Trading Down in the NFL Draft, Not Up, Could be Precisely What the Purple Doctor Ordered

NFL: NFL Draft
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Give it a bit more time and the QB-trade-up theories will only intensify for the Vikings. Often, the conversation will come around to Jayden Daniels, but J.J. McCarthy is picking up steam as another option (with Thor Nystrom being a notable advocate, but Jordan Shultz and Kevin Seifert have joined the fun).

What happens, though, if the Vikings are more patient at quarterback than most fans? If there isn’t the same urgency in Eagan to land one of this year’s true top-tier QBs, will trading down become the path forward for the Vikings?

2023 NFL Draft
Apr 26, 2018; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys on the clock in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The proud owner of nine selections, the Vikings would very likely welcome more picks (who wouldn’t?). After all, the team is moving into a future where several stars — Justin Jefferson, Danielle Hunter, Christian Darrisaw, etc. — need major financial commitments. Balancing the books with artificially-cheap rookie contracts is a wonderful way of making it all work.

Can Minnesota move down the draft board in April and still come away with an A+ draft? Could they still bring in a high-upside quarterback?

On the Merits of the Vikings Trading Down, Not Up, in the 2024 NFL Draft

The last major trade down didn’t turn out well.

Not only did the Detroit Lions get their shot at picking up a WR1 — who, in fairness, hasn’t yet lived up to his potential — but the Minnesota Vikings failed to secure a future 1st, a stunning reality given the move from 12th to 32nd.

Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams (9) runs the ball after a catch as Minnesota Vikings cornerback Mekhi Blackmon (5) defends during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

A past failure, though, doesn’t mean the strategy — trading down — is without merit.

The Vikings opted for wide receiver Laquon Treadwell at 23rd overall in 2016. Obviously, the decision to bring in Treadwell didn’t work out, but does that mean that a future pick in the 20s shouldn’t get used on a wide receiver? If so, then there would be no Justin Jefferson (22nd overall in 2020) or Jordan Addison (23rd overall in 2023).

In and of itself, trading down isn’t the problem. Rather, the issue rests in getting fair value. And then, of course, there’s the matter of using the acquired picks to bring in excellent players. A future where Minnesota trades down for a huge haul that leads to several wonderful players is praiseworthy outcome.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings Training Camp
Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on during training camp at TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

What’s realistic value for the 11th pick? Well, there are a ton of factors, but let’s imagine a scenario where Minnesota sinks down into the 20s. At the very least, the Vikings will be bringing in a Day 2 selection but possibly more.

Consider the move Kwesi Adofo-Mensah made in real life — not an online mock machine — with the Lions a couple of seasons ago:

Detroit Trades: Picks No. 32, No. 34, & No. 66
Minnesota Trades: Picks No. 12 & No. 46

NFC North Round-Up: 4 Bold Offseason Predictions
Jan 15, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before a wild card game between the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Again, the widespread opinion is that Minnesota didn’t get enough for the swap, but it does offer a rough guideline. Losing twenty spots in RD1 meant gaining a better RD2 pick (jumping from 46 to 34) and then bringing in a brand new RD3 pick (66).

What would be reasonable for, say, going from 11 to 21?

Very likely, Minnesota could expect a RD2 and/or RD3 pick(s) to be part of the mix. After all, Adofo-Mensah went on to turn No. 34 into No. 53 and No. 59 in a different trade, so turning a single high selection into multiple lower selections isn’t difficult to fathom.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders
Dec 10, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell (left) and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah react during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

And with an extra selection or two in the top 100, what could the Vikings do?

For starters, the Vikings could use a pick in the 20s on a QB. How does McCarthy at 21st sound? And then the extra draft capital in the 2nd and/or 3rd could be used to help rebuild Minnesota’s defensive front.

Or maybe the pick later on in the 1st could get sunk into a pass rusher at either defensive tackle or at outside linebacker. And then Minnesota works toward bringing in McCarthy, Bo Nix, or Michael Penix Jr. in the 2nd.

The broader point, folks, is simply that outright dismissing a trade down since things went poorly in 2022 would be foolish. The Treadwell mistake didn’t dissuade Minnesota from picking Jefferson/Addison, so the Lions mistake shouln’t dissuade Adofo-Mensah from pulling off a trade down if it involves bringing in great value.

The Vikings’ roster has needs aplenty; don’t be surprised to see a move down on April 25th.

K. Joudry is the Senior Editor for Vikings Territory and PurplePTSD. He has been covering the Vikings full time since the summer of 2021. He can be found on Twitter and as a co-host for Notes from the North, a humble Vikings podcast.