Vikings History Says Drafting a QB Can be a Fool’s Errand – And Yet Still Worthwhile

3 Prospects Whose Draft Stock Could Rise at the Combine
Sep 3, 2022; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) looks to pass during the second quarter against the Miami (Oh) Redhawks at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Currently, the momentum for Minnesota drafting the next signal caller has been undergoing a massive increase. A mere ripple in the water a month or two ago, the Vikings are now staring down a full blown tidal wave.

The concern, of course, is that recent Vikings history hasn’t been kind to Minnesota when it comes to the NFL draft and the quarterback position.

Indeed, the team certainly has made an effort to bolster the position by picking several QBs since 2000. Unfortunately, none remain on the roster. In fact, none could qualify as being successes in Minnesota.

Not too long after making the post, I was helpfully reminded that I omitted a notable name: Joe Webb. In the words of a great cartoon philosopher: d’oh!

A college QB who (for a time) was considered for WR duties in the NFL, Webb played for the Vikings from 2010-13. Afterwards, he received opportunities in Carolina, Buffalo, Houston, and New York (Giants).

My Twitter foibles aside, the broader point remains: drafting a QB during the current millennia has gone poorly for Minnesota.

Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kellen Mond (11) takes a snap during the first quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Success in the NFL goes beyond just starts, but it’s one objective measure of a QB’s effectiveness. Take a peak at where things stand (with the caveat that some are still pursuing NFL careers):

  • Jackson – 34
  • Thigpen – 12
  • Booty – 0
  • Webb – 4 (PFR suggests 1 start came as a WR)
  • Ponder – 36
  • Bridgewater – 65
  • Stanley – 0
  • Mond – 0

The group leaves much to be desired. Bridgewater has easily had the best career of the bunch. It’s fair to wonder if things would have gone differently for the affable, charming QB had he not suffered the serious injury.

Looking back, the hype about Kellen Mond supplanting Kirk Cousins seems remarkably foolish. Sure, he moves well and was productive in college, but Mond has really struggled to get his NFL career off the ground. Meanwhile, Cousins keeps churning out yards, touchdowns, and clutch comebacks. Is #8 a perfect QB? Far from it, and yet he consistently slots into the NFL’s top half at his position.

Nov 6, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) run onto the field for warmup prior to their game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Part of the issue, of course, is that signing up for Cousins as the QB solution involves a cap hit that exceeds $20 million in 2023 (it was more than $31 million last year; oh, and there is a hefty $28.5 million dead money hit in 2024 if the veteran isn’t extended). Drafting and developing a homegrown QB offers the purple GM with considerably more financial flexibility for the short and intermediate, something Kwesi Adofo-Mensah covets.

Furthermore, Kevin O’Connell recently addressed how a QB on his rookie deal makes life easier. “Having those 4 years of that player,” O’Connell notes, “on kind of that scale that allows you to build a roster around those players has been an advantage.” Some may recall Adofo-Mensah’s recent “threshold” comments and the necessity of meeting a particular standard for QB play. Part of what made those words so fascinating is that meeting the threshold is merely the first step. Having enough money left over to fill out a competitive roster is the second component.

In other words, if a rookie QB can meet the threshold for a fraction of the cost, why wouldn’t Minnesota transition to a young fella?

Yes, the Vikings may be wise to target a QB in the NFL Draft. Cousins’ task will involve proving that he’s so valuable to the franchise that he’s not only better than any young QB but better than the rookie QB and considerably more robust talent on the roster.

Last season, Jalen Hurts had a $1.643 million cap hit. Put differently, Hurts had a cap hit more than 19 times less expensive than Cousins’ 2022 cap hit. That’s where the rubber meets the road, folks: successfully finding that QB who can thrive while on a rookie deal presents massive upside for a team. Hurts, someone whom most would insist played better than Cousins last year, had a cap hit that was minuscule in comparison to #8. It’s no wonder Howie Roseman was able to build such a formidable roster.

Feb 28, 2023; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo‐Mensah during the NFL combine at the Indiana Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports.

The past 20+ years show that it’s very difficult to find a strong QB in the NFL Draft. Minnesota, frankly, has done a very poor job. With a new GM and HC combo, though, it’s worth seriously considering giving it another shot.

Nailing the pick could lead to an incredibly fortuitous situation for the franchise.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.