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Have the Vikings played themselves out of selecting a QB in the first round?

Vikings are 7-6 and fighting for a playoff spot with an uncertain future at QB

Even before Kirk Cousins' season-ending Achilles injury, the Vikings were followed by questions about who will play quarterback in 2024 and beyond. Now more than six weeks after Cousins' injury the question lingers with no clear answer in sight. 

Despite a 7-6 record that leaves the Vikings in a good spot to make the playoffs, Purple Insider's Matthew Coller says Minnesota hasn't necessarily played itself out of drafting their quarterback of the future. 

Coller noted recent teams that were competitive the season before they drafted a quarterback in the first half of the first round. 

  • The 2016 Kansas City Chiefs finished 12-4 and were eliminated in the Divisional Round. Kansas City moved up from 27th to 10th to take Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft.
  • The 2017 Buffalo Bills finished 9-7 and lost to Jacksonville in the Wild Card round. Buffalo then traded up twice, from 21st to 12th and from 12th to 7th to take Josh Allen in the 2018 draft.
  • The 2020 Bears made the playoffs with an 8-8 record and were bounced in the Wild Card round. Chicago moved up from 20th to 11th to take Justin Fields in the 2021 draft.

"That's what it will most likely will take, is a trade up," Coller says. 

The overarching theme of Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's regime has been 'competitive rebuild.' Everything the young general manager did always seemed to point to a transition between the 2023 and 2024 seasons. Cousins wasn't extended beyond the 2023 season. A number of key veterans were either traded away or allowed to leave through free agency last offseason.

Even when Cousins went down with a season-ending injury the Vikings refused to give up significant draft capital to bring in a QB that could usher the then 4-4 team through the rest of the season.

The only thing that has put a question in that plan was Cousins' overall play since head coach Kevin O'Connell took over. Would Cousins' outstanding play the past season and a half change long-held opinions of the 36-year-old? That particular question is yet to be answered, but an Achilles injury this late in a player's career will always be a massive red flag to overcome.

How does it all impact their ability to draft a member of the hyped 2024 QB class?

"When you look at the very top, I don't think there is any question that Caleb Williams and Drake Maye are going to be at the top of this entire draft," Coller said. "Jayden Daniels has played himself into a spot in the first round, as well, by winning the Heisman, putting up crazy numbers but also that skillset, his speed, his arm talent, that plays in the NFL. 

"We've seen a lot of quarterbacks with similar skillsets have success whether it's Lamar Jackson or Jalen Hurts. I think the NFL has figured out, and we saw it last year with Anthony Richardson being taken high, that those physical abilities, they will translate if you can coach them. I think they might have played themselves out of those three but there are other prospects here as well that have potential to step in and be a franchise quarterback."

Dec 9, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Jayden Daniels holds up the Heisman Trophy after winning the Heisman Trophy in the Astor ballroom at the New York Marriott Marquis.

Dec 9, 2023; New York, New York, USA; Jayden Daniels holds up the Heisman Trophy after winning the Heisman Trophy in the Astor ballroom at the New York Marriott Marquis.

While the top talents are possibly out of contention, this upcoming draft class is deep. Draft experts have been looking at upwards of six prospects as potential first-round talents. 

"Michael Penix Jr., to me, looks like someone who could be a potential fit with his arm talent," Coller continued. "He's a pocket passer but he has got tons of accuracy and arm strength. He has picked apart defenses to bring Washington to places that University has not been to in a long time, as far as getting into the college football playoffs. 

"J.J. McCarthy is a little more controversial of a prospect. Some people may not see as much physical gifts there but a guy who can operate the offense. Bo Nix has really put his name at the top of the draft, potentially, as well. So, there's players that could come along with intrigue or the Vikings might look at where they stand with their offense and defense and say, 'This is the time to use those draft picks.'"

Coller pointed out the development of guys like Josh Metellus, Ivan Pace Jr., Cam Bynum and Akayleb Evans as reasons why high draft picks won't be needed on that side of the ball. With less of a reason to use draft capital on the defense, there may be an increased possibility of Adofo-Mensah packaging picks in an attempt to move up for a QB like the 2017 Chiefs, 2018 Bills and 2020 Bears did.

"Because the defense has come along as far as it has, because the offensive line and receivers have come along as far as they have, [there is room to] send a couple of draft picks out to move up and potentially get a quarterback," Coller hypothesized.

According to Tankathon, if the draft were to take place today the Vikings would have the 22nd pick. Minnesota currently has their own picks in the first, second and fourth rounds with additional picks in the fourth, fifth (x2), sixth and seventh rounds acquired through trades.

"We are a long way from that because Kirk Cousins could still potentially come back. I think one thing we can check off though is Josh Dobbs being the bridge quarterback. That seems, now, less likely to happen. So, it's either going to be draft, a trade that we can't anticipate right now or Kirk Cousins returning. I think there are lots of options that we're going to find out over the next couple months," Coller said.