The Vikings Have a Pair of QB Certainties and a Pair of QB Mysteries

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) changes the play at the line of scrimmage prior to a snap in the first quarter of a Week 15 NFL football game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Cincinnati Bengals, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, at Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati.

Prior to training camp, I’ll be working through a position-by-position roster projection. First up is a consideration of the game’s most important spot: quarterback.

It’s safe to say that the Vikings have a pair of certainties and a pair of mysteries at QB. Free agent addition Sam Darnold isn’t going anywhere. He’s being paid $10 million and is being shoved in front of the media at press conferences. As of right now, Darnold is the QB1.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Carolina Panthers
Oct 17, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) fakes a handoff during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Toss in J.J. McCarthy as the next certainty. The young Wolverine was snagged at 10th overall, a surefire sign that Minnesota holds him in very high regard. The plan is to one day hand over Kevin O’Connell’s offense to Mr. McCarthy.

Otherwise, there’s the presence of Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall. Both have strengths and weaknesses; both are competing for what is likely just a single open spot on Minnesota’s roster for 2024. How are things going to shake out?

The Vikings Have a QB Competition to Evaluate

Best guess, the QB hierarchy looks like this:

  • QB1: Sam Darnold
  • QB2: J.J. McCarthy
  • QB3: Nick Mullens
  • QB4: Jaren Hall

Darnold and McCarthy are locked-in. The only thing that would dislodge them from their spots on the roster is injury (fingers crossed for full health across the board). Does Mullens have the safest path toward being the QB3? The likeliest outcome is probably to see Mullens moved even if he’s currently better than Hall.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Las Vegas Raiders
Dec 10, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Nick Mullens (12) celebrates after the game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Of the two passers lower on the depth chart, Hall appears to have the better chance of sticking around. The 5th-round selection from 2023 mirrors McCarthy by also being a touch undersized and by having some good athleticism. In a perfect world, the pair will be Minnesota’s long-term QB1 and QB2.

Moving Mullens would (probably) give the man himself a clearer path toward playing time. And then the Vikings could snag another pick while recouping some cap space in the process. Win all around?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings
Dec 31, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell and quarterback Jaren Hall (16) look on before the game against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Make no mistake, Mullens is a good quarterback who has done some good things since coming to the Vikings. Consider some of the stats:

YearComp. %Y/AYardsTD/INT

The above statistical account is rudimentary, offering just the most basic facts. What stands out, though? The completion percentage is strong and so too are the air yards. The man can push the ball downfield. Last year’s 8.8 yards-per-attempt average surpasses Kirk Cousins’ number (7.5) by a decent bit.

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles
Sep 14, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and quarterback Nick Mullens (12) in the tunnel against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Were it not for the interceptions, Mullens would be on the field with much greater regularity. No, it’s not a minor flaw — interceptions — but it’s a downfall that’s easier to justify when we see him play so fearlessly as he gives his teammates a chance at making a play on the ball. Teams could do far, far worse than Mr. Mullens as their QB2.

The projection in June is that Minnesota will retain Sam Darnold, J.J. McCarthy, and Jaren Hall. At some point, Nick Mullens will get traded, likely for a modest return (late-round selection or maybe a pick swap).

The remaining trio of passers gives O’Connell some experience, youth, and upside to work with in 2024.

Before training camp arrives, I’ll be doing a position-by-position roster projection in an effort to understand what the final 53-man roster could look like. Once training camp and the preseason unfold, we can swing back around to the projections to see about any adjustments.

Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap 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.