7 QB Draft Prospects for the Vikings
Life after Kirk Cousins — the issue front and center in the Minnesota Vikings orbit.
That was only intensified when Cousins’ contract was restructured with void years to give salary cap relief this year instead of an extension. The signs point to this being No. 8’s last year in Minnesota. I don’t believe the door is fully closed on an extension, but Cousins will be 35 next season. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell do not want to tie themselves to the veteran quarterback for the long term.
7 QB Draft Prospects for the Vikings
An unlikely trade for Lamar Jackson continues to be mooted, but the draft seems more likely for the Vikings to find their next quarterback, whether this year or in 2024. Whether Minnesota goes for “their guy” in the first or takes a stab at a developmental guy in the later rounds, Minnesota needs to start the ball rolling on life after Cousins.
Drafting a quarterback this year who can sit behind Cousins for a year before taking over would be ideal. Unfortunately for Minnesota, they are not in a prime position to make a move. It all depends on how determined the Vikings are to draft a quarterback this year and how aggressive they are willing to be.
Throughout the draft, there are 7 QB draft prospects for the Vikings to watch. If the right circumstances arise, these are the guys the Vikings can take, in order of my personal preference.
1. C.J. Stroud
If I were the Carolina Panthers, C.J. Stroud is the guy I would select at number one. However, if he makes it past the Indianapolis Colts at pick 4, then it’s time for Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to get on the phone. If the Vikings have the good fortune to see Stroud start to fall, this is the guy they should go and get.
As a former quarterback, Kevin O’Connell’s appreciation for a QB’s accuracy has always shown through when talking about the position. Stroud doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but it is strong enough while being deadly accurate, and he showcases excellent passing game instincts — to go with an impressive blend of size and mobility, which makes him a dynamic player.
One noticeable thing about O’Connell’s offense in Year 1 was how much control was given to Cousins. He was free to read defenses and make changes at the line of scrimmage when he saw fit. This is where Stroud is a perfect fit to carry on that style of offense. He was in full command of the offense at Ohio State, appearing to be involved with setting protections, locking routes, and calling audibles at the line of scrimmage.
2. Bryce Young
I’d be amazed if Bryce Young fell down the board and into the reach of the Vikings. He has the accuracy, a high football IQ, the ability to improvise, and poise under pressure — everything you want from your franchise quarterback. The only drawback is his small frame, which is the only thing that may see him slide down the board.
The question of Young’s height and weight dominated the build-up to this year’s combine. He measured at 5-10 and 1/8th of an inch while weighing in at 204 lbs — heavier than previously reported and perhaps heavier than his playing weight. While his height is of some concern, small quarterbacks have been successful in the NFL. It’s the slight build that is more problematic.
Quarterbacks are afforded more protection than in years gone by, but NFL defenders still hit hard. Will his size scare teams off? If that does happen, the Vikings should be ready to pounce. Young has all the ability to be a franchise quarterback. The only doubt is whether he has the durability.
3. Will Levis
Now we are into the realms of what feels more possible. Some people have Will Levis in the top five, while others aren’t so convinced. If one of the top four QBs slides down the board to the Vikings at 23, it seems like it would be Levis. I’m not sold on trading up for the Kentucky quarterback. However, if he’s still on the board at 23, he’s worth a gamble.
Levis has the size, mobility, and arm talent you want and, in college, has run a form of Sean McVay and Kyle Shanahan’s NFL offense. Similar to Stroud, he can do all the things O’Connell wants his QB to do.
From Levis’ perspective, Minnesota would be an excellent landing spot. A QB-friendly head coach and a year behind Cousins to help him develop. He’s not the finished article you plug in Week 1 in Year 1. Given time, he could be the guy.
4. Anthony Richardson
The last of the four guys expected to go in the first round is Anthony Richardson, who has been turning heads with his athletic profile. Do the Vikings want that kind of quarterback? A player whose strengths all revolve around physical ability? He has a powerful arm and is a dual-threat QB, which may be enticing for some, but I’ve doubted whether O’Connell wants a quarterback who isn’t accurate — a completion percentage below 60% throughout his college career.
For the right team, Richardson is worth rolling the dice with. In my opinion, Minnesota is not that team. Especially when the Vikings would likely have to give up a lot and trade up to get him. At least one team will be enamored enough with Richardson’s physical traits to take him early.
5. Hendon Hooker
Hendon Hooker to the Vikings at 23 landed in a national media mock draft, and all of a sudden, he is the name on everyone’s lips. I can’t imagine the Vikings take him at 23, but if, as expected by many, the Vikings trade back for more Day 2 picks, then Hooker certainly comes into play.
He has the size, mobility, accuracy, and mechanics as a passer that ticks all the boxes. Those things point to a first-round quarterback, but there are some significant drawbacks.
Hooker operated in a vertical spread tempo offense with very little translatability to the NFL, making him a developmental quarterback. A year behind Cousins should be ideal, then? That brings us to the major drawback with Hooker — age. He is 25, which is old for a quarterback to be drafted who is seen as a potential starter. For comparison, he is 10 months older than Jordan Love, who has been waiting in the wings in Green Bay for two seasons.
Hooker is also recovering from a torn ACL, though he should be ready for the new season without any setbacks. The question with Hooker is, where can you get him? If age and injury put enough teams off that he slides into the Vikings range in the late third round, he is worth taking. Before that, I’m not convinced.
6. Tanner McKee
Tanner McKee may come off the board on Day 2. If that’s the case, the Vikings don’t want to be involved. However, McKee becomes worth considering if he is still on the board as we enter the fourth round, particularly when Minnesota selects at pick at 119. He would be a good prospect as someone to come in behind Cousins, though he may need more than one year to be ready.
McKee has great size and arm talent for an NFL quarterback, but he doesn’t have the athleticism sought by many in the modern NFL. He is a throwback to the tall, well-built pocket passer, and his success would depend on a top-level offensive line and developing the mental side of his game to a hall-of-fame level to make up for his lack of athleticism.
7. Dorian Thompson-Robinson
At the opposite end of the spectrum to McKee is Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The UCLA QB has the athletic profile and arm talent to make teams interested. Kind of like Richardson, except at the cost of a Day 3 pick. DTR would be a developmental selection, where a team will hope to coach up his passing game, particularly his poise in the pocket and his accuracy.
If a team can coach those areas and marry them with his athleticism and ability as a runner. The potential for a dangerous QB is there a couple of years down the line. Thompson-Robinson is by far my favorite option as a late-round flier. He has been a leader in college, renowned for his character. If the Vikings aren’t going to take a quarterback in the first round, then this is the guy to take as a plan B to start giving the team options for life after Cousins.