Questions Answered: Vikings’ Worst-Case Scenario, Jalen Nailor Hype, the Sam Darnold Ceiling

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The following questions are about current Minnesota Vikings topics, answered by VikingsTerritory. Today is the June 24th edition, addressed in a from-the-hip fashion. If you have questions, please email them to [email protected].

Questions Answered: Vikings’ Worst-Case Scenario, Jalen Nailor Hype, the Sam Darnold Ceiling

Also, please note: These are opinion-based responses. Some answers will be incorrect from time to time. But we’ll try to keep that to a minimum.

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Q: What would you consider the Vikings’ worst-case scenario in 2024?

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Answer: Like a 3-14 record, no reclamation season for Sam Darnold, J.J. McCarthy looking nowhere near an NFL quarterback, and Kevin O’Connell’s job security in doubt.

Most of this stuff probably won’t happen, but that would be the doomsday formula. The Vikings proved they could reach a 7-10 record with a quarterback carousel in 2023, so O’Connell should be able to foster something similar — if not better — in 2024.

With a 3-14 record, for example, Minnesota would probably grab the 1st-Round overall pick, which wouldn’t be bad. Then, they’d trade it to the highest bidder, likely for a quarterback. On the whole, though, we expect the Vikings to finish somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-10 again, assuming Darnold doesn’t do the Baker Mayfield thing from 2023.

Q: Are you buying the Jalen Nailor hype from ESPN?

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Answer: No. We learned our lesson from the Irv Smith Jr. days.

“Nailor, a sixth-round pick in 2022, struggled with injuries throughout 2023 and into the 2024 offseason. He missed mandatory minicamp because of the flu. But in limited playing time during his first two NFL seasons, and more importantly in practice, he has proven a slippery target that defenders have trouble tracking,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote. “In two seasons, he has taken a total of 160 snaps and run routes on 72 of them. Vikings quarterbacks have targeted him on 20 of those routes, and he has caught 12 for 208 yards and a touchdown.”

The Vikings might be high on Nailor, and that’s fine. But even in Seifert’s write-up, he indicated that Nailor missed minicamp due to illness. That’s Nailor’s problem, unfortunately, to date — he can’t stay healthy.

We’ll keep the bar low for Nailor and then be pleasantly surprised if he finally busts out.

Q: Do you think Sam Darnold will take off in the Vikings’ offense?

Vikings QB
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A: This one — we do see happening.

The Vikings have a long history of castaway quarterbacks thriving, and Darnold may be no different. We think he’ll toss something like 3,700 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions.

It would also be a “Vikings thing” for Darnold to play “too well” — with some fans claiming he should be the QB1 in 2025. Per the way purple football usually goes, Darnold will be productive enough to keep J.J. McCarthy on the bench, and then fans will divide into pro-Darnold and pro-McCarthy camps.

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 MIN 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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