The Wildcard Tomorrow Night during Vikings Draft

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Alas, the Minnesota Vikings are one day away from an almighty offseason climax. Six weeks ago, quarterback Kirk Cousins left for the Atlanta Falcons, prompting the start of a new era, which probably begins Thursday night with a rookie quarterback selection.

The Wildcard Tomorrow Night during Vikings Draft

Most expect Minnesota to exit Night No. 1 of the draft with a quarterback, and some have made the choice quite binary between North Carolina’s Drake Maye and Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy.

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But there’s one wildcard between or after those two men, and his name is Michael Penix Jr.

The Washington Huskies quarterback played wonderfully in the College Football Semifinal four months ago, so much so that the world chirped about how dazzling he could fit in the Vikings’ offense. But then his team lost to McCarthy and the Michigan Wolverines in the National Championship while he struggled and consequently slid down all draftboards.

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Yet, Penix Jr. is the wildcard for Minnesota because he’s an insurance policy. That is — if Minnesota’s leadership regime secretly adores Penix Jr., drafting him after possibly striking out on Maye and McCarthy via trade makes the stakes in trading up less stressful.

A mindset of “Well, we can grab Penix Jr. if we don’t want to pay that much for Maye or McCarthy” can be invaluable. Whether the Vikings share that opinion is the mystery.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.’s Daniel Jeremiah said this week, “I feel like Minnesota is even saying, we like J.J. at 11. We don’t have enough conviction that we’re going to part with all we’ll have to part with because now, now, like basically, if you’re comparing JJ to Penix, if they feel like, hey, worst case scenario, J.J. is gone, but we get Penix .… So I’m thinking Minnesota might just hold their water here at 11.”

Here, the wildcard is vocalized in living color. Minnesota could, in theory, watch for a McCarthy slide without anxiety — if it has no hesitations about “ending up with Penix Jr.” It’s a built-in bet hedge.

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Why wouldn’t Minnesota simply be in love with Penix Jr. no matter what? Well, it’s complicated. His scouting report isn’t as wondrous as Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, Drake Maye, or J.J. McCarthy. He’s “the other guy” in draft circles. Penix Jr. is also old by rookie standards: he’ll turn 24 next month. And then his injury history is longer than a boa constrictor.

That’s why he’ll fall out of the Top 10, with some draft heads speculating that his draft tumble could plunge him out of Round 1 altogether. We shall see.

On the whole, if Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell love Penix Jr., draft night shouldn’t involve too much internal angst. He’s the Plan B.

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).

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