Vikings Get a Sweet Mock Draft from ESPN

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings lost two key players, two foundational pieces of the organization. Danielle Hunter and Kirk Cousins departed after spending years wearing the purple jersey. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah knew that he would have to replace them in free agency to keep maximal flexibility in the draft, so he acted quickly.

Vikings Get a Sweet Mock Draft from ESPN

Vikings Get a Sweet Mock Draft from ESPN
Miami Dolphins linebacker Andrew Van Ginkel (43) and defensive tackle Zach Sieler (92) celebrate a sack against the New York Giants during the second half of an NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 8, 2023. © Jim Rassol / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel were signed to fill the void on the edges created by the exits of Hunter and his co-pilots Marcus Davenport and D.J. Wonnum. Hunter and Davenport will return to Minnesota in the upcoming season with their new teams; Wonnum hasn’t joined a new club yet. Neither of the additions is Hunter, but they come off strong seasons, and combined, they should be able to form a duo just as good as the duo Hunter/Wonnum Brian Flores deployed for the majority of the 2023 campaign.

Former third-overall selection Sam Darnold is the new starting quarterback. Having a much better environment in Minnesota is supposed to help him unlock his potential hidden when he was with the Jets and Panthers because of the subpar weapons and coaching. Young quarterbacks that can flourish in dysfunctional situations are rare.

Because of those additions, Adofo-Mensah isn’t forced to target either position because there is at least a piece in place, although Darnold would be an underwhelming solution for a full season. Finding a real franchise quarterback is next on Adofo-Mensah’s to-do list.

Forced by Broncos
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.

ESPN’s Field Yates produced a mock draft. Free-agent signings help to determine the plans of the franchises. Some franchises filled holes by signing an available player; most prominently, the Falcons are not in the market for a rookie passer, as Cousins will lead their team for a few years.

Yates envisions Michigan’s passer J.J. McCarthy to be picked with the 11th overall pick:

While a trade up the board on Day 1 for a quarterback cannot be ruled out at this point, that’s a hefty price to pay — and it’s too early to get that aggressive in our projections. Besides, McCarthy is available here at No. 11. He is widely viewed as the fourth-best QB in this class and could compete with Darnold for the starting job right out of the gate. McCarthy was sixth in completion percentage last season at Michigan (72.3%).

Field Yates, ESPN

Trading up has indeed been rumored, and it surely is possible, especially if New England is selling the third overall pick or passes on North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye.

Getting McCarthy at 11 is a wonderful scenario, though, as the Vikings could keep their draft choices. Not having to spend two or three first-rounders to move up in the draft is a major benefit in this mock draft.

Vikings Mock Draft
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.

McCarthy has been a controversial player in the draft cycle. Since he won the national title and was regarded as a late first-round pick, he has climbed draft boards for two reasons. His tape is better than his play looked like on TV when watching the whole game rather than focusing on him and reports surfaced that NFL teams are much higher on him than NFL fans.

The 21-year-old offers all the athletic tools to be a good NFL quarterback. His arm talent combined with solid moving skills, the ability to make off-schedule plays (although he wasn’t forced to make too many of those at Michigan), and good ball protection make him an intriguing prospect for every NFL coach.

Drops One Hint
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

It is pretty simple: If McCarthy is the player head coach Kevin O’Connell wants, the front should make sure to bring him to Minnesota. If he isn’t, they should pay whatever it takes to acquire one of the top prospects. Nothing is more important than finding a new franchise quarterback.

Getting McCarthy at 11, who is expected to be a perfect fit in the offense, is an ideal scenario.

The draft will take place on April 25.

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