Skip to main content

Is there a trade-up scenario that makes sense for Vikings?

A report linked the Vikings with moving up to No. 3, is that a good idea?

Ah, rumor season is here. At the Super Bowl it was clear that NFL insiders were hunting for any information they could find about Kirk Cousins’ future with the Vikings and we landed on everything from ESPN’s report that they could trade up with the New England Patriots to Sam Darnold becoming Minnesota’s next starting QB.

Conclusion: Nobody really knows what’s going to happen.

However, the trade-up option has been in the air for awhile. Last year there was buzz that the Vikings tried to acquire Anthony Richardson but the Colts were dead set on taking him with the fourth overall pick. Could they take another swing this year for either Jayden Daniels or Drake Maye? Would that be a good idea from a value perspective over taking another potential first-round QB like JJ McCarthy or Bo Nix?

Let’s look to the numbers for guidance…

For many years there was only one model that was ever referenced when evaluating draft pick trades: The Jimmy Johnson Model. Invented by the former Cowboys coach himself, the system provided a road map for teams making moves with picks and the outside world deciding whether teams did a good job or not.

In an article for the 33rd Team, former Eagles executive Joe Banner wrote of the JJ mode:

“It was as brilliant as it was groundbreaking, assigning the largest numerical values to the highest picks, and it was used by everyone. And for good reason: It made life simple when evaluating the fairness of trades involving draft picks. You knew when you were on the phone talking about a possible deal that you and your potential trade partner were looking at the same chart.”

Banner also wrote that Jimmy’s chart has become obsolete in part because the 2011 CBA included a rookie pay scale that changed the math. Since then teams have invented their own charts and two other charts have become widely referenced: The Rich Hill chart and the Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart.

Why don’t we have a look at what all three of them say about a possible trade up for the Vikings to the No. 3 spot? With each model we’ll toss in the 2024 first-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick and an estimated 18th overall pick in 2025 and see how it comes out.

Jimmy Johnson model

  • MN 11th pick — 1250
  • MN 42nd pick — 480
  • MN estimated 2025 pick — 900
  • NE 3rd pick — 2200

Difference: Vikings overpay by 430 points, or the equal of the 47th overall pick

Rich Hill model

  • MN 11th pick — 358
  • MN 42nd pick — 142
  • MN estimated 2025 pick — 287
  • NE 3rd pick — 514

Difference: Vikings overpay by 273 points, or the equal of the 20th overall pick

Fitzgerald- Spielberger model

  • MN 11th pick — 1785
  • MN 42nd pick — 1106
  • MN estimated 2025 pick — 1535
  • NE 3rd pick — 2443

Difference: 1938, or the equal of the 8th overall pick.

It’s clear that the Rich Hill and Fitzgerald-Spielberger models view the price tag of an all-in trade up by the Vikings as giving up much more than Johnson’s chart. That could be because Johnson weighed the top draft picks heavier. That may be an “obsolete” view but there could be a common sense element that factored for the types of players teams usually acquire with trades up to the top i.e. quarterbacks.

Making a trade to the top with lots of competition and a quarterback in the mix guarantees that a deal to get from No. 11 to No. 3 will not be a technical “win” for the Vikings. Everyone’s price increased when San Francisco set the standard by trading three first-round picks and a third-rounder to Miami in 2021 to move up from No. 12 but even if draft charts hand out a serious L to the team making the big swing the W comes in a different form if that quarterback works out: Surplus value.

Next year there are 12 quarterbacks schedule to make $40 million per year or more and a contract extension for Detroit’s Jared Goff will add him to the list. Last year’s No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young will have four seasons of cap hits under $13 million. That’s an entire winning window of $27 million in surplus value versus a veteran quarterback. What can you get with $27 million? That’s Joey Bosa’s salary. That’s more than veteran cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Darius Slay made combined. That’s an entire interior offensive line.

Does that balance out giving up obscene amounts of draft capital? That depends on the acquisition and development of talent around the quarterback. The 49ers were able to survive Trey Lance falling short of expectations because they had a foundation from hitting on draft picks like Deebo Samuel, Nick Bosa and George Kittle and were able to acquire Trent Williams, Christian McCaffrey and Javon Hargrave via trade or free agency.

In the Vikings’ case, they have the start with Justin Jefferson, Christian Darrisaw, Jordan Addison, TJ Hockenson and Brian O’Neill on the offensive side and lots of work to be done defensively. With almost nothing in the pipeline on the defensive line and needs at linebacker and cornerback still, would it be too difficult to make up the gap left by dealing the picks? Possibly but the Vikings would have multiple years to develop players under defensive coordinator Brian Flores and in recent years offense has correlated much more to reaching the Super Bowl than defense, as shown by this chart by SumerSports’ Tej Seth.

If the quarterback works out, the Vikings could figure out the defensive part along the way, particularly with teams who are out of the running always selling off talent at the deadline.

Of course, the trouble comes if the QB doesn’t work out. Carolina is in trouble if Young fails after trading up last year. In the short term Chicago survived picking Mitch Trubisky (they only moved up one spot but still gave up several draft picks) but their roster eventually collapsed. The Jets took years to build their roster again after moving up for Sam Darnold. Some clubs recovered like Washington, who made the playoffs in 2015 after giving up the farm to take Robert Griffith III in 2012 and Arizona, whose pick (Josh Rosen) was so bad they took Kyler Murray No. 1 the next season.

The Vikings might not feel like they have time to miss, even if their offensive supporting cast is young. But if they are are afraid to take a chance they might miss an opportunity to take another quarterback anyway or end up in the same conundrum as the last six years with all the same roster issues without the surplus cap space to fix them. 

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; A general overall view as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater.

Apr 28, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; A general overall view as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft at the NFL Draft Theater.