J.J. McCarthy’s Development Is a Mixed Bag

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Last season, the Minnesota Vikings struggled at the crucial quarterback position for the first time in years. After Kirk Cousins’s injury, head coach Kevin O’Connell was forced to start Jaren Hall, Joshua Dobbs, and Nick Mullens, three guys who don’t possess the talent to start in the NFL. All of them were benched at some point.

J.J. McCarthy’s Development Is a Mixed Bag

Development Is a Mixed Bag
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A similar fate could occur in 2024, with Hall and Mullens returning for another season behind 2018 third-overall pick Sam Darnold, who has shown flashes but has lacked consistency.

The team’s long-term answer to the continued struggles is rookie J.J. McCarthy. He was drafted with the tenth overall pick and is believed to have the skills to become the QB1 in Minnesota sooner rather than later.

With the draft around the corner, McCarthy was a rising star. Early in the year, the Michigan prospect was classified as a late pick in the first round; some even considered him available in the second round. The more folks watched his film, and the more rumors about teams loving him leaked, the higher draft pundits viewed his draft stock.

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Ultimately, the Vikings paid a minor price to trade up one spot to land the 21-year-old. He is now in the stage every rookie passer is going through. Nobody knows if and how soon he can be under center. His development is the most significant storyline in Minnesota’s training camp. With roughly five weeks before the team returns to the practice field, ESPN’s beat writer Kevin Seifert shared his assessment of the promising first-year player.

In sum, McCarthy looked like a quarterback with the talent to be a top-10 pick but with the inexperience of a 21-year-old. In other words: Exactly what should have been expected. At times, he fit darts into small windows against aggressive coverage. On other occasions, he bounced passes to receivers with no defenders in the drill. McCarthy kept the appropriate perspective throughout. “Failure is inevitable in sports,” he said. “You’ve just got to learn from them and learn from those little dips and not be attached to them emotionally.

Kevin Seifert, ESPN

McCarthy’s numbers in college failed to impress, as his Michigan team featured a run-heavy offense. He was asked to be a game manager at times, although he continuously excelled on third downs in obvious passing situations, which implies that he is more than just that game manager.

Vikings QB
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There is a steep learning curve for every passer in the NFL. Darnold was signed to be Minnesota’s QB1 until the rookie is ready. The Vikings don’t need him to be rushed into action, and the club can and will be patient with the highest-drafted QB in the franchise’s history.

Once he usurps the veteran, he can throw the ball to exciting weapons Justin Jefferson and Jordan Addison, with T.J. Hockenson commanding targets in the middle of the field after his recovery from his knee injury.

Vikings Top Draft Target
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.

McCarthy is still only 21 years old and will get all the time he needs to develop into the best version of himself. He will be the main talker during training camp and the top attraction in the three preseason contests.

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 prefers Classic rock over other genres. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt