ESPN Tabs Rookie QB for Vikings — with a Caveat

Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports.

ESPN joined the party this year and added NFL draft analytics to its content menu, offering predictors and draft simulators.

You can play around with them here.

ESPN Tabs Rookie QB for Vikings — with a Caveat

And regarding the Minnesota Vikings draft, the worldwide leader in sports has a two-pronged prediction. It goes a little something like this — the Vikings are the team most likely to draft the University of Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker in Round 1. Conversely, Hooker isn’t expected to join his new team until Round 2.

ESPN Tabs Rookie
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) congratulates Tennessee wide receiver Bru McCoy (15) on his touchdown during the first half of a game between the Tennessee Vols and Florida Gators, in Neyland Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. © Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Weird, right?

Here’s the rationale from ESPN analytics guru Seth Walder, “The wide range of outcomes for Tennessee’s Hooker is one of the most interesting stories of this draft. He could reasonably be a mid-first-round selection or fall to the late second. If Hooker goes in the first round, his most likely landing spot is pick No. 23 — currently held by the Minnesota Vikings — with roughly a 9% chance to be selected there.”

In 11 games last year, Hooker produced 33 total touchdowns to just 2 interceptions before succumbing to injury.

“But the Draft Day Predictor thinks Hooker is more likely to last into Round 2 than being drafted in Round 1, and one slightly counterintuitive spot Hooker could land would be pick No. 35, owned by the Indianapolis Colts,” Walder added.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports.

So, there you have it. If Hooker is a 1st-Rounder, the numbers suggest he’ll join the purple team with horns on the helmet. Yet, generally speaking, he’s likely to end up as a 2nd-Round commodity.

Perhaps Minnesota can blend both worlds, trading back from its 23rd pick while banking a 2nd-Rounder and using that to onboard Hooker. The Vikings won’t need Hooker for 2023; that’s Kirk Cousins’ job. But beyond 2023, Cousins isn’t financially attached to the roster, and Hooker could take the reins in 2024 — at age 26 — after presumably and fully recovering from an ACL tear suffered in November 2022.

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker during Tennessee Football Pro Day at the Anderson Training Facility in Knoxville, Tenn., on Thursday, March 30, 2023. © Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Otherwise, if Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah doesn’t trade back Thursday night and Hooker is on the board at No. 23, an almighty few minutes of suspense will peak as fans wait and see if Hooker is the plan for the future.

Last month,’s Daniel Jeremiah confirmed Minnesota’s interest in planning for the Cousins afterlife, “The Vikings have been doing their homework on this quarterback class. Hooker is well-liked around the league and he could sit for a year behind Kirk Cousins before taking over and ushering in a new era for Kevin O’Connell.”

The Vikings haven’t drafted a Round 1 quarterback since 2014.

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by