Where Does J.J. McCarthy's Supporting Cast Rank Historically?

McCarthy comes into a great situation with the Vikings.
Oct 8, 2022; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws a pass during the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium. Wolverines won 31 to 10.
Oct 8, 2022; Bloomington, Indiana, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws a pass during the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium. Wolverines won 31 to 10. / Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
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It's common knowledge by now that J.J. McCarthy is coming into a great situation with the Minnesota Vikings, who drafted him tenth overall this year. He's got a strong coaching staff led by Kevin O'Connell and Josh McCown, weapons that include Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, and Aaron Jones, and an offensive line bookended by two excellent tackles. But how does it compare to some of the other highly-drafted quarterbacks who have inherited strong supporting casts? ESPN's Aaron Schatz ranked McCarthy's situation fourth among all top-12 QBs since 1990.

"McCarthy starts his career with a great pair of receivers. Justin Jefferson might be the best receiver in the league right now, while Jordan Addison had 70 catches for 911 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie. After that, Brandon Powell and Trent Sherfield are trustworthy veterans. Tight end T.J. Hockenson had a career-high 960 receiving yards last season despite missing the final two games. Running back Aaron Jones comes over from the rival Packers, and although he had only 656 rushing yards in 11 games last season, he did have 1,121 in 2022. Backup Ty Chandler had 461 rushing yards on 4.5 yards per carry in 2023. The Vikings' offensive line is very strong, particularly with tackles Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neill. McCarthy is set up for success as soon as he enters the starting lineup."

In Schatz's rankings, McCarthy trails only Matt Leinart with the 2006 Cardinals (Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Edgerrin James), Caleb Williams with the 2024 Bears (Keenan Allen, D.J. Moore, Rome Odunze), and in the No. 1 spot...Daunte Culpepper with the 1999 Vikings (Randy Moss, Cris Carter, Jake Reed, Robert Smith). Of course, Culpepper didn't play at all as a rookie, sitting behind Jeff George and Randall Cunningham. But that same supporting cast (minus Reed) helped him explode onto the scene in 2000, recording 40 combined passing and rushing touchdowns while making the Pro Bowl and leading the Vikings to the NFC title game.

A similar situation could take place in Minnesota 25 years later. The Vikings aren't going to rush McCarthy's development, so it seems likely that Sam Darnold will be their starting quarterback for at least a major chunk of this season. If he plays well enough, it would give Minnesota the ability to sit McCarthy for the entire year and prepare him to take over in 2025.

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Will Ragatz


Will Ragatz is the publisher of Inside the Vikings, an SI.com channel in the Fan Nation network. He's in his fourth season as a credentialed Minnesota Vikings beat writer, covering the team at practices, games, and all offseason long.  Will posts daily Vikings articles year-round. Not only is he on top of all the latest news, he provides the analysis and context to put the news into perspective. He knows the team inside and out, which allows him to bring depth and quality to his coverage. From free agency to the draft to training camp and the NFL season, Will covers every relevant story surrounding the Vikings. Prior to taking this role in 2019, Will attended Northwestern University and studied at the renowned Medill School of Journalism. As a student, he covered Northwestern Wildcats football and basketball, among other sports, for SB Nation's Inside NU. Will was a co-editor-in-chief of the site during his junior year. In the fall of 2018, Will interned at Sports Illustrated's newsroom in New York City, writing articles primarily on Major League Baseball, college football, and college basketball for SI.com. A native of Minneapolis who still resides in the city, Will grew up a diehard Minnesota sports fan. He played baseball at Southwest High School and wrote for the student newspaper.