Vikings’ Draft Board Got Thicker on Sunday

A Wild Vikings "Stat" about the 2022 NFL Draft
Vikings Draft Party

No matter one’s opinion of quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Minnesota Vikings need a rookie quarterback sooner or later.

Cousins will be 36 when the 2024 season rolls around and is recovering from a torn Achilles. He could show up next season and perform marvelously; an age-related decline could be afoot, as has occurred to countless others around this age, like Philips Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger.

Vikings’ Draft Board Got Thicker on Sunday

And if the Vikings have fancy plans to draft a quarterback in this April’s draft, well, the class became deeper on Sunday when University of Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy declared for the pros. The College football champion is taking the plunge.

Board Got Thicker
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy looks to pass against Iowa during the first half of the Big Ten championship game at Luca Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

ESPN’s Jordan Reid tweeted this weekend, “Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy is declaring for the 2024 NFL Draft.” The 20-year-old hits a deep quarterback draft pool and could be selected anywhere from Round 1 to 3, although sometime before the end of Round 2 seems likeliest.

Among a handful, McCarthy’s theoretical draft candidacy for Minnesota is quite fascinating. He’ll turn 21 later this week and is one of the youngest players available in the draft this April. If selected by the Vikings at pick No. 11 or 42, he could watch and learn on the bench for a season or two behind the aforementioned Cousins. The Green Bay Packers have employed the groom-the-newcomer strategy twice in the last 20 years, and some tend to think it’s the “hack” for developing a young quarterback.

December 31, 2022; Glendale, Ariz; USA; Michigan quarterback JJ McCarthy (9) throws a pass during the pregame before the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Ncaa Fiesta Bowl Game

Otherwise, if the Vikings cut ties with Cousins in the next eight weeks — he’s scheduled to hit free agency on March 11 if no deal on an extension is reached — the club could let her rip with McCarthy or a different quarterback in 2024. Soon, when Justin Jefferson’s upcoming contract is finalized, Minnesota will have 4-5 precious years showcasing Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, and Christian Darrisaw while presumably employing an inexpensive rookie passer to offset hefty deals allotted to others.

McCarthy said after announcing his draft plans, “No matter what decision comes of this, Michigan will forever be in my heart, and I will be proud to be known as a Michigan man.”

Minnesota Vikings Head Coach Kevin O’Connell addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center on Wednesday, December 6th, 2023. The Vikings had a quarterback debate off the bye week in 2023, and O’Connell announced incumbent starter Joshua Dobbs would play in Week 14 at the Las Vegas Raiders.

Josh Frey, editor of our sister site, opined on McCarthy, “Throughout this season, McCarthy displayed an elite level of accuracy that we had not seen throughout portions of his first year as a starter, which is promising for his draft stock this spring.”

The question is whether McCarthy is ready for the bright lights of QB1 in the NFL at age 21 or if he’s best served to mature and develop on the bench for a year or two.

“However, there is the question of how much McCarthy benefited from being in Michigan’s offense. The Wolverines have a very strong offensive line protecting McCarthy, and they certainly have been a run-first offense with the two-headed monster of Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards in the backfield,” Frey added.

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

McCarthy is 6’3″ and 205 pounds, so prototypical size for an NFL quarterback. He’s also agile, mobile, and explosive.

The most interesting part? Almost as a certainty, McCarthy would be available to the Vikings with pick No. 11, meaning no trade up the draftboard would be necessary.

The NFL Draft is 100 days 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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