Vikings Draft Theories Will Increasingly Come Down to a Single QB

Nov 26, 2022; College Station, Texas, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) in action during the game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the LSU Tigers at Kyle Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jayden Daniels ticks all of the boxes, folks. The Vikings draft talk has been responding accordingly.

Expect the mock drafts and pre-draft chatter to continue reflecting that reality as we get closer to the 2024 NFL Draft. In fact, the trend has already been picking up steam. Not long ago, I wrote a piece detailing my journey (replete with many foibles, wailing & gnashing of teeth) through several mock draft machines to jump up to 5th overall — owned by Jim Harbaugh’s Los Angeles Chargers — in an effort to snag Daniels.

Dec 31, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh reacts from the sideline during the second half in the Orange Bowl college football CFP national semifinal game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

By no means am I the only one seeing a Vikings/Daniels connection. On Pro Football Network, Wil Helms had the Vikings move up to 2nd to snag the young QB. On Sports Illustrated, Will Ragatz explores the chance of Daniels dropping down to 11th. On PFF, there’s a December mock that sees Daniels arriving in Minnesota via the 21st selection (obviously, a bit outdated but the QB-to-team connection is notable).

Take a few minutes to look around a bit more and surely there will be other instances of people linking Minnesota to the Heisman winner. Why all the fuss?

The Vikings Draft Theories and The Huge Appeal of Jayden Daniels

Start with the college connection.

Since taking over as the Vikings’ GM, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has made sixteen selections in his pair of drafts. Three of those selections have gone toward players from LSU: iOL Ed Ingram, S Jay Ward, and DT Jaquelin Roy.

Aug 20, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandler (32) celebrates with Minnesota Vikings guard Ed Ingram (67) after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Kicking things back even further would mean highlighting Justin Jefferson and Danielle Hunter. The team’s cornerstone player on both offense and defense comes from LSU. Clearly, the program has been kind to Minnesota.

Now, Jayden Daniels is his own man. There’s nothing about recent history that guarantees he’ll become a Viking or that he’ll succeed in Minnesota if he did get drafted by Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. The point is simply that Minnesota has an affinity for the program and has been rewarded for plucking players out of the bayou.

Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates wide receiver K.J. Osborn’s (17) touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the third quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing one notices about Jayden Daniels is his size, or lack thereof. He has the height that teams covet — either 6’3″ or 6’4″ depending on where you look — but his weight gets tossed back and forth within a range of 185-210 pounds. Obviously, being closer to 210 would be better for the rough and tumble NFL.

The key, of course, will rest in bulking up without losing the speed that makes him such a fascinating prospect.

Last season, Daniels put together 1,134 rushing yards on just 135 carries. The math works out to an impressive 8.4 yards-per-carry average. Tossing 10 rushing touchdowns into the mix further solidifies the reality that he’s a dynamic threat while carrying the ball.

Oct 21, 2023; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) celebrates a touchdown against the Army Black Knights during the first half at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

What’s even more impressive, though, are the passing numbers. The young fella completed 72.2% of his passes while climbing up to 3,812 passing yards. He did so while tossing 40 touchdown passes against just 4 interceptions. Putting it all together means the QB was a scoring machine who was explosive without turning the ball over very much.

Sounds like someone Kevin O’Connell would like to work alongside.

Nov 5, 2023; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell on the sideline against the Atlanta Falcons in the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t areas that don’t need refinement. Like any rookie, Jayden Daniels will have rough edges that need to be sanded down. The scouting profile on The Draft Network suggests that he could use more time learning how to operate from the pocket while working through his progressions:

The element of Daniels’ game that needs development is his ability to operate from the pocket and make throws to all levels of the field. Daniels appears to operate best on plays where the reads and progressions are quick and clearly shown. When he has to stand in the pocket, go through all his progressions, and deliver an accurate football, Daniels is inconsistent in his execution and looks uncomfortable.

Oct 1, 2022; Auburn, Alabama, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) warms up before the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

In Minnesota, Daniels would be grafted into a QB room that already boasts Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall. And then there’s the head coach who played QB in the NFL. Bringing things together for a slam dunk would be a deal that attaches Kirk Cousins to the roster for two-to-three more years, thereby allowing Daniels to keep honing his craft as a no-pressure backup and not a day-one starter.

Daniels, like every other player, possesses no inherent claim on NFL success. He’ll need to put in the work, accept the coaching, overcome the failures, and silence the doubters just like everyone else. In that sense, he’s not at all unique. There will be obstacles to overcome.

What does make him unique, though, is his rare blend of passing and rushing upside. The man is fully equipped to be a star in the NFL, so the Vikings will surely be doing their due diligence on him leading up to the 2024 NFL Draft.

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.