Could Sam Darnold lead the Vikings to the playoffs in 2024?

The Vikings' QB battle seems like it might be over before it started.
Sam Darnold throwing at Vikings OTAs
Sam Darnold throwing at Vikings OTAs / Andy Kenutis/Minnesota Vikings
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After the Vikings drafted J.J. McCarthy with the No. 10 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft, many fans have seemed to brush past free agent QB Sam Darnold and already look towards the future, but is it too soon?

Darnold signed a one-year, $10 million contract with Minnesota this offseason. He was drafted No. 3 overall in 2018, but he's never been able to put it all together with 63 touchdowns and 56 interceptions in his career.

Last season, he acted as the 49ers' backup quarterback, beating out former top-three pick Trey Lance to work behind Brock Purdy. Still only 27 years old, he has proven to be a serviceable backup option, but he realizes that this year might be his last chance to be a starter in the NFL.

"It's just how it goes, right? There's a lot of businesses where you can be in your business for 30-40 years, and the NFL, I think the average is like 3-4 years. It's a little bit different," he told the Star Tribune. "Going into my seventh year now, even though I still am young, I do feel like a vet and just being able to help guys — not only J.J., but help any young guys in the locker room that need anything, I'm always happy to help."

In his lone start last season for San Francisco, he completed 16 of 26 passes (61.5%) for 189 yards and one touchdown, while adding 19 rushing yards and one touchdown in a 21-20 loss to the Rams. In six starts in 2022 for the Panthers, he played relatively well, totaling 1,143 passing yards, seven touchdowns and only three interceptions while completing 58.6% of his passes.

All reports point to the former USC product having an impressive offseason thus far. The Vikings' ideal plan would obviously be for to be their QB of the future, but Darnold also knows the opportunity he has in front of him.

"Everything that I have heard so far is that Sam Darnold has had a really good spring, he's dialed in," said NFL Network's Tom Pelissero on Tuesday's episode of The Insiders. "He is talented, he was the third overall pick back in 2018. He's got a huge arm, can make plays. It's just been about the consistency, limiting those types of really bad plays that can completely blow up a game."

Outside of last season as a backup in San Francisco, Darnold will have by far the best weapons, and arguably the most stable coaching staff of his career this year in Minnesota. Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson and Aaron Jones are a dynamic group of playmakers.

The fact that Kevin O'Connell's offense is as new to Darnold as it is to McCarthy makes a comparison to Alex Smith leading the Chiefs to an AFC West title in Patrick Mahomes' rookie season fairly moot. But, the Vikings have a roster that could compete with anyone in the league if they get top-15 play at the quarterback position.


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Tony Liebert

TONY LIEBERT