One Vikings Draft Prospect Is Already Divisive

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Jan 15, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; A Buffalo Bills fan. © Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports.

If you’re tired of the pro- and anti- Kirk Cousins fan factions, fasten your seatbelt because the Minnesota Vikings could draft another personality from the same cloth. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Cousins joined the Vikings in 2018 as a free agent, and from the onset, folks questioned his candidacy as the team’s QB1 for one reason — money. He’s typically paid around eighth-most among quarterbacks in the NFL, and fans want him to play at a Top 3 level. Hell, in 2023, Cousins is on tap as the league’s 15th-most expensive QB, but his detractors are still unsatisfied.

One Vikings Draft Prospect Is Already Divisive

Regardless, the Vikings have a possible exit strategy brewing for Cousins, opting this offseason not to extend his contract beyond 2023. Therefore, general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah could draft a quarterback Thursday or Friday night, preparing for life after Cousins.

And if he drafts the player Vegas expects, get ready for another divided fan base. That quarterback is Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker.

The Age

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.

The major knock, reservation, or eye-roll on prospective teams drafting Hooker is straightforward — age. He’s 25 and would be 26 when this season’s playoffs roll around. For the Vikings, assuming Hooker takes the keys in 2024, he’d theoretically start his first playoff game — if Minnesota gets there in 2024 — at age 27.

Typically, when a franchise moves on from someone like Cousins, it would prefer a genuine rookie quarterback experience, starting the clock at age 21 or 22. That won’t happen with Hooker, not by a longshot.

Per age alone, Hooker is a major turn-off for some Vikings fans.

No quarterback in the last 80 years drafted in the 1st Round at age 25 or older has started more than one season in NFL.

The Injury

Prospect Is Already
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) is injured during a game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. Kns Tennessee Florida Football

Then, Hooker is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in November. His people claim he’ll be as good as new by September, but his new team will likely “take it easy” with his acclimation to an offense.

Thankfully, for the Vikings sake, Hooker won’t be needed until 2024. Cousins is in the saddle for a sixth campaign for 2023, so Hooker would be the plan around this time next year.

Still, one perk of Hooker on a new team is this: he should be ready to play at age 25, unlike, perhaps, a raw 21-year-old. The knee ailment shoves his QB1 status into 2024 if a team is cautious with the ACL recovery.

Couple his “old” age and “can’t even play until 2024” stock for the Vikings, and it feels like a double whammy for some.

Read some fans’ reservations about Hooker on Twitter here.

Who Cares?

Drops Mock Draft
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

What if none of this matters? What if Hooker is the one guy who will slap age in the face and experience a remarkable injury recovery? In theory, he’d still lead the Vikings from age 26 to 36+, so why all the hesitation? That’s the argument from the draft-Hooker folks.

The next step on who cares is draft placement. Should the Vikings unearth the Volunteer from Round 2 or 3, nobody cares too much if he flames out. Think: Kellen Mond.

A 1st-Round draft stock, though, is a different story. Think: Christian Ponder. There’s something holy or unholy about a Round 1 draft pick. The selection has to work out, or the general manager is skewered.

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).

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