Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell is reported to be a “big fan” of Kentucky quarterback Will Levis — and a recent draft day trade scenario could be the path for the Vikings head coach to land the top prospect.
NFL.com’s Chad Reuters’ most recent mock draft on April 7 proposed Minnesota move up to the No. 10 spot of the first round by offering the No. 24 pick, their 2023 third-round pick (No. 87 overall) and a 2024 first-rounder in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles, who have made a trade involving a first-round pick in all but one of the past seven drafts.
Reuters has Levis as the fourth quarterback coming off the board with the 10th pick in a move that would be fitting considering KSTP’s Darren Wolfson caught word of O’Connell’s interest in Levis in early March before the franchise opted to allow Kirk Cousins to play out the final year of his deal.
Richardson has since skyrocketed inside the top five picks of most mock drafts after an impressive combine — making a trade-up to land Levis a more reasonable feat for the Vikings who only have five draft picks and two inside the top 100.
Will Levis the Most Difficult Rookie QB to Scout; Highest Upside
Despite a nearly unanimous agreement that Levis is a top-10 prospect in the upcoming draft, he’s also the most difficult quarterback to scout coming out of college.
At 6-foot-3, Levis boasts elite arm strength to drive middle and deep throws with ease and the ability to make plays with his legs. He shined in his first season at Kentucky in 2021 with an NFL-caliber receiver (New York Giants second-rounder Wan’Dale Robinson) and play caller (Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen), throwing for 2,827 yards, 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
But without good company around him last season, Levis was prone to taking too many risks and making foolish mistakes in trying to make a play happen in 2022. He threw three picks against Tennessee and was sacked four times, failing to eclipse over 100 passing yards that game.
His on-field production in 2022 is cause for concern after throwing 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
However, his traits are what keep him in conversation to go even inside the top five in some mock drafts. His polarizing performance the past two seasons has landed him falling into two NFL comparisons dependent on how he develops: Josh Allen or Jake Locker.
He’s shown he can play at an elite level with the right support around him. While the Tennessee game in 2022 is alarming, he also played a clean game against eventual national champion Georgia in 2021, completing 32 of 42 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns and a 130.3 NCAA passer rating.
He’s considered a quarterback who would benefit from a redshirt season on a team with ample resources and talent to complement him — exactly what the Vikings offer.
Vikings Need to Strike on a Rookie QB This Draft
The ideal scenario for most rookie quarterbacks is to find a team that doesn’t need to feed them to the fires of the NFL from Day 1. Some prospects can handle the heat, but those are the guys who go No. 1 overall.
Minnesota will not be in that territory with Cousins leading the team. He’s never lost more than nine games as the Vikings quarterback, which puts the Vikings in the middle of the 2024 draft.
A trade-up in 2024 would thrust a rookie quarterback into competing to be a Day 1 starter, which wouldn’t bode well for the team’s success. The other options would be finding a veteran bridge quarterback or re-signing Cousins.
But eventually, Minnesota has to find their next franchise quarterback through the draft, and now is an ideal team considering the prospects of learning from Cousins for a season and playing with Justin Jefferson and two Pro Bowl tackles in Brian O’Neill and Christian Darrisaw.