The Frontrunner to Replace Kirk Cousins — Eventually

Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) greets fans during the Vol Walk before a game between the Tennessee Vols and Florida Gators, in Neyland Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. © Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK.

So far this offseason, the Minnesota Vikings have opted not to extend quarterback Kirk Cousins beyond 2023, meaning the upcoming season could be his swan song in purple.

Cousins has led the Vikings for five seasons, reached the postseason twice, won one playoff game, and ranks fourth leaguewide in touchdown passes since 2018. He’ll get at least one more shot in Minnesota with head coach Kevin O’Connell in charge (barring a shocking trade).

The Frontrunner to Replace Kirk Cousins — Eventually

But after 2023, the options at quarterback are limitless. Oddsmakers, though, have identified a favorite to take over during life after Cousins — Hendon Hooker from the University of Tennessee.

The Frontrunner to
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports.

The Draft Network’s Jaime Eisner tweeted odds Thursday for Hooker’s draft team, and the Vikings were fourth on the list. Here’s the Vegas lay of the land for Hooker odds:

  • Bucs (11/1)
  • Raiders (12/1)
  • Titans (12/1)
  • Vikings (16/1)
  • Giants (16/1)
  • Cowboys (16/1)
  • Ravens (16/1)
  • Seahawks (16/1)
  • Packers (16/1)
  • Lions (16/1)
  • Broncos (20/1)
  • Falcons (20/1)
  • Colts (20/1)
  • Commanders (20/1)
  • Jets (20/1)
Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker (5) shakes hands with Peyton Manning’s son Marshall Manning before Tennessee’s game against Alabama in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tenn., on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. © Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK.

There are two knocks on Hooker, items shoving his draft stock to Round 3 or so as of mid-March: injury history and age. Hooker tore his ACL in November and may not be ready for any team at all in 2023. That doesn’t exactly send general managers a flock to the podium for his services. And by the time the Volunteer is ready to start for the Vikings or any team in 2024, he’ll be 26 — and 27 if he participates in the 2024 season’s playoffs.

Otherwise, the rest is enticing. The Draft Network described Hooker’s bio and skillset, “Hooker didn’t initially earn the Volunteers’ starting role in 2021, but it didn’t take long for him to take the reins and flourish. He took that experience from 2021 and delivered one of the most prolific seasons in the country, leading the SEC in passing efficiency, total offense, completion percentage, and yards per attempt. Hooker features a sturdy frame with good height and big hands.”

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.

“He has good arm strength that is capable of driving the football outside the numbers and pushing the ball down the field. He has impressive moments of accuracy to all levels of the field. […] His feet are quiet in the pocket. Hooker is an athletic quarterback with good mobility, offering a dual-threat skill set. His physical ability creates a wide-open playbook,” TDN weighed in.

Rapidly over the next month and a half, Hooker will become the darling for every QB-needy team not holstering a Top 10 pick — if he’s not precisely that already. The 6’3″ 220-pounder would probably be a part of the Top 10 discussion, too, if it weren’t for — you guessed it — the ACL injury and birth certificate.

The Vikings have zero 2nd-Round picks and one 3rd-Rounder at the moment, but if general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah conducts business like last year, that pick tally will grow exponentially on draft night. The young executive traded more than anyone in the 2022 NFL Draft, his first as a GM, so choosing Hooker could be feasible on night No. 2 of the event.

The NFL draft is six weeks 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,’ and The Doors (the band).

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