Vikings Settled for a Good QB After Failing to Trade for a Great One

The Vikings failed to get one of the three best signal-callers in the 2024 NFL draft before eventually ending up with Michigan's J.J. McCarthy after trading up one spot. 
The Vikings selected McCarthy with the No. 10 pick after trading up only one spot.
The Vikings selected McCarthy with the No. 10 pick after trading up only one spot. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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I don’t want to hear that he was the one you wanted all along. Don’t put this quarterback project on the shoulders of the head coach and gloat when he makes it work. Let’s not hide any longer behind the facade of pragmatism when we know the Minnesota Vikings’ pick at No. 10 in Thursday’s NFL draft felt more like a hedge than it did a declaration of their future. 

The Vikings needed a quarterback. They armed themselves with additional first-round capital to make the deal. But something happened, four others went in the top eight, and now a fanbase has to sit around and listen to more convoluted analogies about economics, insurance and analytics and everything that the football front office has turned to while losing its guts in the process. 

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Trading up one spot isn’t something to applaud. It felt more like a performative gesture to signify real interest. This sounds harsh but sometimes the truth is just sitting out there. The Vikings failed to get one of the three best quarterbacks in this draft before eventually ending up with J.J. McCarthy out of Michigan, and if indeed the No. 3 pick was available, they committed malpractice. If any other team between Nos. 4-9 was willing to trade back, they committed malpractice. At some point, the decision isn’t about how finitely a GM can get the draft slot and the value lined up. It’s about throwing the ball off the backboard and jamming a quarterback down the throats of every other team in the division. I don’t know that McCarthy does that. 

Let’s back up and note that whomever Kevin O’Connell got his hands on would probably work in some capacity. However, success in that regard doesn’t patch over what we saw Thursday night, which was a clinic in fence sitting. O’Connell won games with Joshua Dobbs after having worked with the quarterback for less time than it takes to Doordash a taco salad. The Vikings are going to be in playoff contention because they found a fiery play-caller who can make it enjoyable for the team to come to work every day. O’Connell will maximize McCarthy’s processing ability. He’ll get him to the point where, one day, he can play a lot like a more mobile Kirk Cousins. 

But this is a team that deserves something monumental, an investment on behalf of a front office that inherited the greatest offensive nonquarterback in the NFL, and since has built a team that wins miraculously in spite of a notable thinness across the defense, and, well, basically in every other position the new regime was hired to come in and fix. Outside of Jordan Addison, what is the calling card of GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah? 

Justin Jefferson is still, somehow, unsigned long-term, and his holdout (he did not report to phase 1 of the offseason program) will almost certainly bleed into training camp because the matter was not taken care of in a timely fashion. And signing him to an extension just got more difficult thanks to the Eagles extending A.J. Brown. What kind of precursory olive branch was, well, we wanted to get someone to throw to you, but the other guys were a little too expensive? Well, we really wanted to hold on to that third-round pick in 2025? Well, we also needed that defensive back to cover up for the last few we drafted who haven’t worked out. That’s what makes this draft all the more disappointing. Its effects will linger like earthquake aftershocks. 

Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah
Adofo-Mensah was under pressure to draft the Vikings' franchise quarterback after losing Kirk Cousins to the Falcons in free agency. / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

I understand the code of secrecy when it comes to these situations, but Adofo-Mensah needs to come out and say what he offered the Patriots and what they countered. Plain and simple. While no one is going to drag him in front of congress or a court of law—and really, what does that seem to do anymore anyway—there are a few times when full transparency is the only way for people to understand why you blinked. Or if you blinked. Or how you came to understand that this was the best course of action. 

Who knows. Maybe it will endear us to Minnesota’s front office. If the New England Patriots simply asked for four first-round draft picks and hung up, I think we can all understand the lack of aggression. But at the moment, it looks like the team simply folded up the menu and decided to order whatever the waiter was willing to bring. QB5 out of six in the first round. 

How does a team that’s not good enough settle for good enough? 

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John Pluym


John Pluym is the managing editor for NFL and golf content at Sports Illustrated. A sports history buff, he previously spent 10 years at ESPN overseeing NFL coverage. John has won several awards throughout his career, including from the Society of News Design and Associated Press Sports Editors. As a native Minnesotan, he enjoys spending time on his boat and playing golf.