Vikings Mock Draft: Kwesi Wheels and Deals 3 Trades

NFL: Combine
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings will have a new quarterback under center in 2024, that much we know for sure. What we don’t know, is who that QB will be. 

Longtime QB Kirk Cousins signed with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency. The Vikings did bring in former first-round pick Sam Darnold. However, that pact is just a one-year, $10 million prove-it deal. The Darnold contract should not preclude the team from adding a rookie in the 2024 NFL Draft. 

If that’s not obvious already, the team recently made the move to add an additional first-round selection. With the added draft capital, many, including myself, foresee the Vikings moving up to select the passer of the future. 

Today, I played around with the mock draft simulator on Pro Football Network. Multiple trades were made, and I believe I came away with a great haul. Let’s dive into the mock! 

Round 1, Pick 4: QB J.J. McCarthy

Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) reacts during the second quarter against the Washington Huskies in the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
  • Vikings receive: Pick 4
  • Cardinals receive: Picks 11 and 23

J.J. McCarthy is an accomplished college passer who has experience in big-game situations. The QB won a National Championship Game with the Michigan Wolverines and was one of the most efficient passers in the nation. 

In 2023, McCarthy threw for 2,991 yards with 22 touchdowns and four interceptions. The QB completed 72.3% of his passes and is more athletic than he gets credit for. McCarthy received the highest Athleticism Score of any QB at the 2024 NFL Combine. 

McCarthy can throw on the run and has a nice deep ball. The QB fits the ball in tight windows and is extremely coachable. McCarthy would fit in nicely with the Vikings and Kevin O’Connell. 

In the simulation, I was able to trade up to the fourth pick in exchange for picks 11 and 23. Securing one of the class’s top passers without giving up a future first has to be considered a win. 

Round 2, Pick 64: DL Braden Fiske 

Dec 2, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; Florida State Seminoles defensive lineman Braden Fiske (55) gestures to his ring finger after sacking Louisville Cardinals quarterback Jack Plummer (not pictured) in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
  • Vikings receive: Pick 64
  • Chiefs receive: Picks 108, 167, 2025 third-round pick, 2025 fourth-round pick

After packaging both first-round selections, the Vikings did not have another pick until No. 108. That seemed like too long to wait, so I traded to the end of the 2nd round with the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Giving up a few mid-round selections allowed me to select Braden Fiske, the talented pass rusher out of Florida State. Fiske spent just one season in the ACC and collected 43 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and six sacks. 

Fiske is rising up draft boards after a dominant performance at the combine. Fiske earned a total combine score of 82, which ranked third among all defensive tackles. The lineman has a relentless motor and contributes against the run and as a pass rusher. 

Danielle Hunter, D.J. Wonnum, Khyiris Tonga, and Dean Lowry are among the departures from the Vikings’ defensive front. Fiske would help replace some of that lost production. 

Round 5, Pick 136: CB Khyree Jackson

Oregon cornerback Khyree Jackson hauls in a pass during Oregon Pro Day Tuesday, March 12, 2024 at the Moshofsky Center in Eugene, Ore.
  • Vikings receive: Picks 136 and 207
  • Broncos receive: Pick 129

I had the chance to move back seven picks and add an extra sixth-rounder, so why not? The Vikings would be thrilled to land a corner like Khyree Jackson this late in the draft. 

Jackson played one season for the Oregon Ducks after spending the first two seasons of his college career with the Alabama Crimson Tide. The corner excelled in Eugene, collecting 34 tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks, and three interceptions. 

The former Duck has a decent athletic profile and isn’t afraid of contact. At 6’3”, 197 pounds, Jackson plays like a safety but is quick enough not to get burned on the outside. Great value here. 

Round 5, Pick 157: OG Zak Zinter

Dec 31, 2022; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Michigan Wolverines offensive lineman Zak Zinter (65) against the TCU Horned Frogs during the 2022 Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have a need on the interior of the offensive line. Dalton Risner is still a free agent, and Ed Ingram, the other starting guard from 2023, was the weak link of the line. 

Zak Zinter would provide solid depth and has upside as a potential starter. The former Michigan Wolverine protected McCarthy, so reuniting the duo makes sense. Zinter grades out well as a run blocker and pass blocker and moves well for his size. 

At the combine, Zinter came in underweight for his position at 309 pounds. Zinter also has below-average hands and concerns about how he will handle bigger interior pass rushers. Additionally, he suffered a broken leg in November, which could impact his ability to contribute immediately. At this point in the draft, though, every player will have some concerns. Zinter is a high-upside option who could contribute at some point with Minnesota’s needs on the offensive line. 

Round 6, Pick 177: EDGE Xavier Thomas

Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas (3) reacts after sacking Georgia Tech freshman Jordan Yates (13) during the first quarter in Clemson, S.C., September 18, 2021. Ncaa Football Georgia Tech At Clemson

As mentioned above, the Vikings need help rushing the passer. Due to the team’s other needs and lack of draft capital, they may have to wait until the late rounds to address the edge. 

Fortunately in my sim, Xavier Thomas was still available. Thomas will likely fall down draft boards due to his age and lack of explosive plays at Clemson. However, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a nice addition at this point in the draft. 

Thomas finished 2023 with 25 tackles, four tackles for loss, and three sacks. The edge impressed at the combine with a 40-yard dash time that ranked in the 91st percentile and a broad jump that ranked in the 77th. Thomas has the tools to be a rotational pass rusher in the NFL. 

Round 6, Pick 207: WR Cornelius Johnson

Jan 8, 2024; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines wide receiver Cornelius Johnson (6) against the Washington Huskies during the 2024 College Football Playoff national championship game at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This is the other pick I received in the trade back with the Denver Broncos. This is a deep wide receiver class, and the Vikings need to add depth. 

Cornelius Johnson is another member of the Michigan Wolverines who would fit in on this roster. On top of the already-developed chemistry Johnson has with McCarthy, the Vikings could use a receiver with Johnson’s size. 

Johnson stands at 6’3” and weighs 211 pounds. The receiver is a red zone threat who comes down with contested balls. This is the type of target who could help out a rookie passer. 

Round 7, Pick 230: LB Omar Speights 

Nov 19, 2022; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Oregon State Beavers linebacker Omar Speights (1) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings brought in Blake Cashman at inside linebacker but saw Troy Dye and Jordan Hicks depart in free agency. Adding depth to the position in the draft is needed for 2024. 

Speights will remind some of Ivan Pace Jr. Pace also fell down draft boards due to size concerns, but was also productive as a tackler in college. Speights collected 70 tackles a year ago for the LSU Tigers and showed promise as a run-stopper. The backer struggles in pass coverage, but he can hold his own on running downs. 

At the end of the draft, it’s worth it to take a flier and see if you can uncover another Ivan Pace Jr. 

Round 7, Pick 232: OG Prince Pines 

Mock Draft
Sep 30, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Tulane Green Wave offensive lineman Prince Pines (76) takes the field during the first quarter against the Houston Cougars at TDECU Stadium in Houston, Texas. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

For the last pick in the draft, I decided to add more competition to the interior offensive line. You can never have too many solid linemen, especially when one starting position isn’t set. 

Prince Pines is a massive guard from Tulane who is intriguing due to his size and strength. The guard stands at 6’4” and weighs 322 pounds. His frame is hard to work around, but he could struggle with the speed of the NFL game. 

Still, Pines has the size to be a steady guard in the league and would add depth. 

Editor’s Note: Statistics for this article were found via Sports Reference CFB.