10 Weeks Until the Draft — 10 Potential Targets for Vikings

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Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will be in charge of his third draft on April 25. His first-round pick is currently slotted 11th overall, the highest draft spot in a decade, made possible by Kirk Cousins’ injury. Replacing the longtime passer or finding help for Brian Flores’ defense with a bunch of holes could or should be the goal for Minnesota’s GM.

10 Weeks Until the Draft — 10 Potential Targets for Vikings

The Vikings have drafted at this position three times in their franchise history with mixed results, securing Derrick Alexander, Daunte Culpepper, and Trae Waynes. These ten players could end up in a Vikings uniform, ranked from less to more likely.

10. QB Drake Maye, North Carolina

10 Weeks Until the Draft -- 10 Potential Vikings Draft Targets
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This one remains an unlikely scenario, but the draft is unpredictable. But there is a scenario, even without an unexpected draft day tumble, to land Drake Maye. If Caleb Williams is selected first overall and the Commanders at two prefer Jayden Daniels over Maye, he would be available when the Patriots are on the clock. They have been rumored to be interested in a trade, and bada bing, Maye is a Viking after Adofo-Mensah pulls off a costly trade.

Maye possesses a phenomenal arm, and endless high-end throws can be spotted on his tape. He is also athletic enough to be a threat with his legs. While he has some inconsistencies because of sloppy footwork, he is extremely skilled, and there is a reason why many pundits consider him to be the QB2 in the draft class. At age 21, with extraordinary talent, the Vikings would get their potential franchise passer, which is why they might be willing to overlook the steep price of trading up.

9. CB Terrion Arnold, Alabama

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There’s not yet a consensus CB1 in the draft, but Terrion Arnold is certainly in the conversation. Speed, ball skills, physicality, size, and football IQ are all listed strengths, so he is the total package. His weaknesses are merely minor coaching points.

Coach Nick Saban is always hard on his cornerbacks, so he had a fantastic school for his development. Some compared him to fellow Alabama alumnus Trevon Diggs. Mike Zimmer’s new cornerback in Dallas is known for his ball-hawk skills, and Arnold just secured five INTs in his final collegiate season. He can play in every scheme and every cornerback position (even some safety). Brian Flores loves versatile defenders, and he is one of those.

8. QB Jayden Daniels, LSU

The scenario is similar to Maye’s, but since he’s behind the UNC QB in most draft pundit rankings, he will likely be obtainable for the Vikings after trading up.

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Jayden Daniels is a unique athlete at the QB position, and posting a sub-4.5 40-yard dash at the draft combine is quite possible. He is, by far, the best runner among the quarterbacks in the first-round conversation. In addition to that, Daniels is a phenomenal deep-ball thrower, especially outside of the numbers.

Acquiring him would likely lead to some scheme adjustments in Minnesota to feature his skills as a runner, but it could be the missing piece to unlock the offense. His college film is fun to watch, and Vikings fans would surely get excited to acquire the most dynamic signal-caller in the draft.

7. DT Jer’Zhan Newton, Illinois

Minnesota’s interior defensive line has been a disaster for years, especially the pass rush. Top lineman Harrison Phillips is a run-stopper and one of the best in the league. But neither he nor his teammates can get to the quarterback. That is why defensive tackle Jer’Zhan Newton is a candidate for the Vikings.

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In his last two seasons at Illinois, Newton tabulated 13 sacks, and just last season, his 43 QB pressures placed him among the top interior defenders in college football. In 2022, Newton had the nation’s most QB hits and ranked second in pressures.

If the Vikings intend to bolster the defensive line in the first round, Newton is a decent choice, and he would be a wonderful fit next to Phillips.

6. EDGE Laiatu Latu, UCLA

With the looming departure of Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter and his teammates D.J. Wonnum and Marcus Davenport, the Vikings desperately need some talented outside linebackers. Having solid edge rushers is always a necessity to have a good defense. Without generating pressure up front, it becomes impossible to stop opponents.

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This is why Laiatu Latu is a fascinating player. He was the most productive edge defender in the last couple of collegiate seasons, as he tabulated a total of 23.5 sacks and 34 tackles for loss. Latu’s motor and pass-rush skillset will put him on Minnesota’s radar, but a career-threatening nack injury from 2020 could take him off. If his medicals check out, he will be the top edge defender on the board for many teams, and he’s perhaps the defender who can make the biggest impact in his first season.

5. EDGE Dallas Turner, Alabama

When a team needs more talent on defense, it is always wise to have Alabama’s best defender on the list. Dallas Turner leaves the storied program with Nick Saban after producing ten sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 2023. He was a significant contributor on the strong defensive front, and despite facing three years of strong SEC opposition, he collected 22.5 sacks.

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Turner offers elite physical tools, as his explosiveness and bend are outstanding. On the flip side, he must gain some weight to hold his ground in the running game and to win with power rather than only by running around blockers. Turner has the production and the talent to be a high-upside player, although he is not as refined from the get-go as Latu.

4. CB Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo

Vikings fans have seen their team draft cornerbacks in the first round multiple times over the last decade, but it is still an issue on the roster, which is why it shouldn’t be ruled out. Unless Akayleb Evans, Mekhi Blackmon, and Andrew Booth become more consistent contributors, it might be time to reinvest serious draft capital.

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As previously reported, the Vikings did their homework on Toledo’s Quinyon Mitchell at the Senior Bowl. Flores and multiple other coaches chatted with the cornerback. He has the coverage skills and the athleticism to turn into a Pro Bowl cornerback, something the Vikings haven’t had since Xavier Rhodes. If the Vikings are done betting on the three draft picks from the previous two drafts, keep an eye on Mitchell to fill the void.

3. EDGE Jared Verse, Florida State

The third pass-rusher on the list, Jared Verse, is a great athlete as he combined explosiveness and strength better than the two previous players at his position. His weakness is the rushing game, but he has the physical tools and the refined pass-rush plan to be a menace from the first day.

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If the Vikings decide to address the outside linebacker group in the first round, they have those three guys as top options and only need to figure out which one they want to acquire. Trading down could also be an option if at least two are available when they are on the clock.

2. DT Byron Murphy II, Texas

The Vikings need a defensive tackle, and Byron Murphy has been a riser in the last few weeks. He has the necessary explosiveness to win with quickness, and his pad leverage allows him to win with power despite the lack of size, which is undoubtedly the biggest concern about his game. He also needs to learn how to win against double teams.

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His versatility qualifies him to play various spots on the defensive line, so he is a perfect chess piece for Flores and his always-changing defensive fronts. Fantastic physical attributes are why he has a huge upside at age 21. He could become the first defensive tackle selected by the Vikings in the first three rounds of a draft since Sharrif Floyd in 2013.

1. QB J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

Regardless of Kirk Cousins’ future, the Vikings need a successor for the aging veterans at some point. Michigan’s national champion is growing in the eyes of many pundits, and rumors about him rising into the top ten are surfacing.

Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy celebrates after the 34-13 win over Washington to win the national championship game at NRG Stadium in Houston on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024.

McCarthy was used as a game manager in some contests at Michigan, someone who just needed to throw a few passes while riding a strong defense and running game. But when he was asked to make plays, he made plays. He has the speed and the arm to be a true playmaker outside of the pocket and can execute a play like it’s drawn up. That combination draws the attention of coaches. McCarthy just turned 21 and has massive potential.

If he is indeed rising on some boards, it might require a slight trade-up to get him, but the possibility of selecting the passer with the 11th overall pick could still be there. The Vikings shouldn’t care about the price to get him if he is Kevin O’Connell’s preferred choice. He is a wonderful fit for his scheme and embodies everything the head coach mentioned recently about necessary QB skills. Minnesota is currently the favored franchise to land the signal-caller.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt