“They Don’t Have a Choice:” Former Vikings GM Suggests Minnesota is Boxed into a Corner

Vikings Get a Decent Grade
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Do the Vikings have flexibility going into the 2024 NFL Draft? Former Vikings GM Rick Spielman doesn’t seem to think so.

A recent sitdown with Ryan Wilson of NFL on CBS featured some chatter about Minnesota making their move up the board for a promising passer. The mock scenario that gets tossed out initially involves the Vikings doing business with the Arizona Cardinals at No. 4. Will the cost be prohibitive? “They’re setting themselves up to go get a quarterback,” Spielman argues, “they don’t have a choice.”

Former Vikings GM Rick Spielman Foresees a Tricky Trade in MIN

Digging down into the trade a bit further reveals a predictable outcome: Minnesota is making their move for J.J. McCarthy.

Spielman isn’t convinced that McCarthy is the fourth-best player in the draft. Nevertheless, he does see the Michigan QB as someone who “fits exactly what Kevin O’Connell wants to do from an offensive standpoint.”

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

The issue is simply that Spielman goes on to explain the exorbitant cost — an “overpay” — to get McCarthy into a purple uniform. Getting to No. 4 means sending out No. 11, No. 23, and a 2025 1st. Spielman suggests there could need to be even more added in.

As a Wolverine, McCarthy did plenty of good things. The man completed 72.3% of his passes in 2023 while piling up 2,991 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. The accuracy and ball security look like the major pluses to the QB’s game. So, too, does his excellent athleticism open up possibilities that weren’t present with Kirk Cousins.

Consider what Josh Frey had to say about the 21-year-old passer: “J.J. McCarthy is a surgeon with his passing ability. He delivers accurate passes at all three levels of the field, and this accuracy is an area that has improved in each season he’s spent in the Michigan offense. The velocity on his throws allows him to fit passes into tight windows downfield. He leads his receivers well, allowing them to pick up yards after the catch as well.”

Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) throws a pass against the Alabama Crimson Tide during the first half in the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The accuracy, athleticism, history of winning at a major college program, and youth are all working in McCarthy’s favor. Understandably, there’s some excitement about what he can do in the NFL.

Are the Vikings in a spot where they must go get him — or another top passer — in the draft?

Kick it back to Rick Spielman. The former Vikings GM isn’t confident with the in-house talent at quarterback, noting that turning to Sam Darnold isn’t particularly inspiring. The end result could be a situation where Minnesota feels compelled to meet the huge trade cost.

Jan 7, 2024; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) celebrates after a play during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Spielman, though, does point toward the tremendous upside of nailing the quarterback selection: “If they honestly believe this is the future and they go out and get him, and he has a very successful career and gets them to the Super Bowl, who gives a rat’s tail whether ya gave up three 1st-round picks or not? No one cares.”

Throughout the offseason, the Vikings’ leadership — from the ownership to the general manager to the head coach — have been consistent about Minnesota’s capacity to maintain their flexibility going into the draft.

The NFL Draft begins on April 25th. The Vikings currently own nine draft picks.

Editor’s Note: Information from Sports Reference CFB helped with this piece.

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.