This is the fifth in a series of position previews for the 2022 NFL draft, which runs Thursday to Saturday. Today: wide receivers.
THREE NAMES TO KNOW
Drake London, USC: The 6-4 receiver could be the first wideout drafted, despite the fact he played only eight games in 2021 because of a broken ankle. Pre-draft questions about his speed, and how the injury could affect it, might give the Vikings flashbacks to Laquon Treadwell in 2016, and London only ran routes at his April 15 pro day, opting not to do traditional tests like the 40-yard dash or three-cone drills. But his size and route-running ability make him one of the top prospects in this draft class.
Garrett Wilson, Ohio State: He could play outside or in the slot, where his shiftiness could help him shine in the NFL. Wilson averaged 15.1 yards per catch last season and scored 12 touchdowns while mostly lining up out wide, but he posted a 16.8-yard average while playing largely in the slot in 2020. He'll have to learn to deal with press coverage in the NFL, but his ability to get away from defenders should translate well.
Jameson Williams, Alabama: Williams tore his ACL in the national championship game in January, and might have been the top receiver drafted if not for the injury. But he could still be a first-round pick if teams feel comfortable enough with his rehab progress. He might be the best deep threat in the class, even though he's 6-2. He'll need to add some muscle in the NFL and prove he wasn't a one-year fluke after transferring from Ohio State to Alabama, but his combination of height and speed is rare.
Christian Watson, North Dakota State: Watson's combine performance — a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, a 38.5-inch vertical and a 11-foot-4 broad jump that led all receivers — could help boost his draft stock, though he still will have to assuage pre-draft concerns about his frequent drops in college. Still, Watson could be a Day 2 pick for a team that wants to plug him in right away as a deep threat.
Justin Jefferson enters his third season after two record-breaking years, and the Vikings will bring Adam Thielen back for at least the 2022 season after signing him to a contract extension this spring. K.J. Osborn's 2021 emergence helps the Vikings' depth at the position, and the Vikings could still wait to see if Ihmir Smith-Marsette turns into a productive option in his second year.
VIKINGS' LEVEL OF NEED
Moderate: With Thielen turning 32 this summer and carrying a $19.97 million cap hit for 2023, the Vikings could start thinking about the future at the position, particularly with Jefferson in line to command a top-of-the-market contract in the next several years. Though this draft might not have a wideout drafted in the top 10, it offers enough depth for the Vikings to think about using one of their first three picks on a receiver that could work into a rotation this year and develop alongside Jefferson for the future.