Kevin O'Connell became a new meme Thursday night in the Vikings draft room upon learning that General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah traded up in the first round to select Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner.

O'Connell made the face of a person who had just been told some juicy gossip. Eyes widening, the Vikings head coach offered an exaggerated, "Really."

It wasn't a question so much as a stunned exclamation.

O'Connell landed his new quarterback earlier in the evening. But the head coach knows better than anyone that his team also needs massive improvement on the other side of the ball to contend in a division that is mushrooming into a heavyweight.

The NFC North is loading up on high-octane offenses.

Defenses better keep pace.

The Detroit Lions finished in the top five of the NFL last season in total offense and scoring offense. The Lions are double trouble in that they are balanced and explosive.

The Green Bay Packers flexed their firepower late last season when Jordan Love dissected the Vikings in a blowout in Minneapolis. Love looks like the real deal, and the addition of All-Pro running back Josh Jacobs paired with a young, talented receiving corps makes that offense dynamic.

The Chicago Bears are unveiling a new offense built around No. 1 overall pick Caleb Williams, the former Heisman Trophy winner who has the skills to transform a franchise.

The Bears are giving Williams the best chance to succeed by fortifying his supporting cast. They signed veteran running back D'Andre Swift in free agency, traded for veteran receiver Keenan Allen and drafted Washington receiver Rome Odunze with the ninth overall pick. The receiving trio of Allen, DJ Moore and Odunze is going to be a problem for defenses.

The Vikings are conducting business accordingly.

Changes were necessary after Brian Flores' defense limped to the finish line of the 2023 season. Flores' creative use of players in his unconventional scheme confused offenses initially, but teams eventually uncovered the Vikings' vulnerabilities and exposed their personnel deficiencies in the second half of the season.

The painful truth is that too many draft mistakes left the Vikings without enough difference-makers on defense. Adofo-Mensah used five of his first six picks in the 2022 draft class on defense. The impact of those players so far ranges from minimal to nonexistent.

Flores is an innovative tactician, but it's awfully hard to paper over talent issues.

"Coach Flores knows what he wants," said Ryan Grigson, senior vice president of player personnel. "It starts with him and how he approaches things. Last year, what he did with what he had was excellent, and that's why we feel so good about getting him more players."

The overhaul began in free agency with the addition of two edge rushers (Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel) who are in their prime years after the Vikings lost Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum.

The team also signed free-agent linebacker Blake Cashman, the Eden Prairie native who had a career season in 2023 with the Houston Texans.

Adofo-Mensah continued to tweak his defensive personnel with a handful of signings and then used two of his first three picks in the draft on that side of the ball.

Turner is the headliner. The run of offensive players to start the draft opened the door for Turner to be available at No. 17. The Vikings pounced on the opportunity to take a high-end talent at a premium position.

Turner is a disruptive pass rusher who mostly played offensive positions as a youth player. Out of either curiosity or necessity, his high school coach asked him to slide over to defensive end one day in practice.

"That one rep changed my whole football career," Turner said. "I'm here now as a pass rusher."

The Vikings are happy with that outcome, knowing what's in store against their division rivals. Drafting a quarterback was the team's top priority this offseason. Improving the defense wasn't very far behind.