4 Dark Horse Outcomes for Vikings Draft

draft
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports.

Eyes shifted during the Minnesota Vikings’ offseason on March 15th, when general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah executed a pre-draft trade, grabbing an additional 1st-Round pick from the Houston Texans while offloading two 2nd-Rounders in the deal, plus a late-round pick swap. 

4 Dark Horse Outcomes for Vikings Draft

Folks then fully expected another trade to follow, a transaction that could hit at any minute or go all the way to draft night on April 25th.

vikings draft
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

But as most fixate on the next Vikings trade and selection of a Top Four quarterback prospect, some dark-horse scenarios remain. These are those alternatives for the Vikings draft, ranked in order of realism (No. 1 = most realistic dark-horse scenario).

4. Secret Admiration for Spencer Rattler or Michael Pratt

Former Vikings GM
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings haven’t shown much interest in Bo Nix, so he wasn’t included in the “secret admiration” category.

However, if Minnesota misses out on a 1st-Round quarterback or doesn’t want to spend a king’s ransom via trade, there’s a tiny possibility it will draft Spencer Rattler and Michael Pratt as the quarterback of the future, leaning fully into the 2024 sentiment of “Sam Darnold is our guy.”

The least likely on this list, Rattler or Pratt as the eventual QB1 preference cannot be totally ignored.

3. Jayden Daniels Slides to Minnesota

Clue for Jayden
Matthew Dobbins-USA TODAY Sports.

Most Vikings fans are immersed in a perceived choice regarding a rookie quarterback: North Carolina’s Drake Maye or Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy.

But what if Daniels slides down the board? For almost a year, Drake Maye was inked as the second draft pick behind Caleb Williams, but recent draft smoke suggests Daniels could go at No. 2 to the Washington Commanders. However, if that theory is false, Daniels could begin a mini-slide.

There’s a world where Williams heads to Chicago, Maye to Washington, and then the Vikings pop up and explore Daniels at Pick No. 3, 4, or 5.

2. The Vikings Trade Twice More before Picking a QB

Incomplete
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

This theory came from CBS Sports, and that site got really funky a couple of weeks ago with its trade prediction for the Vikings, spitballing not one but two more trades afoot. In short, CBS Sports’ R.J. White claimed Minnesota will first do business with the Los Angeles Chargers for their No. 5 pick — and then turn around to flip that pick to the New England Patriots for the No. 3 prize.

White wrote about the first installment of the trade, the deal with Los Angeles, “Vikings receive No. 5 (520.41 points) Chargers receive No. 11 and No. 23 (560.10 points). It really feels like the Vikings have signaled they’ll do what it takes to get into position to draft a quarterback. I think it’ll ultimately result in making two moves, a la the Carson Wentz trade of 2016 that saw the Eagles move from No. 15 to No. 8 to No. 2.”

The working theory on his deal would suggest that the Patriots want a Top 5 pick, and Minnesota doing business with Los Angeles first would do the trick.

White then explained the follow-up trade — yes, a third deal: “Vikings receive No. 3 (658.52 points). Patriots receive No. 5 and 2025 first-round pick. In both these deals, the Vikings are sacrificing enough value that the other teams should be open to accepting. It feels like a lot giving up three first-round picks; the 49ers did exactly that and also included a future third to get from No. 12 to No. 3 three years ago, but those future firsts are worth less in our chart than the No. 23 overall pick.”

If White were to be correct, Minnesota would presumably select Drake Maye. And if not Maye, Jayden Daniels (LSU), if all of the draft analysis pointing toward Washington’s ardor about him proves to be incorrect. There’s also a chance that the Vikings’ front office utterly adores Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and picks him at No. 3.

White concluded, “Still this is a relatively simple solution for the Vikings to consider in their quest for a quarterback. The Patriots lose out on drafting a QB but may not be in the best position as an organization to take one anyway, and their consolation prize will be a blue-chip receiving talent they also desperately need, as well as what could be a pretty high first-round pick next year with the Vikings likely starting a rookie under center.”

This idea checks out. Vikings loyalists have spent three weeks thinking about the next single trade. There might be two more.

1. It Was Michael Penix Jr. All Along

Rookie QB
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings brass is evidently all-in on exploring Penix Jr. Bleacher Report’s Jordan Schultz tweeted Thursday, exactly three weeks away from the draft: “The Vikings flew out their whole staff for a private workout with Michael Penix Jr. in Seattle, including HC Kevin O’Connell and GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, sources say. I’m told Penix has a top 30 with the Raiders today, who currently hold the 13th pick in the draft.”

There’s a scenario where Minnesota quietly adored Penix Jr. all along and preferred not to send multiple 1st-Rounders to the Patriots, Cardinals, or Chargers. Then, Minnesota could spend its other 1st-Rounder on a premiere defender.

Adofo-Mensah is still more likely to trade up for Maye or McCarthy, for example, but Penix Jr. as the compromise solution is probably the brightest dark horse outcome in Minnesota’s draft orbit.


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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