Last Night’s National Championship Helped Vikings

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J.J. McCarthy didn’t have to do much of anything, and Michael Penix Jr. had a rough night.

Those quarterback performances were showcased in the College Football Championship on Monday night, as the Michigan Wolverine knocked off the Washington Huskies, 34-13.

Last Night’s National Championship Helped Vikings

And with Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins tentatively slated for free agency in 64 days, the purple team might need a rookie passer in this year’s draft, situated at No. 11 in the pecking order. The spot will be advantageous to select a young quarterback but likely not ideal to choose one of the class’ Top 3 prospects in Caleb Williams (USC), Drake Maye (North Carolina), or Jayden Daniels (LSU).

Championship Helped
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.

A lot will happen between early January and late April regarding the pre-draft hype process, but for now, McCarthy and Penix Jr. are considered 1st-Rounders. Their outings in the National Championship, though, did absolutely nothing to shove them into the Top 10.

Michigan’s offensive line and running backs did most of the heavy lifting on offense, tabulating 303 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns. McCarthy was basically asked to hand off the rock and not turn the ball over, accounting for 140 passing yards and no touchdowns. A Joe Burrow-like showing from four years ago might’ve driven McCarthy firmly into the Top 12 or so for draft stock.

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Meanwhile, Penix Jr. had a forgettable night after a masterful concert against the University of Texas one week ago. He completed 27 passes on 51 attempts for 255 yards, a touchdown, and 2 interceptions. The Huskies’ quarterback was also abused by Wolverines defenders all night, a disadvantageous ordeal for a player already possessing a splotchy injury history resume.

Penix Jr. will likely go off the board in April before McCarthy, but he didn’t set the world on fire or anything of the sort on Monday night. Like McCarthy, a ginormous National Championship could’ve careened his draft card into the Top 10.

Nov 25, 2023; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws during the second half of the NCAA football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Michigan Stadium. Ohio State lost 30-24. © Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK.

So, for the Vikings, if they enjoy McCarthy or Penix Jr., a trade up the board probably won’t be necessary. McCarthy might even fall out of the 1st Round, meaning Minnesota could spend its 11th pick on defense and examine a McCarthy draft pick in Round 2 or trade back into the bottom half of Round 1 for the 20-year-old.

On Penix Jr., Minnesota could stay put and draft him organically at No. 11 or trade back some spots while also drafting him later in the evening on Draft Night No. 1. He won’t share the dazzling Top 5 or Top 10 esteem as Williams, Maye, or Daniels, and if the Vikings’ front office likes Penix Jr., he’ll be the easiest “other” quarterback to nab in the draft.

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Of course, should the Vikings fall in love with Williams, Maye, or Daniels, they could move heaven and earth via trade to capture one. Rest assured, those discussions among fans will dominate the next 3.5 months.

Otherwise, McCarthy and Penix Jr. are more gettable than ever.


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 OverTheCap.com.

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