The Case for Drake Maye & The Case for J.J. McCarthy

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports | Sep 16, 2023; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) passes the ball as Minnesota Golden Gophers linebacker Maverick Baranowski (6) pressures in the fourth quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports.

If you’re wrestling with who the Minnesota Vikings will draft in four days — and you believe the choice is binary between Drake Maye and J.J. McCarthy — you’re in the right spot.

The Case for Drake Maye & The Case for J.J. McCarthy

This piece will examine the cases of Maye and McCarthy, respectively, to determine a prediction for the Vikings. It is not to find an endorsement or ideal fit — it’s an examination to understand which man will end up in purple.

Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports | Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) celebrates after winning the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game against the Washington Huskies at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports.

So, to get to the bottom of the pick, here are the predictive cases for each.

The Case for Drake Maye

1. The Josh McCown Angle

vikings
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota hired Josh McCown in February, and he coached Maye in high school. That’s not a grand coincidence, right?

The former-coach-player thing is prevalent in sports, and there just has to be something to the McCown hire involving Maye.

2. A Higher Ceiling, per Scouts

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Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports.

Indeed, draft heads have fallen in love with McCarthy in the last four months, but from the jump, Maye was considered the Robin to Caleb Williams’ Batman when 2024 draft hubbub began a year ago.

Head coach Kevin O’Connell may want the sweetest possible quarterback option; after Williams, that’s Maye.

3. More Prototypical Size

drake maye
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports.

When McCarthy arrived at the NFL Combine, many wondered if his frame could hold up for the long haul in the NFL. Well, he weighed in at 219 pounds, and most size-related fears regarding McCarthy vanished.

Maye never had any size malarkey. The guy is over 6’4″ and about 230 pounds. He’s already there for prototypical quarterback size. That’s why he receives so many Josh Allen and Justin Herbert comps.

4. Bolder Move for Life after Kirk Cousins

kirk cousins
March 13, 2024. Newly signed Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Kirk Cousins sits down with Falcons Digital Producer Taylor Vismor to discuss his signing with the Falcons. Kirk talks about the exciting playmaking roster he is joining and what a move to Atlanta means to him and his family.

Some analysts have called McCarthy a version of “Kirk Cousins 2.0.” Here’s a news flash: it wouldn’t be very bold to draft Young Kirk Cousins after employing Normal Kirk Cousins for six years.

Maye has no Cousins comps, and in fact, he’s closer to the aforementioned Allen and Herbert.

5. More Dropbacks in College

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Maye also doesn’t have any of those “McCarthy didn’t have to do much at Michigan” fears. He was a one-man show on offense at times in 2023. McCarthy was the opposite.

Imagine, for a minute, if Maye had quarterbacked the Wolverines last year.

The Case for J.J. McCarthy

1. “QB Wins”

Harbaugh in action
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings might want to hop into bed with a “proven winner” for their quarterback of the future. McCarthy is that — more so than Maye.

McCarthy has experienced his draftboard climb since January because of his team’s accolades that month. Maybe that means something to general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

2. A Personality Exactly like Kevin O’Connell

Vikings Can Buy
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

Kevin O’Connell and J.J. McCarthy are the same human being, per personality. If O’Connell wants his younger self to lead his team, well, that’s McCarthy, a beacon of optimism, smiley faces, and a winning-culture attitude.

Maye isn’t sour or anything of the sort, but O’Connell and McCarthy are the Spider-Man meme.

3. More Affordable via Trade

NFL Draft
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

McCarthy can likely be obtained via trade with the Arizona Cardinals or Los Angeles Chargers. That swap will be more affordable than the one for Maye, and Adofo-Mensah loves his value.

If hanging onto next year’s 1st-Rounder is a dealbreaker for Minnesota, rolling with McCarthy over Maye is more likely.

4. More Likely to Fall to Vikings

vikings gm
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

Maye was the consensus No. 2 quarterback on the board for over a year. Then, McCarthy sprinted up folks’ big boards.

Generally speaking, McCarthy is more likely to tumble into the Vikings’ lap than Maye.

5. The Oddsmakers’ Favorite

Vikings Vegas Odds
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Minnesota’s Vegas odds to land McCarthy are +160. It’s +500 for Maye.

Enough said.

6. WAS Could Draft Drake Maye

vikings trade
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports.

The Washington Commanders could draft Maye, and no one would be too shocked. By default, that shoves McCarthy downward and closer to Minnesota’s trade zone.

Conversely, it would be quite weird for Washington or New England to draft McCarthy — the Commanders, especially.


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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