Vikings QB Target Gets All the Praise

Mock Draft Continues
Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) signs autographs during the national championship celebration at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Minnesota Vikings loyalists have decided that the purple team has an open-and-closed decision at quarterback in next month’s draft between Drake Maye (North Carolina) and J.J. McCarthy (Michigan).

Vikings QB Target Gets All the Praise

Sportsbooks believe McCarthy is more likely to become a Viking in 2024 and beyond than Maye, and if that prophecy comes true, McCarthy’s former coach claims Minnesota will receive a gem.

vikings QB
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

That’s Jim Harbaugh, who spoke with the highest of flattery about his Michigan signal-caller with the 2024 NFL Draft one month away. It’s almost a bit weird that Harbaugh’s new team, the Chargers, has Justin Herbert at QB1 because the coach isn’t shy about praising McCarthy.

“I’ve been to a lot of pro day workouts. That was the best I’ve ever seen from a quarterback. That was the best throwing day I’ve ever seen,” Harbaugh said about McCarthy this week.

Harbaugh in action
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports.

Ten days ago, the Vikings pulled off an unforeseen pre-draft trade, sending two 2nd-Round picks to Houston for the Texans’ 2024 1st-Rounder (Pick No. 23) and a late-round pick swap. The move positioned general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to move up in the draft via second trade, which could hit at any minute or on draft night. Many believe McCarthy is the Vikings’ target.

“I think he’s the best quarterback in the draft,” Harbaugh added, calling his Michigan quarterback a “killer.”

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh lifts up the Rose Bowl trophy after 27-20 win over Alabama at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif. on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. © Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Kirk Cousins quarterbacked the Vikings for six seasons between 2018 and 2023 but hit free agency two weeks ago. With perhaps a little bit of tampering involved, Cousins left Minnesota for the irresistible money dangled by the Atlanta Falcons, fetching a four-year deal worth $180 million. The Cousins Era is over, and Minnesota, as an insurance policy, added veteran passer Sam Darnold the day after Cousins-to-Atlanta news broke.

So, the Vikings need a rookie quarterback.

Rookie QB
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.

Harbaugh concluded about McCarthy, “He plays quarterback the best of all the quarterbacks.”

Moreover, McCarthy met with the Vikings at the 2024 NFL Combine and said about the meeting, “Coach O’Connell led the whole thing. Everything they talked about wanting out of a QB aligns with what I want. Just being able to get on the board with them, go through their plays, it was special.”

McCarthy is 6’3″ and 220 pounds. He turned 21 in January, so he’s incredibly young, especially by recent draft class’ standards. He can make all throws necessary in an NFL offense, with a sidedish hesitation on his deep-ball prowess. Michigan didn’t ask McCarthy to throw deep outside the numbers too frequently, so his new NFL team will have to develop the skill or hope Michigan simply didn’t request it.

If the Vikings don’t end up with McCarthy — they’re the Vegas favorite to do so with a -115 moneyline — most believe Drake Maye would be the team’s target on draft night. Otherwise, Michael Penix Jr. (Washington) and Bo Nix (Oregon) would be available outside the Top 10.

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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