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Vikings' special season takes heat out of Jameson Williams draft discussion

Bring Me The Sports on FanNation 12/8/2022 Matthew Coller of Purple Insider
© Provided by Bring Me The Sports on FanNation

The Vikings will face off with the receiver they gave the Lions in a draft-day trade but this one will have more spice in the future

EAGAN — It wouldn’t be the NFL if we didn’t create a revenge game narrative out of every possible angle, right?

When the Minnesota Vikings face off with the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on Sunday, receiver Jameson Williams’ presence will be on the minds of all NFL Draft enthusiasts and Vikings fans who never miss a thing that could cause them anguish.

For those who need a refresher: The Vikings traded the 12th and 46th overall picks to the Lions and received the 32nd, 34th and 66th selections. Detroit GM Brad Holmes used the 12th pick to take Williams, a blazing fast Alabama superstar who tore his ACL in the national championship. The Vikings made another trade that convolutes the whole thing but at the end of Day 2 they ended up with Lewis Cine, Andrew Booth Jr., Ed Ingram and Brian Asamoah.

Those obnoxious people who always remind everyone that you can’t grade a draft for at least three years might actually have a point with this one. On Sunday, Williams will appear in his second game after rehabbing the ACL for the first three months of the season. Both Cine and Booth Jr. suffered season-ending injuries, Ingram has struggled at right guard (as most rookie linemen do) and Asamoah has been a special teams ace.

As of Week 13, 2022, neither franchise can claim victory over the trade, as both did in team-released videos shortly after the draft. And we’re a long way from figuring out whether both GMs nailed it, one team won or both teams lost.

Though it looks worse for the Vikings right now. Cine and Booth Jr. were behind players with far less draft cache on the depth chart before their injuries and Ingram has allowed the most pressures in the NFL per PFF. Williams is just arriving on the scene with high hopes that he can flash in the coming weeks and possibly play a role in the Lions making things interesting in the playoff hunt.

Adding to all that is the lingering feeling that the Vikings could have used another receiver. Following a breakout season, KJ Osborn hasn’t been the factor that everyone expected him to be. He’s currently sporting the fourth lowest yards per reception mark in the NFL. The Vikings had to trade again with the Lions to get Kirk Cousins another option that he could consistently trust in tight end TJ Hockenson but he isn’t a deep threat either. Adam Thielen has settled into being a very good possession receiver but nobody takes the top off the defense, so to speak.

If Williams torches opposing defenses over the next few weeks, you can expect some snark thrown the Vikings’ way about not drafting him. Maybe it’s deserved because receiver depth is worth its weight in gold and the best the Vikings could do was signing Albert Wilson and drafting a sixth rounder in Jalen Nailor.

But that’s a little different conversation. It isn’t like Williams was the only receiver on earth available and there’s no guarantee they would have taken him, anyway.

Of course, that’s not really going to matter within the discourse. While it’s a nuanced discussion to talk about whether Kwesi Adofo-Mensah used the right logic (and the right draft-value chart) at the time he traded down, the bottom line of the deal is going to come down to whether Williams roasts the Vikings twice a year and Sunday is his first chance to do so.

That’s life.

But that’s life in the future, not this week.

The Vikings have other things on their mind. In the locker room, they’re calling this a shirt-and-hat game because, well, you get an “NFC North Champs” shirt and hat if you win. Or at least they think that happens. I can’t remember if they got shirts/hats back in 2017.

It would have been nice for the Vikings to get some quality performances out of their rookies. When they drafted Cine, they expected him to start, not to be behind Josh Metellus on the depth chart (with respect to Metellus, a special teams ace who filled in admirably for Harrison Smith the last time the Vikings faced the Lions). They would have preferred Booth Jr. to Duke Shelley (with respect to Shelley’s PBUs). They would have rather seen Ingram instantly justify their second-round reach. But the reality of the NFL is that draft classes don’t win championships right away. The Vikings’ 2022 season was always going to live and die on the shoulders of veteran players.

Everything for the Vikings regarding this week’s game is about right now. This isn’t a referendum on Jameson Williams, it’s a judgement on whether the Vikings can slow down the sixth best scoring offense in the NFL. It’s a drop in the sample size bucket of handling another elite receiver in Amon-Ra St. Brown. So far this season they have been toasted by the best of the best, from Tyreek Hill to Stefon Diggs to Garrett Wilson.

The matchup at Detroit will be telling about the Vikings’ offense as well. The inconsistency en route to 10-2 on the offensive side of the ball will be tested by a Lions defense that is both flawed and confident. In recent weeks they gave Josh Allen problems and then smashed the Jacksonville Jaguars. Aiden Hutchinson has moved up into the top 30 pass rushers in QB pressures and, oh, hey, it’s the team that did the best against Justin Jefferson all year. We’ve got adjustment intrigue here, folks.

By the way, the Vikings are still chasing the No. 1 seed in the NFC. Sure, their point differential has become a point of discussion because they haven’t blown anybody out yet but there’s no time to start like the present. The Eagles aren’t completely uncatchable here. They have to face the Giants twice and the Cowboys over their final five games. If the Vikings run the table, they might be able to overcome their two-game deficit (one win+ tie breaker).

None of this is to stay that the Jameson Williams discussion isn’t interesting. Teams rarely trade within the division for a reason: Because they don’t want to be smoked by the player they gave up for years to come. There’s a fine line between aggressive and stupid and we’re going to find out which one that trade was for the Vikings in the coming years.

But when you add in Williams only playing two offensive snaps for Detroit and the team likely wanting to bring him along slowly, his presence Sunday is more of a factoid than a factor.

Unless he catches a 50-yard touchdown, of course.

Even if the Vikings fall at Ford Field, which the gambling world seems to think is very possible, the draft-day trade discussion, for now, should be put on mute. That dial can be turned up again in the offseason when the Vikings are looking at the future of their secondary, their WR2’s cap hit and WR3’s production and wonder how it might have been different. It’s also very possible the whole thing could switch on a dime and Cine/Booth Jr. could get healthy and be a huge part of the restoration of the DB group, which has been much maligned this year.

Who knows. That’ll be a thing down the road. For the moment, the Vikings are in position to put together one of the best seasons in franchise history and the Lions are trying to slow their roll. Game on.

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