The 5 Most Likely Players to Be Drafted by Vikings

Mel Kiper's Latest Draft 'Big Board' Causes Problems for Vikings
Vikings NFL Draft

Some 12 weeks of the Minnesota Vikings’ offseason are in the rearview, with free agency basically over and the 2024 NFL Draft 26 days away.

The 5 Most Likely Players to Be Drafted by Vikings

The club has onboarded new free agents, re-signed internal players, and even delivered a blockbuster trade two weeks ago in preparation for the draft, which will feel like a grand climax. All Vikings fans’ eyes have turned to the draft, and rightfully so. The organization needs a quarterback of the future after Kirk Cousins departed for the Atlanta Falcons 2.5 weeks ago.

So, with the NFL draft less than four weeks away, these are the five likeliest players to end up in purple from Round 1, ranked in ascending order (No. 1 = most likely draft pick in Round 1).

5. Michael Penix Jr. (QB)
Washington

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

A quite a bit of steam existed for Penix Jr. to the Vikings — before the College Football National Championship. But his draft stock tumbled after that game, and J.J. McCarthy’s soared. There’s always a chance, however, that Minnesota loves Penix Jr. behind the scenes and makes him the pick at No. 11.

Penix Jr. isn’t incredibly accurate like other quarterbacks in this draft class, and Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell covets that trait in his quarterbacks. Still, Penix Jr. to Minnesota must be included on the list because of the Vikings’ quarterback draft need.

4. Byron Murphy II (DT)
Texas

Texas Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian greets Texas Longhorns defensive lineman Byron Murphy II (90) on senior night before the game against Texas Tech at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023. © Mikala Compton/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK.

Minnesota really struck out at defensive tackle during free agency, evidently bidding on Christian Wilkins but ultimately losing to the Las Vegas Raiders. In return, it signed Jerry Tillery and Jonah Williams.

There’s a small chance that general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah sticks-and-picks, selecting a defensive tackle — like Murphy II — at No. 11 and Penix Jr. (listed above) at No. 23. If the Vikings don’t land a sweet rookie DT or trade for one before the start of the regular season, that spot will be at the top of everyone’s wish lists next offseason.

Think of it this way: should the Vikings surprise everyone and not draft a quarterback first on April 27th, the alternative will probably be the best defensive tackle in the draft. Many believe that’s Murphy II.

3. Jayden Daniels (QB)
LSU

ESPN Says This
Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports.

“He’s gonna get the ball out to his playmakers and make plays for Washington,” LSU head coach Brian Kelly told reporters about Daniels’ upside at LSU’s Pro Day.

The man probably spilled the beans, meaning Daniels is heading to Washington. However, if Kelly and sportsbooks are wrong, Minnesota still has a puncher’s chance at landing the extremely mobile quarterback. To net Daniels, Adofo-Mensah would have to hope that Washington swerves and drafts Drake Maye, leaving the Vikings to do business with New England, and voila, a Daniels-to-Minnesota resolution.

This is the simplest way to think of it: Minnesota will probably leave the draft with one of the Top 4 quarterback prospects not named Caleb Williams, so Daniels checks in at No. 3 here.

2. Drake Maye (QB)
North Carolina

purple rumor mill
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

Because the Vikings pulled off an unforeseen trade two weeks ago, grabbing an additional 1st-Round pick from the Houston Texans while offloading two 2nd-Rounders in the deal, plus a late-round pick swap, Maye is attainable.

Maye to Minnesota — or Mayennesota — felt like a pipe dream in January.

But not anymore. Minnesota possesses extra draft capital and can move up for Maye, especially after hiring one of his high school coaches in Josh McCown. The purple team’s next quarterback feels like a binary choice, at least among fans, between Maye and the next guy.

1. J.J. McCarthy (QB)
Michigan

Vikings Draft Prospect
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

If Vegas is correct, McCarthy will quarterback the Vikings during life after Kirk Cousins. Minnesota is the odds-on favorite for the arrangement.

McCarthy should be gettable through trade with the Arizona Cardinals (Pick No. 4) or Los Angeles Chargers (Pick No. 5) — unless the draft smoke is real, and he goes second or third overall — meaning the Vikings will have to donate two 1st-Rounders, not three, for McCarthy’s services.

If McCarthy is the fourth passer off the board, he’s the most easily accessible for the Vikings, a team owning the 11th and 23rd picks.


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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