Which Vikings Rookie Should Have the Highest Expectations in 2024?

NFL: NFL Draft
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings’ draft class for 2024 should have fans excited. The team not only added a quarterback for the future but also landed arguably the draft’s best pass rusher.

Almost every mock draft had the Vikings trading up for J.J. McCarthy. Indeed, the team did trade up for McCarthy, but general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah only had to move up one spot. McCarthy joins veteran Sam Darnold in the QB room, and it will be interesting to see which passer is the starter for Week One.

After trading up again in the first round for Turner, the Vikings didn’t pick again until the fourth round. Oregon corner Khyree Jackson was the pick there, and the young defensive back could work his way onto the field immediately.

Behind Jackson, the team added a few depth pieces and a kicker. The Vikings draft is ultimately a top-heavy class that features some nice role players. Today, I wanted to rank each Vikings’ draft pick based on the impact I think they will make as rookies.

Ranking Vikings Rookies Based on 2024 Expectations

Vikings Rookie
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

1. Dallas Turner

I believe Dallas Turner will be the most impactful Vikings’ rookie. Why is McCarthy not number one? Well, we don’t even know when the former Michigan QB will start. There is a scenario in which Darnold impresses and wins the starting job, at least to begin the year.

However, Turner has fewer barriers to an immediate impact. True, the Vikings added Andrew Van Ginkel and Jonathan Greenard on the edge this offseason. However, NFL teams frequently rotate pass rushers and Turner could isn’t just a pass rusher. In college, Turner dropped back in coverage and was effective against the run. Turner is a difference-maker who Brian Flores will get on the field in any way possible.

Even in the betting market, Turner is the early favorite to win Defensive Rookie of the Year. With the loss of Danielle Hunter and D.J. Wonnum, don’t be surprised if Turner reaches double-digit sacks as a rookie.

2. Will Reichard

Will Reichard is one of the most reliable placekickers in college football history. The former Crimson Tide kicker is the leading scorer in college football history. Reichard made 94.9% of his field goals and extra points over the last three seasons and went 10-of-13 on field goals from over 50 yards in his career. 

With Greg Joseph departing for Green Bay, Reichard landed in the perfect spot. Having a reliable kicker is crucial and something that Minnesota has not often had. Reichard’s big leg could immediately win games for Minnesota, which is why he is so high on this list.

Other than Turner, Reichard is in the best position of any rookie to contribute immediately.

3. J.J. McCarthy

McCarthy was the 10th pick in the draft, so many would assume the rookie will immediately contribute. However, as mentioned above, there is a scenario in which McCarthy does not even play for several weeks or months.

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

In 2023, there was a stretch in which Joshua Dobbs looked like an impressive QB in Kevin O’Connell’s system. It’s entirely possible the same thing could happen in 2024 with Darnold. I do believe that McCarthy will take over eventually, either due to injury or performance, however.

McCarthy cannot be above Turner or Reichard due to the fact that he likely will not start from the jump. Even when McCarthy does start, it’s likely that O’Connell will make life easy for his rookie QB. With a couple of great offensive tackles, an elite tight end, and one of the game’s best receivers, it’s unlikely that McCarthy will have to have gaudy numbers to win as a rookie.

4. Khyree Jackson

Khyree Jackson is an interesting player. I had multiple mock drafts that predicted the Jackson-Vikings fit, and the big, physical corner could thrive in Brian Flores’ system. I do believe that Jackson is talented enough to be a starter in the league, but his impact may be muted as a rookie due to Minnesota’s depth in the secondary.

Akayleb Evans and Byron Murphy Jr. are entrenched as the starting corners on the outside, while Josh Metellus will handle duties from the slot. 2023 rookie Mekhi Blackmon is also around and should build on an impressive rookie campaign. This means that Jackson will have to battle with Shaq Griffin and Andrew Booth Jr. for snaps as a rookie.

I do believe that Jackson is talented enough to earn snaps. The DB will likely see more playing time as the year progresses and could end the season a surprise contributor.

5. Michael Jurgens

The Vikings took two fliers on offensive linemen in this draft. The team selected tackle Walter Rouse out of Oklahoma in the sixth and interior lineman Michael Jurgens in the seventh. As rookies, Jurgens has a better chance of making an impact than Rouse simply due to the Vikings having two elite tackles in place.

Sep 24, 2022; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA; Wake Forest Demon Deacons offensive lineman Michael Jurgens (55) watches the replay while the Clemson Tigers bench celebrates an overtime victory at Truist Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings do not have two elite guards in place. Neither do they have a quality backup center behind Garrett Bradbury. If the team decides to move Jurgens to guard full-time, or if Bradbury gets injured, it’s easy to see Jurgens being a difference-maker. Could Jurgens move to guard and beat out Blake Brandel for a starting role? Stranger things have happened. With a great summer, Jurgens could not only make the roster, he could also start before the season is up.

6. Walter Rouse

Walter Rouse is an interesting prospect. The massive tackle has plenty of starting experience from his days at Oklahoma and has the frame to be a swing tackle in the NFL.

Unfortunately for Rouse, the road to a starting tackle spot in Minnesota is almost non-existent. Brian O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw make up arguably the league’s best tackle duo, and neither are injury-prone. I do believe Rouse will make the team considering the lack of depth at tackle, but it’s hard to see the rookie making an impact in his first professional season.

7. Levi Drake Rodriguez

The Vikings took a flier on an FCS product with their final pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Rodriguez slipped under most draft radars, but he was sneakily productive at Texas A&M-Commerce. The DL racked up 56 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 5.5 sacks in 2023. Rodriguez dominated against FCS competition and frequently looked like the strongest player on the line.

Many were surprised that the Vikings did not draft a DL earlier than this. The line is thin with free agent addition Jerry Tillery, Harrison Phillips, and Jonathan Bullard slated to start. Ultimately, I believe Rodriguez’s rawness will lead to him being a practice squad player his first year. Therefore, I view it as doubtful that the lineman makes an impact as a rookie.

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