Vikings’ Top Draft Need in 2024 Takes Shape

Ranking the Vikings' Needs Prior to Free Agency
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

In five months, Minnesota Vikings fans will want the organization to select an EDGE rusher, running back, and probably a defensive tackle in the 2024 NFL Draft. All of those requests make sense, and the franchise will likely oblige.

But no draft need is more urgent than quarterback, especially considering the status of the 2023 season.

Vikings’ Top Draft Need in 2024 Takes Shape

Minnesota lost 35-year-old Kirk Cousins at QB1 in late October, and a hodgepodge of Joshua Dobbs and Jaren Hall has taken over since the Achilles tear. Veteran passer Nick Mullens is even a part of the conversation to start after the Vikings’ bye week.

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Tennessee Titans general manager Ran Carthon chats with Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah during practice in Eagan, Minn., Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023. © Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA TODAY NETWORK.

And while the purple team has won five of its last seven games, the priority of a young quarterback from the draft is paramount. Cousins is scheduled for free agency in less than four months, and if the Vikings want him back, he will likely ask for $40 million per season — because Cousins always finds a way to grab a hefty paycheck.

Meanwhile, the Vikings’ front office must extend — or at least ponder extending — the contracts of Justin Jefferson, Christian Darrisaw, and Danielle Hunter. T.J. Hockenson already earns the most cashflow in NFL history among tight ends, so if Cousins asks for $40+ million annually, what mystery bucket will the Vikings tap for all these extensions?

Need in 2024
Image Courtesy of Cody Lauer | The 2023 NFL Draft in Kansas City, Missouri. The Vikings drafted six players during the event, from WR Jordan Addison to RB DeWayne McBride.

There probably isn’t enough cap space to keep Cousins, Jefferson, Darrisaw, Hunter, and Hockenson unless the team wants to trot out skeletons everywhere else. A rookie quarterback is, therefore, the most sensible solution, so long as Vikings’ fans prefer to keep Jefferson a Viking for the next 4-5 years.

Too, Minnesota is reportedly doing homework on quarterbacks for April. KSTP’s Darren Wolfson said this week on the Mackey & Judd Show, “The amount of work they are doing on these quarterbacks, I will be surprised if they don’t go quarterback high.”

Matthew Dobbins-USA TODAY Sports.

If the draft occurred today, the Vikings would choose 20th and be in the territory to draft a quarterback like Michael Penix Jr. from Washington or Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy.

Wolfson added, “Jayden Daniels is a guy the Vikings are doing work on. Right now in this moment, they’re doing the most homework on McCarthy. I’m not making a bold statement, but I’m just saying they have done a ton of work on McCarthy.”

Nov 25, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws during the second half of the NCAA football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium. Ohio State lost 30-24. © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Theoretically, Cousins could re-sign in Minnesota for a small-ish extension of $25 million as the team learns his trajectory with a repaired Achilles. But that’s probably a fantasy given Cousins’ and his agent’s shrewd track record of accruing large heaps of guaranteed cash.

Finally, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell must draft their own quarterback sooner or later. It would be very peculiar to enter Year No. 3 or Year No. 4 of their leadership reign with continual trips to the wishing well with Cousins.

The time is now to draft a quarterback with high-round draft capital, particularly with Cousins as a free agent and his 36th birthday eight months away.

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,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

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