Non-commital to Kirk Cousins beyond the final year of his contract next season, the Minnesota Vikings are considered to take a look at this year’s quarterback class to find Cousins’ successor.
One of the most common upcoming rookies drafted to the Vikings in recent mock drafts is Florida’s Anthony Richardson, a high-upside, dual-threat quarterback that has earned comparison to Cam Newton, Lamar Jackson and former Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper.
In a January 23 mock draft, Sports Illustrated’s Draft Bible projected Richardson to be selected 23rd overall by Minnesota.
“Sizeable height and length for the position, with an intimidating structure. Overly poised for a player with such little experience,” The Draft Bible read. “Very comfortable in the pocket and has the instinct to step up when it collapses or escape the impending rush.”
In his first and only season as a starter last season, Richardson threw for over 2,500 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also rushed for 654 yards and nine touchdowns and showed game-breaking ability, leading the Gators to an upset over No. 7-ranked Utah in September.
Anthony Richardson a Raw Talent at QB, Could Elevate Under Kevin O’Connell
Let’s get the scrutiny out of the way.
Richardson is an extremely raw talent, starting just one season with the Gators before declaring for the 2023 draft.
That announcement was met with serious scrutiny from an AFC director of player personnel.
“That was a mistake. He needs another year,” the executive texted WalterFootball.
There may not be a better highlight reel in college football. Richardson is seen creating with his feet and has shown deep-ball accuracy. But he was maligned by accuracy issues on intermediate and short throws.
Patrick Mahomes had many of the same problems. With the ability to create and make off-balance throws with a gifted arm, his sloppy mechanics at times knocked his draft stock as a second- or third-round prospect. Richardson has a similar ability to snap his wrist and launch a pass 50 yards downfield.
Mahomes had a redshirt year with the Kansas City Chiefs with Alex Smith as his mentor before becoming the superstar he is today.
The Vikings have a similar situation with an extremely quarterback-friendly staff, a willing mentor in Cousins, who will be 35 when his contract expires. They also have the pieces to ease the bumps a young quarterback may take with a pair of perennial Pro Bowl tackles and a superstar wide receiver in Justin Jefferson. Finally, the ample cap space available with a quarterback on a rookie deal would allow the Vikings more resources to rebuild the rest of the roster.
Head coach Kevin O’Connell elevated Cousins to playing a winning brand of football after Cousins teetered around .500 as a starter for a decade of his professional career.
Under O’Connell’s eye, Richardson could rise to the lofty NFL comparisons.
And Minnesota may finally realize their franchise quarterback since Culpepper’s departure.
Vikings Trade Trey Lance Could Be a Safer Move Than Anthony Richardson
By selecting a first-round quarterback, the Vikings would admittedly signal that they don’t see their team going all the way in 2023. Spending a first-round pick on a player who may not see the field the entire season versus adding an immediate contributor.
However, the Vikings could live in the present and still plan for the future by trading for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Trey Lance.
A Marshall, Minnesota, native, Lance is considered a trade candidate this season after he lost his starting job due to a season-ending ankle injury. Brock Purdy willing the 49ers to the NFC Championship game has almost certainly secured his future as the leader of the franchise.
Michael Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle reported that rival executives see Lance as not worth more than a third-round pick. That may just be potential trade suitors driving down the asking price for the former No. 4 overall pick, however, he hasn’t shown to be worth the immense investment San Francisco spent to trade up for him in 2021.
“Even if the Niners are receptive to potential trade offers for Lance after the season, they won’t come close to recouping that haul,” Silver wrote. “Based on my conversations with several teams’ general managers (and other high-ranking front-office executives), Lance would be unlikely to net much more than a third-round selection, though it’s possible there’s a team out there motivated to give more.”
The Vikings could land Lance in a trade involving a player and a Day 2 pick and still retain their first-round pick, allowing Minnesota to revel in the present and future.