Vikings QB Fetches Lousy Power Ranking

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings are in disadvantageous shape for those trusting Pro Football Focus power rankings.

Vikings QB Fetches Lousy Power Ranking

Minnesota switched from Kirk Cousins in 2023 to Sam Darnold + J.J. McCarthy in 2024, and at least out of the gate, PFF is wildly unimpressed with the decision.

Sam Darnold
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports.

PFF’s Trevor Sikkema ranked all NFL starting quarterbacks this week, with Darnold representing Minnesota at No. 31 — also known as the league’s second-worst starter. The football grading outfit evidently decided Darnold would get the nod over McCarthy, though some Vikings fans remain convinced that McCarthy can still win the Week 1 starter’s job.

“I don’t think McCarthy will be the starting quarterback right out of the gate, but a combination of Darnold and McCarthy for the 2024 season seems likely. Darnold has never finished a season with a passing grade above 67.0, but his past two were his highest,” Sikkema explained the ranking.

The New York Jets drafted Darnold third overall in 2018, and he’s bounced around the NFL to the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers. Teams led by Darnold are 21-35 in the last six seasons — not ideal.

Darnold concluded about Darnold’s 31st power ranking, “I am surprisingly excited to see Darnold get a shot as a starter this year, as he finished his final year in Carolina with a 6.7% big-time throw rate and a 2.9% turnover-worthy play rate in six games as a starter.”

Vikings QB
Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports.

The 26-year-old was sandwiched between Aidan O’Connell (No. 30, Las Vegas Raiders) and Jarrett Stidham (No. 32, Denver Broncos). PFF did not rank McCarthy. Perhaps the list will look different for Minnesota next year. Darnold is also the sportsbooks’ favorite to start for the Vikings in September, meaning McCarthy would probably need a summer of dreams to dethrone the veteran.

McCarthy turned 21 in January, so it wouldn’t be weird one iota for the young passer to watch and learn for an indefinite period during his rookie season. In fact, the perk of Darnold in Minnesota on a one-year, $10 million deal is to create an environment where McCarthy doesn’t have to start right away. NFL coaches and general managers are often paranoid about “ruining” a rookie quarterback by tossing him into the fire too soon.

Still, when Darnold last started in the NFL two years ago, he didn’t play poorly at all.

QB Rankings | 2022,
(min. 125 att)

  1. Patrick Mahomes (.178)
  2. Tua Tagovailoa (.148)
  3. Jalen Hurts (.143)
  4. Josh Allen (.137)
  5. Sam Darnold (.128)
  6. Jimmy Garoppolo (.128)
  7. Joe Burrow (.126)

There’s a plausible chance that Darnold will pull off a Baker Mayfield-like tale in 2023, convincing everyone that he’s a decent start after all. The Vikings’ offense was molded in heaven for any quarterback, Darnold included.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell recently said about Darnold, “Just from a standpoint of his ability to absorb our offense, go out and execute with a lot of guys, when he steps into the huddle, he’s stepping in with guys that have been in this system for two years. And we’re not really slowing down from a standpoint of how we want to kind of install our offense.”

O’Connell added, “Sam’s been great. The physical talent jumps out to me. His ability to throw the football. He’s really, really refined himself from a technique and fundamentals standpoint. Really playing with great balance and kind of the body position that elite quarterbacks tend to play with.”

PFF’s list featured Patrick Mahomes, Lamar Jackson, and Joe Burrow at the top, with Mahomes as the top dog.

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).

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