ESPN 2024 Mock Draft Sends Vikings a QB in Unconventional Manner

Jan 1, 2024; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns in the 2024 Sugar Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings will certainly be in the market for a QB prospect during the 2024 NFL Draft.

Many have assumed that quarterback will come via the first round, whether it be with the 11th overall selection or via a trade further up the board. However, Matt Miller of ESPN published a two-round mock draft on Monday morning suggesting that not only could the Vikings opt not to trade up, but they could wait until the second round to pursue a QB prospect.

ESPN 2024 Mock Draft Sends Vikings QB

Mock Draft
Jan 1, 2024; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) runs the ball during the fourth quarter against the Texas Longhorns in the 2024 Sugar Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

First and foremost, Miller has the Vikings opting to take a pass rusher with their first round selection at No. 11 overall. That pass rusher is Dallas Turner out of Alabama, who is one of the youngest players in this year’s class. Here is Miller’s rationale for the selection:

The Vikings are at a crossroads with quarterback Kirk Cousins hitting free agency at 36 years old and coming off an Achilles tear suffered in Week 8. Could they pull the trigger on Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy, Oregon’s Bo Nix or Washington’s Michael Penix Jr.? Yes, but there are needs across the board. Danielle Hunter is a free agent, and Turner would perfectly fit D-coordinator Brian Flores’ defensive wish list at edge rusher.

Dec 2, 2023; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dallas Turner (15) celebrates after a sack in the second quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Turner just turned 21 years old a couple days ago on February 2nd. After spending his freshman season as a rotational player for the Alabama defense, he emerged as a starter opposite Will Anderson in 2022. Then, he became the Crimson Tide’s primary pass rushing presence in 2023 after Anderson headed to the NFL.

Miller wrote the following on Turner’s production and his potential at the NFL level:

Turner had 10 sacks in his breakout 2023 season, and one NFC area scout thinks his ceiling is higher than former college teammate Will Anderson Jr., who went No. 3 in last year’s draft. Turner has excellent speed in space with a pro player comparison to the Jaguars’ Josh Allen. He’s my top-ranked defender in the class and would be a steal this late in the night.

Given his age as well as his ridiculous explosion off the line of scrimmage, Turner would be an excellent choice at No. 11 with how thin the Vikings are at the OLB/DE spots.

Oct 14, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Dallas Turner (15) reacts after holding Arkansas Razorbacks to a loss of yardage during the fourth quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Penix’s draft stock varies depending on who you ask, but the most consistent answer I’ve heard is the second round, given the four season-ending injuries he suffered at Indiana (two knee injuries, two shoulder injuries). Penix has excellent arm strength and velocity, and as a pure passer, he’s a first-rounder. He threw for nearly 5,000 yards in 2023 and helped lead Washington to the national title game. But those injury and durability questions push him to the Vikings.

It’s great news for Minnesota, where Kirk Cousins is set to become a 35-year-old free agent coming off an Achilles injury. Penix can be the quarterback-in-waiting if Cousins is re-signed, or the immediate starter if he is not.

Penix’s injury history is a major concern heading into the NFL level, particularly considering it was a yearly event until he got to Washington. However, it should not be overlooked that the QB has spent the past two seasons largely healthy and available for the Huskies.

Should he join the Vikings, Penix would also have the benefit of playing behind an offensive tackle duo of Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill, two of the better players in the NFL at the position. This could go a long way towards ensuring the QB remains healthy and avoids taking too many hits.

Nov 19, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) passes against the Colorado Buffaloes during the second quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

If he can keep the injury concerns at bay, Penix is a very talented quarterback who certainly can find success at the NFL level. He has one of the strongest arms in this draft class, and it would be an absolutely treat to watch him throw passes to Jordan Addison and Justin Jefferson.

The future of Cousins with the Vikings is uncertain at best, and there is at least some chance that he opts to head elsewhere in 2024. If that happens, Minnesota needs to make the quarterback position a top priority in the draft.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Focus helped with this article.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.

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