E Point Perfect

Is K.J. Osborn Enough for the Vikings?


2022 Vikings Betting Odds Tracker: Week 5
Oct 2, 2022; London, United Kingdom; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn. Mandatory Credit: Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports.

Last season, the Minnesota Vikings saw glimpses from their second-year wide receiver K.J. Osborn. Getting into his first offensive action as a professional, his development was praised by wide receivers coach Keenan McCardell. Now another season into his career, is he enough to make a difference for Minnesota?

Going into this offseason, it should be expected that Minnesota will face a substantial amount of change. Indeed, most of that will come on the defensive side, but it would be naive to think offensive changes aren’t in store. We have already seen reports that Keenan McCardell is drawing interest for more prolific jobs, and veterans like Adam Thielen could be jettisoned.

Is K.J. Osborn Enough for the Vikings?

Before the trade deadline in 2022, it was apparent that Kevin O’Connell’s offense needed another pass catcher. While the organization did swing a big deal in acquiring Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson, his acquisition only softened the blow that was losing Irv Smith Jr. for nearly the entire season. The wide receiver core still remained Justin Jefferson, Thielen, and Osborn.

Enough for the Vikings
Jan 8, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn (17) warms up wearing a shirt honoring Buffalo Bills Safety Damar Hamlin (3) before the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

By the end of the year, Osborn had flashed better than we have seen thus far on two separate occasions. In an unprecedented comeback against the Indianapolis Colts, Osborn hauled in 10 receptions for 157 yards with a touchdown. That game marked the first time in his career that he surpassed 100 yards receiving in a single game. Just three weeks later, against the Chicago Bears, he did it again.

It could be argued that Osborn has been held back playing in the slot or as the third option behind Thielen this season, but it is also on that type of wideout to create their own opportunities. What the Vikings seek most are additional threats that thwart opportunities for opposing defenses to provide safety help and shadow coverage on Jefferson. It’s beyond clear that Thielen is past the point of being able to do so, and it is not entirely clear that Osborn is capable, either.

K.J. Osborn Does It Again
Sep 25, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

As a 5th-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Osborn is entering the final year of his rookie deal with Minnesota. He will undoubtedly be back at a modest cap number just over $1 million. We don’t know how much the additional wide receiver next to him has to be of impact to help out Jefferson. Some of that has been brought on by opportunities lacking behind Thielen. The other aspect is whether Osborn has shown enough to be worthy of an additional workload.

While the Vikings talk to Jefferson this offseason about a contract extension that should have him paid as the top wide receiver in the NFL, Osborn will be looking to play for the first deal that truly earns him some serious cash flow. That could be in a place he has called home since the draft or elsewhere. For Kevin O’Connell’s offensive flow, the Vikings are hoping another level is reached.

Vikings WR Rejects Idea of Packers Winning Division
K.J. Osborn

Despite having a bit more total usage in 2022, Osborn saw his overall production decrease. Yardage and averages were below 2021 levels, and his touchdown numbers were also shy. Things could have looked even worse had he not put up the two monster outcomes. We have seen glimpses of what could be, but if a career is to be had here, especially in Minnesota, the training wheels must be ripped off.

Ted Schwerzler is a blogger from the Twin Cities that is focused on all things Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings. He’s active on Twitter and writes weekly for Twins Daily. As a former college athlete and avid sports fan, covering our pro teams with a passion has always seemed like such a natural outlet.


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