There are a handful of teams already in the bag for a quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft, and the Minnesota Vikings might be the next franchise to join them.
Minnesota has its QB for next season in Kirk Cousins but after that, the future of the position is murky at best. The Vikings could wait for the free agent market next offseason, though a safer play is to look to the draft where the players are younger and mistakes less expensive, especially in the middle rounds.
However, there is an increasingly popular school of thought among draft experts over the past week that posits the Vikings will trade up into the top 10 and pursue one of the premier signal-callers in this year’s class — Will Levis of Kentucky.
On March 21, The Athletic’s NFL Staff predicted a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders, who hold the 7th overall selection. Chad Reuter of NFL Network made a similar projection on Friday, though via a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles at pick No. 10.
Levis Trade Will Cost Vikings Multiple Valuable Draft Picks
While the Vikings’ potential trade partners sit three picks apart, the compensation in both proposals is exactly the same — a swap of first-rounders flipping the No. 23 pick along with the No.87 overall selection this year as well as Minnesota’s first-rounder in 2024.
Reuter offered his rationale for the swing, in part, by citing recent historical precedent:
Kirk Cousins is entering a contract year, and the Vikings expect to be good enough to keep them out of the running for the top quarterback prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft. Minnesota might choose to shoot its shot now, getting Levis in a trade with Philadelphia in exchange for a third-round pick this year and 2024 first-rounder.
Levis may still find a fan among the teams at the top of the draft because of his arm strength, mobility and competitive fire, but he reminds me of former NFL passer Jay Cutler, who went 11th in 2006. And in some recent drafts, we’ve seen at least one highly regarded quarterback come off the board in the 10-12 range: Justin Fields (2021), Josh Rosen (2018), Patrick Mahomes (2017) and Deshaun Watson (2017).
Levis, Vikings Both Benefit From One More Year of Cousins
Any scenario in which the Vikings land Levis at the end of April will see the 23-year-old quarterback ride the pine behind Cousins for at least one season, which is arguably the best-case scenario for both player and team.
Most of the other quarterbacks expected to go inside the top-10 will be thrown into the fire immediately on considerably worse rosters than the one Levis would be joining in Minnesota. Cousins has been an ironman since signing with the Vikings and isn’t likely to miss much time in 2023 despite stretching the boundaries of his mid-30s.
While Levis isn’t popularly the No. 1 QB prospect this year, Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN is one prominent analyst who has Levis ranked above the rest — meaning the advantage of a full season of experience and acclimation could be magnified by his existing skill set.
“Levis has a rocket launcher for an arm and makes some ‘wow’ throws. That has gotten the Penn State transfer into trouble at times, but it’s clear watching him that he believes he can fit the ball into any window. My comparison for him is Matthew Stafford,” Kiper wrote. “Levis played in a pro-style offense at Kentucky, and he’s not going to need much time to adjust to the NFL. He can maneuver the pocket and throw on the run.”