Vikings Sign Triple-Threat Wide Receiver Following NFL Draft

Adofo-Mensah, O'Connell, Vikings

Getty Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (left) and head coach Kevin O'Connell (right) in attendance at the Sweet 16 Round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament in March 2023.

The Minnesota Vikings used their first pick in the NFL Draft to select wide receiver Jordan Addison and added to the position again as soon as the final round ended.

Minnesota signed wideout Malik Knowles, formerly of Kansas State, as an undrafted free agent on Saturday, April 29.

Knowles was among 15 undrafted free agents the Vikings picked up after the draft ended and one of three pass-catchers. The other two were wide receivers Cephus Johnson of Southeastern Louisiana and Thayer Thomas of N.C. State.

Vikings Malik Knowles Scored as WR, RB, Return Man at Kansas State

Malik Knowles, Vikings

GettyThe Minnesota Vikings signed undrafted free agent wide receiver Malik Knowles, formerly of the Kansas State Wildcats, on Saturday, April 29, 2023.

The fact that Knowles didn’t merit a draft pick speaks to some flaws in his game, but the Vikings’ decision to sign him immediately after the proceedings closed indicates the kind of potential he also possesses.

Knowles helped lead Kansas State to a Big 12 title as a redshirt senior in 2022, and he did it in every way imaginable. The wideout hauled in 48 catches for 725 yards and two touchdowns through the air while carrying the ball eight times for 164 yards and three scores, per Football Reference. Knowles also has three career kick return touchdowns, including two during the 2021 season, and averaged 25.7 yards per kick return last year.

Lance Zierlein of noted Knowles’ soft hands, athleticism and route running acumen at the Combine in March, giving the receiver a seventh-round/priority free agent draft grade. That Knowles can provide an immediate impact in the return game only adds to his stock for the Vikings.

However, Zierlein also noted that to be competitive at the highest level, Knowles is going to have to improve against press coverage and could use more explosiveness off of the snap. Knowles seemingly has the physical qualities that would allow him to improve in those facets, standing at 6-feet, 2-inches tall and weighing 196 pounds.

Vikings Building Young, Inexpensive WR Room Around Justin Jefferson

Justin Jefferson

GettyWide receiver Justin Jefferson of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during a game in December 2022.

Knowles now joins a wide receiver room that is thin on depth but heavy on top-end talent. The headliner in the latter regard is three-time Pro Bowler Justin Jefferson.

Minnesota exercised the $19.7 million fifth-year option on Jefferson’s contract last week, extending the All-Pro through the 2024 season. By next summer, Jefferson is expected to sign the most lucrative wide receiver contract in NFL history and top the $30 million annually that the Miami Dolphins used to recruit Tyreek Hill to South Beach.

The Vikings’ choice to draft Addison No. 23 overall out of USC to compete with K.J. Osborn for the second starting spot in the position group makes sense as a financial play considering how much of the team’s salary cap will be reserved to lock in Jefferson through the rest of the 2020s.

If Minnesota has made dual finds in Addison and Knowles, the goal of assembling a young, athletic and inexpensive wide receiver group around Jefferson becomes more than feasible — it could be a reality as early as 2023.

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