is all also not saying that I will take T.J. Hockenson over any player that was available in the second round. I really like that we picked him up last year.

In short, as a fan like the others who write in, I have no special knowledge about what the draft room thought and talked through, but I do trust in our decision makers, and look forward to cheering on the Purple this fall.


— Bruce Johanson

Always happy to welcome a first-time emailer into the fold, as well as divergent opinions that are respectfully communicated.

There were quite a few people who didn't like a couple of decisions by the Vikings in the draft, and we included their thoughts, too.

I love how passionate Vikings fans are about their team. Whether the tone is mostly positive or more critical, the comments generally come from a sincere love for the team.

Some good points and historical references from Bruce.

Kirk spoke with Twin Cities media members last week to describe his focus-on-the-present mentality as he enters the final year of his current contract. He's said numerous times he wants to stay with the Vikings and emphasized he must earn the right to do so this year. I mention it often, but the continuity of having the same play caller for a second season (for the first time here) will be huge, and he also noted how far ahead the offense is compared to last year when they were installing the system brought by Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips.

Carter (89 catches for 1,069 yards and 13 TD) and Reed (68-1,138-6) had tremendous seasons in 1997, but Moss was a transformational player. Credit Dennis Green for believing that would be the case.

Peterson's selection put another future Hall of Famer in Purple.

I also appreciate Bruce tempering expectations on Addison, but he's likely to make a positive impact, and similar to Moss and Peterson, will be able to learn from experienced veterans.

I think my overarching takeaway from last year's defense is that it wanted to avoid giving up big plays and cause confusion, but quarterbacks seemed to be able to quickly find some easy answers to the tests and get in a rhythm.

We'll look forward to learning more and more about Flores as the offseason progresses, but then it will really be intriguing when he deploys the group in Week 1.

Booth and Evans spoke last week about how much they learned during rookie seasons that were shortened on the field because of injuries.

It was really cool to see Cine gliding around last week during an on-field workout. He's progressing so well that Harrison Smith recently said he pretty much forgot about Cine's injury.

If Hockenson replicates the production he churned out after joining Minnesota midseason, then that's two phenomenal years of high-end play and the possibility of more years through a contract extension.

It is very disappointing (disgusting really) to see so many negative comments about the draft. We are fortunate to have two young, forward-thinking, OFFENSIVE!!! football guys making decisions, which is what these same people were screaming for two years ago. With that said and off my chest, do you think there just might be a chance that action is taken with Dalvin Cook and/or Za'Darius Smith among others to free up some cap space and bring in some of the free agent talent these people are clamoring for? (I ask with just a bit of sarcasm!)

— Phil

So much identity of being a Vikings fan has been formulated with a dominant defense, so being led by a coach with a background on offense has created a twist.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell have been locked in on wanting to improve the entire team, and there are multiple ways to go about it.

Given O'Connell's history of getting receivers the football, it's possible that going receiver in the first round has a greater chance of positively impacting the team faster than another position, or that a receiver tabbed by Minnesota could be in a better position than if drafted by another offense.

View college action photos of every Vikings pick from the 2023 NFL Draft.

Since the then 36-year-old Jim Plunkett's Raiders won it all in 1984, there have been 3 QBs over the age of 35 to win a Super Bowl: John Elway, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Realizing this and using his analytics background, there is no chance Kwesi re-signs Kirk. Am I right? I mean unless Kwesi thinks Kirk is a HOF QB. And if that's the case, we definitely need to find a new GM.

Thanks for your feedback!

— Nolan's dad from Roseville

That's some interesting backstory on ages of QBs and team success. We have seen quarterbacks begin to redefine age limits of upper 30s and even early to mid-40s. Elway, Brady and Manning are always going to be more rare than common, and Brady outlasted Father Time better than anyone.

But Cousins has been highly intentional in taking care of himself and rigorous in his offseason training. His durability and sustainability have enabled him to pass numerous Hall of Fame quarterbacks' career totals in the past couple of seasons (I get it that many played in a different era that ran the ball much more, but lists are lists, and big numbers are big numbers).

Forecasting any dip in production or execution because of age could be part of Adofo-Mensah's decision-making process. The overarching question will be who gives the Vikings the best chance to win the most games over a period of time.

If the Vikings decide that's Cousins, and the parties reach an extension, then it will be him. If they decide another player gives the team a better chance, then they'll go full steam ahead.

Either way, Adofo-Mensah and O'Connell will emphasize doing what they can to make things as good for the quarterback as they can.

You cannot judge a draft until three years later. I like our draft. Versatile athletes in positions of need. Andre Carter ll and Ivan Pace, Jr., could be pleasant additions from UDFA list. What can you tell us about Jacky Chen? He is a big man.


[Regarding] Pace — I remember one of my former students making L.A. All-City as a 180-pound inside linebacker. Not the biggest or fastest. HE WAS A FOOTBALL PLAYER. He had game speed. He came off the field dirty. I feel that is what we are receiving with Ivan Pace.

— Gerald Goblirsch

What are your thoughts on the undrafted free agents? I think Ivan Pace, Jr., was a great signing and has potential to be a great asset to the team in the future. His highlight reels on YouTube are impressive! I saw that he was projected to be a third-to-fifth round pick but was likely passed on because of his size. Not sure what his coverage skills are like, but is there a chance he could be used as a box safety? He reminds me of Earl Thomas, who is also 5-foot-10, but Pace is listed 20 pounds heavier.

— Sparky Malmberg in California

Combining the pair of emails from Gerald and the additional message here from Sparky.

Appreciate the reminder from Gerald about exercising a bit of patience to completely grade a draft.

Of the 15 undrafted free agents that Minnesota signed after the draft, Carter and Pace have generated some of the biggest buzz. They are scheduled to come to Twin Cities Orthopedics Center this week for rookie minicamp.

View photos of WR Jordan Addison's first day in Minnesota after being drafted by the Vikings in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Carter has desired length of an edge rusher (6-foot-6 ½) and is listed at 256 pounds. For comparison's sake, Danielle Hunter is listed at 6-5 and 263. He ranked second in FBS with an Army record of 15.5 sacks in 2021, trailing only Will Anderson, Jr., who was selected third overall by Houston).

The fact that Pace signed as an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati made me think back to former Bearcat Eric Wilson, who also made the Vikings as a UDFA back in 2017 and went on to start 25 of the 64 games he played, despite some thinking of him as undersized.

Pace's production last season when making the jump from Miami (Ohio) to Cincinnati was impressive. He led the American Athletic Conference with 21.5 tackles for loss, so it shows he was frequently around the football. Pro Football Focus had him allowing just one touchdown on 723 pass coverage snaps last season.

Chen just began playing football as a sophomore in high school, but that led him to Pace University, where he started 27 of 30 games for the Setters. Yup, the Pace Setters. He was invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl, which allowed him to take reps against players from bigger programs in front of scouts.

Chen is listed at 6-5 and 302, but his arm length (33 ¾ inches) and wingspan (more than 82 inches) really jump off the page.

View black-and-white photos from the Vikings 2023 offseason workouts at the TCO Performance Center.

Hello MMM...

I'm still not fully understanding this team's direction (yet again)!?

And I have said this before in previous posts, since our defense is absolute garbage, why are we still concentrating on offense??? Don't get me wrong, the addition of drafting Addison is only essentially going to allow for us to have complete shootouts with other high-flying offenses, but our DEFENSE IS GARBAGE!!! So, I guess instead of losing 48 to 34 we're gonna get beat 55 to 48, while our defense still is a big question mark. And really, we are going to waste one of our five draft picks on a high-end backup QB?? just like [Kellen] Mond, what a waste of a pick, as we didn't grab a single LB. And just like the signing of [Josh] Oliver. VIKING ORG, we DON'T NEED MORE OFFENSE but a DEFENSE that doesn't bend the knee to every opponent we face. SMH

— Cyrus

Again, I'll reiterate O'Connell's track record with production from top-tier receivers. Addison is projected to allow the Vikings to attack with three receivers on the field (along with Jefferson and K.J. Osborn), but Oliver's addition will allow Minnesota's offense to be more multiple and sustain drives. I saw a note the other day about the two-tight end set being the most efficient to pass from leaguewide in 2022.

Turnovers are probably the biggest difference-maker within a game, but time of possession can be a factor week to week, as well as having an aggregate impact. If the Vikings offense sustains more drives, the defense can be better rested for each possession and build momentum.

The defense has multiple question marks, but I'm not going to show up to stadiums in the fall expecting 50-burgers, and I doubt the defense will either.

View photos of Vikings players during offseason workouts at the TCO Performance Center.

Well, we had Tanner McKee in for a visit. The most accurate passer with a better arm than Jaren Hall. We don't take him. So we take a short, Kyler Murray type of dude. OK.

— Michael

Why isn't anyone talking about Jaren Hall — our future quarterback?

— Demarous Davis

I know that O'Connell places significant weight on accuracy when assessing quarterbacks, and Hall passed that test.

Arm strength can be helpful, particularly if a team plays home games in the elements, but it might be over-rated. It also can undermine some play designs if a quarterback struggles to put touch on the football. Having seen Murray play, I think he has an electric arm to zing some line drives, so I'm not sure that's the best comp.

We look forward to Hall and his classmates taking the field for the first time as Vikings this weekend and will provide coverage from the session. I don't know what the future holds for him, but all I'm saying is let him start in neutral with folks' opinions and see where he goes during the preseason.

View photos of the Vikings 2023 coaching staff.

I thought if we didn't go for a QB at 23, or maybe they felt that their projected pick could be had in the second that they should've traded down, but perhaps nobody wanted to trade up. Plus, from the body language of our owner, I thought for sure we'd grab the next available receiver. I still think Addison is a lightweight, but he's fast and can create space. He won't make me forget Adam Thielen. Personally I thought the receivers we have are just fine.


So we passed on Stetson Bennett why? Or [Will] Levis or [Hendon] Hooker? Maybe they wanted Jaren Hall all along. That's fine, but he could be injury prone from what I've read.

— Nicholas Balkou

I think it's highly likely that the Vikings would not have been able to draft Addison if they traded down. Minnesota worked its time on the clock down to the final minute fielding late offers for its selection but ultimately decided that using its first-round pick to acquire Addison was better than any alternative. While his physical dimensions might not fly off the page, his game tape highlights looked like he's got plenty of juice.

I'm personally glad fans still appreciate what Thielen accomplished during his time with the Vikings. His accomplishments were truly incredible.

Levis, Hooker and Bennett all had the benefit of playing in the SEC, a conference with a huge TV deal and its own network. They all have their chances to do well with the teams that drafted them.

O'Connell has talked at length about how much he invests of his time into evaluating the quarterbacks every year. The Vikings did their due diligence on each quarterback in the draft.

I didn't see the Vikings going WR in their first pick, but it makes a lot of sense if it was done to take pressure off Jefferson. With Thielen gone and Osborn seeking WR2 is this where you see their mindset?

Thank you,

— Patrick

Since the Eagles drafted Jalen Reagor ahead of J.J., and now we have Reagor, did the coaches think that he would not be able to be the No. 2 receiver on the team? Certainly, he has attributes similar in the range of J.J.

— Gill Sorg in New Mexico

I mentioned above that the Vikings could have Jefferson, Osborn and Addison working when Minnesota is in 11 personnel.

Osborn and Reagor are entering the final years of their current contracts. If one or both of Osborn/Reagor are not in the long-term plan, then Addison will potentially be under contract through 2027.

Jefferson is now under contract through 2024 since Minnesota exercised its fifth-year option on him.

Hypothetical only: Let's say the Vikings and Jefferson can't work things out to keep him in Purple for the long haul (I personally expect Minnesota will prioritize Jefferson remaining here). The usage of the pick on a receiver in the first round this year looks a bit different.

I'm intrigued to see what a difference a full year in the system and participating in the offseason program and training camp might make for Reagor this year.

View photos WR Jordan Addison being selected as the Vikings 2023 first round draft pick in Kansas City.

Maybe it was nerves...or maybe not, but I did not like Addison's very first "Let's go get paid" comment upon being drafted. I'm really hoping he meant it was time to go to work and be a productive member of a winning TEAM and not referencing just cruising to a paycheck. My first thought was how Percy Harvin turned into a straight diva after a couple years in the league. Hopefully, JJ will take him under his wing and show him the ways of being a professional WR in the NFL. Thoughts?

— JD Bly

I'm more than willing to give benefit of the doubt on that comment being a spur of the moment reaction and potentially coming across without full intent.

Part of the evaluation of players is finding out just how much they love football, or if there is a bit of loving what football can get them. I don't know Harvin at all, so I'd just like to clarify that I'm not putting him in that category.

I've not had an in-depth personal conversation with Addison yet, and I don't recall him being asked about that comment, but I'll lean toward what you're saying in your second sentence.

Imagine a job-hiring process that lasts for multiple months and then your destiny being announced to millions on live TV, radio and streaming services. Also imagine being more than two hours into the evening of seeing where classmates go and wondering when your moment will finally arrive.

We look forward to getting to know new players, whether it's rookies or veterans, every year and trying to relay their passions and personas through our content. If you haven't seen Addison's Meet The Pick video, please check it out for a window into his personality.

Hello, Vikings fan for over 50 years. Bleed purple. I live in Toronto, Canada. Will any of our draft picks start this season?


— Bonnie

How many players from this year's draft have the potential to start this season and make an impact right away?

— Anthony

Not to go Magic 8 Ball on you both with "ask again later," but it's a bit too early.

Even if not a starter, there can still be ways to deliver a high impact. O'Connell emphasizes being a great teammate. That can apply to meeting rooms, on practice fields, within the locker room and in the community.

Special teams is often an area where young players have their first opportunities to make winning differences in games, and we saw several big things from the 2022 squad under Special Teams Coordinator Matt Daniels.

Thought I would throw my two cents in about drafting quarterbacks. Not all top picks pan out well in a lot of cases. Ryan Leaf tops the list and many others.Remember lower draft picks like Tom Brady, Roger Staubach, Bart Starr, Joe Theismann, Rich Gannon, Matt Hasselbeck, etc. Even our own Brad Johnson was picked in the ninth round.

Let's give the new management time in their evaluation of players and how they pan out. Let's just sit back and watch how Jaren Hall develops. Maybe, maybe not, but give him a chance. Just saying!

— Jeff (Vikings fan since 1961 and former Season Ticket Holder living in sunny Florida now)

Jeff brings up a lot of QBs who went on to start in at least one Super Bowl. While there are numerous factors at-play in why a pick does or doesn't work, development can take time.

Many analysts say there were better CBs available than Blackmon at that time. What is your take on Blackmon and the C grade analysts are giving for the Vikings overall draft?

— Roger Johnson

I know the Vikings know what they are doing but I was quite surprised with their third-round pick at cornerback. Mekhi Blackmon is 5-foot-11, weighs 178 and runs a 4.47 40. Kelee Ringo is 6-2, weighs 207 and runs a 4.36. Yet the Vikings chose Blackmon over Ringo, and to me, that was quite surprising. What is your take with that pick in Round 3? To me, it's a head scratcher. All in all, a nice draft with limited Viking ammunition.


— David Bond in Byron, MN

There were numerous mock drafts that projected Ringo to the Vikings in the first round. He wound up going off the board at 105, a few spots after Blackmon.

Every evaluator can base opinions on individual players or entire draft classes based on what they prioritize.

There's also system fits that could be better or worse for a particular player (how Flores wants his cornerbacks to play). I've heard multiple people describe Blackmon as "sticky" in his coverage.

Thanks for reading my email, never written before but longtime reader of your articles. I felt the need to counter all the negativity flooding [last week's] Mailbag from fans upset about the draft. I respect everyone's opinions, but what the heck do all these football FANS think they know about the NFL? They seemingly wear every year of Viking fandom failures on their sleeves and have no concept of what future success could look like.

No chance that passing on Levis, Hooker and [Jake] Haener were smart decisions on guys that OUR scouts and coaches deemed not the future? These scouts and coaches had film breakdowns on each guy, talked to their college coaches and talked amongst themselves for hours on end on top of meeting these guys in person.

I was intrigued by Hooker and have been frustrated with Kirk for years as well, but Kirk is the QB this year and no matter who we drafted, Kirk would've remained the starter this year. Just because you want Kirk gone doesn't mean the next franchise QB is waiting for you in this year's draft!

The Vikings went into this draft with limited capital to move up because they made moves last year to get the most out of our lucky run to the division title. THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT WE WANTED FROM THEM!!! It didn't work out for last year, but it hindered the chance to move up for any of the top three QBs this draft.

We'll see how Kirk does with the same offensive coordinator for two seasons in a row for the first time in his career and see how the QB landscape lines up next year around the draft.

Year 1, 13-4 with a subpar roster and Kirk at QB. Let's wait and see how Year 2 looks before we start slandering KAM and O'Connell!

— Brian Marconett

First of all, appreciate the long-time readership and wanting to add your thoughts to the Mailbag.

I do think fans are interested so much in trying to be part of the solution and getting their team to the ultimate goal that they put in a great amount of time and effort envisioning scenarios.

But there's just no way they have all of the information that any team is using as its beacon in any round.

It would be one thing if it seemed like the Vikings were completely blindsided or unprepared, but they went through multiple scenarios before the draft and executed the plan.

View photos from inside the Thomson Reuters Vikings Draft Room during the 2023 NFL Draft.