High Anxiety at Vikings HQ and Other Draft Reactions

The Vikings Most Significant Area of Improvement This Offseason
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

The Vikings entered the 2024 draft determined to pick a future franchise quarterback. I know from experience that GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Coach Kevin O’Connell, and Vikings staff members were experiencing high anxiety from picks 4-10 after Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels, and Drake Maye were taken from 1-3.

High Anxiety at Vikings HQ and Other Draft Reactions

Especially when the Falcons were on the clock for No. 8, and it was reported that they would pick a quarterback. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell had to be thinking J.J. McCarthy was headed to Atlanta. But in this draft’s most stunning move, Michael Penix Jr. was the Falcons’ choice, and it amazingly happened after they had given Kirk Cousins a $100 million guaranteed contract as part of his four-year, $180 million free agent deal.

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Adolfo-Mensah had seen enough after waiting out the Bears’ pick of wide receiver Rome Odunze at No. 9. He made the wise move to trade with the Jets to send fourth — and fifth-round picks and get a sixth-rounder back to move up one spot to No. 10 and select McCarthy.

Major relief and exhilaration ensued at Vikings headquarters and among the fan base. The Vikings had their young quarterback, who will play on a salary cap-friendly rookie deal and compete with Sam Darnold for the starting job in what will be the biggest story to follow in training camp and preseason games.

I say kudos to Adofo-Mensah for getting McCarthy without giving up the team’s second No. 1 pick (No. 23 overall).

That enabled the Vikings’ second huge move in the first round when they traded a 2024 fifth-round pick plus third and fourth-rounders in 2025 to Jacksonville and moved up six spots to pick one of this draft’s best edge rushers in Dallas Turner, who will join the effort (along with free agent signees Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel) to replace the production of Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum.

Minnesota Vikings 2024 NFL Draft. Watch as QB J.J. McCarthy addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center on Friday. The Vikings traded up one spot on the draftboard with the New York Jets for McCarthy.

The Vikings could well get a third-round compensatory pick next year for the loss of Cousins and Hunter, which could replace the third-round pick going to the Jaguars.

Adding McCarthy and Turner is potentially franchise-altering for the Vikings. The organization and Vikings fan base are more excited about the upcoming 2024 season. O’Connell says McCarthy won’t be rushed into the starting lineup. But the 21-year-old national championship QB from Michigan is smart and motivated, along with a talented passer and runner. He’s an excellent athlete who is not reckless, as we saw too often with Josh Dobbs and Nick Mullens last season. He has the arm talent to make all the throws—into tight windows and on deep balls. And he knows when to take off running to pick up key first downs.

He must bulk up to handle the hits he’ll take in the NFL. And like any rookie, he has a learning curve, and the process starts immediately, but he played in a pro-style offense at Michigan under an excellent coach in Jim Harbaugh (who, like O’Connell, was an NFL QB). Even though the Wolverines ran the ball over 60% of the time, McCarthy made plays when required, and as O’Connell pointed out, he had a high success rate on third-and-long when he had to make a play passing or running. We clearly saw that in Michigan’s 2023 unbeaten season. McCarthy owns a terrific record of 27-1 in his two years as the starter.

NFL Draft
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McCarthy said he is going to the perfect team and has the best supporting cast of the six first-round QBs entering the league this season. He has QB-friendly coaches in O’Connell and long-time NFL QB Josh McCown, the Vikings QB Coach. Then there’s immense skill position talent for him to work with in Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, and Aaron Jones, along with two elite OTs in Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill. The interior O-line is questionable, and we’ll see if the Vikings upgrade it further in the coming months by perhaps bringing back Dalton Risner and if Ed Ingram improves in his third season.

In the final analysis, it would surprise me if McCarthy is not the team’s starter at some point this coming season, and he certainly could win the job in training camp.

It’s more clear-cut that Turner will be in the edge rusher rotation as a key player in DC Brian Flores’ scheme, which should be conducive for Turner to be impactful. He ran a blazing 4.46 40 at the Combine. He’s explosive off the edge and so athletic he can play the run and pass well or drop into coverage.

Turner needs to bulk up a bit to help his run defense against elite and physical offensive tackles that he can’t fly past. That will happen as the 21-year-old hits the weight room at the Vikings facility. He should be an exciting player for Flores to utilize in game-changing ways.

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I like that both McCarthy and Turner played for college football powers in Michigan and Alabama, so they are used to pressure games and playing in front of large, boisterous crowds at home and away.

In an NFC North that has potentially great QB talent in Detroit (Jared Goff), Green Bay (Jordan Love), and now Chicago (Williams), the Vikings are hopeful the additions of McCarthy and Turner will be a big help in putting the Vikings back in the division race.

Observations on other Vikings draftees:

Fourth-round pick Khyree Jackson (Oregon) brings good value at his draft spot. He’s tall at 6-3 and a solid man coverage corner who allowed only one TD last season. He has a good chance to earn a roster spot at corner and perhaps challenge for a starting role at some point if he can be more consistent than recent draftees Akayleb Evans, Mekhi Blackmon, and Andrew Booth Jr.

Sixth-round pick Walter Rouse (Oklahoma) should be a good depth tackle and can replace Oli Udoh as a backup. He did not allow a sack last season. It would be nice if he could also play guard.

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Sixth-round pick Will Reichard has a good shot at winning the kicking job with his big leg and accuracy from 50+ yards. He made 10 of 13 field goals over 50 yards in his college career, and he kicked in pressure situations in front of large crowds for Alabama.

Seventh-round pick Michael Jurgens could be a sleeper pick as a guard/center. He was a good run blocker and pass protector for Wake Forest.

Seventh-round defensive lineman Levi Drake Rodriguez played at small school Texas A&M-Commerce and was one of the best FCS interior pass rushers in 2023, so he’ll have a chance to make it at a position that the Vikings have tried to address in free agency and the draft.  

Jeff Diamond is a former Vikings GM, former Tennessee Titans President and was selected NFL Executive of the Year after the Vikings’ 15-1 season in 1998. He now works for the NFL agent group IFA based in Minneapolis and does other sports consulting and media work along with college/corporate speaking. Follow him and direct message him on Twitter– @jeffdiamondnfl