New Vikings receiver K.J. Osborn speeds off to another big-time stage

Tribune Content Agency

K.J. Osborn sought the “big-time stage” when he transferred colleges from Buffalo to Miami (Fla.), and the Vikings’ fifth-round draft pick said he thinks big in other ways.

That includes post-playing goals to turn a criminal justice degree into a job with the FBI or Secret Service.

Keeping a low profile might be a work in progress.

“I’m not sure if I should really be announcing that,” Osborn joked.

General Manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings saw the bigger picture when drafting Osborn in the fifth round (176th overall), despite the Hurricanes receiver being projected to go undrafted on his profile. Spielman said Osborn is a well-rounded receiver, returner and leader lauded after just one season for Miami.

Osborn said his leadership could extend beyond the field.

“Growing up, I liked to watch ‘The First 48’ and those crime shows,” he said. “I’m an open person, and I like to take risks. I want to be the guy going in there helping save lives and protect the country.”

Risks were taken while Osborn led the ACC with 15.9 yards per punt return last season, his first with Miami after three seasons at the University of Buffalo. Fearless returns caught the attention of Vikings special teams coordinator Marwan Maalouf, who could also deploy Osborn as a kick returner and cover man.

“Coach Maalouf really, really thought he was one of the top returners in this draft,” Spielman said. “When you have the scouts and you’ve got the coaches and you have the analytics all tied into — yeah, this is a guy we want to go get. Then it’s a great organizational pick.”

Osborn answered questions about his long speed with a 4.48-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in February, showing potential to make game-changing plays. His receiving production at Miami was average — 50 catches for 547 yards and five touchdowns — but the 5-11, 203-pound Osborn played as an outside receiver for the Hurricanes. He might find a better fit as a slot receiver in the NFL.

His focus, like many of the Vikings’ 27 drafted and undrafted rookies, will start with special teams. Osborn is expected to compete at punt returner, where candidates also include cornerback Mike Hughes and receiver Chad Beebe.

“It changes the game. It’s so undervalued,” Osborn said of punt returns. “A big sparkplug play — it gets the sideline going, gets the fans going and, again, it puts the offense in really good field position. It’s hidden yardage.”

Before making Osborn the 27th of 37 receivers drafted from a deep talent pool, Spielman said Osborn’s character was a main factor in the equation, combined with athletic testing and game film for draft’s remaining receivers that, at the time, included Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones, Oregon State’s Isaiah Hodgins and Southern Methodist’s James Proche.

Osborn’s lone season at Miami, where by the Vikings’ account he emerged a leader for a struggling 6-7 team, spoke volumes to scouts, according to Jamaal Stephenson, the Vikings director of college scouting.

“This guy was only there for a spring, and they took him to ACC Media Days as a rep for the University of Miami, so that speaks to his leadership,” Stephenson said. “He’s a good player and an even better person.”


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