Prospect With QB Comp to Kirk Cousins Dubbed ‘Good Fit’ for Vikings

Kirk Cousins, Kevin O'Connell

Getty Head coach Kevin O'Connell of the Minnesota Vikings and former quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The Minnesota Vikings‘ next franchise quarterback could end up looking a lot like the old one.

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN spoke with several NFL scouts and executives in order to create a tier system for QB prospects in this year’s draft. The consensus came down with J.J. McCarthy of Michigan grading out in “tier 2.5” all by himself, a half-step below Jayden Daniels of LSU and Drake Maye of UNC, as well as a half-step ahead of Michael Penix Jr. of Washington and Bo Nix of Oregon. Caleb Williams is considered the sole occupant of tier 1.

McCarthy also falls into the range of quarterbacks Minnesota can possibly acquire, most likely by trading up into the top five of the draft. Fowler wrote that most of the player comps McCarthy received were a mix of Kirk Cousins, the Vikings starter of the past six years, and Brock Purdy, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in February.

“McCarthy is easily the most fascinating — and polarizing — quarterback prospect in the draft. Evaluators are truly all over the map. Some see elite talent, maybe the best long-term play of the group, while others see fringe first-round or even second-round talent,” Fowler wrote. “Multiple teams believe Minnesota or Denver could be trade-up options for McCarthy, who’s considered a good fit in both places. He’d be best served to sit a year behind a veteran, per multiple scouts.”

Vikings Will Face Tough Decisions if They Draft J.J. McCarthy Behind Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold, Denver Broncos

GettyMinnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers.

The Vikings have already set up the chance for a rookie quarterback to sit — at least to start out his first season, if not ride the pine for all 17 games and learn from the sideline. They have done so by acquiring former No. 3 overall pick and Purdy’s backup in San Francisco last year, Sam Darnold.

While it appears Darnold has the inside track to the starting job in Minnesota in 2024, a position he occupied with both the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers at points during his stints with those teams, he is categorically a bust considering his draft position in 2018.

If the Vikings hope to earn a playoff berth in 2024 amid an NFC North Division that produced two of them in the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers last year, they may need a player better than Darnold under center before the end of the campaign. Based on Fowler’s report, rushing McCarthy could hurt his development.

However, if Minnesota keeps him sidelined when he could help the team win, that may cause a rift between the franchise and its three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Jefferson wants to compete every season and hits unrestricted free agency in March 2025.

J.J. McCarthy Projected as Different NFL QB Depending Who Is Offering Evaluation

J.J. McCarthy, Denver Broncos

GettyQuarterback J.J. McCarthy of the Michigan Wolverines.

Fowler shared several comments on McCarthy from the scouts and executives he interviewed, many of whom painted very different pictures.

“I don’t see him getting past [pick] 5 or 6,” one executive from the NFC told Fowler. “Definitely not getting out of the top 10. Anticipation, decision-making, preparation, coming from pro-style offense — he’s got a lot going for him. You see him process, go through progressions. That’s an easier predictor of what it would look like at the NFL level.”

However, Fowler also noted the “game manager label” that some have stamped on McCarthy’s resumé, which isn’t the type of player a team like Minnesota will be looking to acquire if it moves several first-round assets to trade up into the top five.

“[McCarthy] wasn’t a game manager because they had to hide something — he has high-level traits,” a national scout told Fowler. “It’s more a function of Jim Harbaugh’s offense. He’s never been asked to throw 30-plus times a game, but I think he can handle it.”

But not everyone with whom Fowler spoke shared that opinion.

“I just don’t see it,” an AFC-based scout told Fowler. “I don’t see consistent accuracy, his ability to get it done inside the white lines, and [the Michigan staff] didn’t call games or play offensively like they trusted him.”

Minnesota could try to trade with the New England Patriots at No. 3, which would put them in the game for either Daniels or Maye — whichever QB gets past the Washington Commanders at No. 2, assuming the Chicago Bears go with Williams first overall. Doing so, however, could cost more than three first-round picks, which might price the Vikings out.

Read More