Vikings’ J.J. McCarthy Predicted to Lead NFL in Key Stat: ‘Plenty of Experience’

J.J. McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings

Getty J.J. McCarthy #9 of the Minnesota Vikings.

Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell have laid out the basic tenet of their plan for rookie first-round quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

Despite trading up to select McCarthy with the No. 10 overall pick, he won’t be under center when it matters until he’s ready. They even brought in a veteran with plenty of starting experience in Sam Darnold, who O’Connell says has his best football ahead of him.

It might not take long. McCarthy is already proficient in certain aspects of the Vikings’ offense.

So proficient is McCarthy, that he could reach a seemingly lofty projection for him to lead the league in one category relatively easily.

“The Vikings led the NFL in under-center passing plays (207 dropbacks) and play-action snaps (217) last season, two categories where McCarthy had plenty of experience in Michigan’s scheme,” ESPN’s Jordan Reid wrote on May 16.

“The area he could lead the league in five years: QBR on play-action. Efficiency off these concepts is a strength of McCarthy’s game, and Minnesota runs a lot of it. He’s comfortable turning his back to the defense and resetting his eyes prior to making throws. His 90.4 QBR and 76.3% completion rate on play-action ranked sixth and seventh in the country, respectively, last season.”

O’Connell noted that bodes well for the Vikings and McCarthy’s career arc. And it could be soon.

San Francisco 49ers QB and Pro Bowler Brock Purdy led the NFL in ESPN’s Total QBR and passer rating, completing 77.3% of his passes last season on play-action, per Pro Football Focus.

Darnold spent last season in San Francisco backing up Purdy, who guided the 49ers to the Super Bowl this past season. He was under the tutelage of highly-regarded 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and Quarterbacks Coach Brian Griese. The latter enjoyed an 11-year NFL career.

O’Connell – who worked with Shanahan in Washington – lauded them and Darnold.

J.J. McCarthy in Similar Setup as 49ers’ Brock Purdy

Brock Purdy, Kevin O'Connell, Minnesota Vikings

GettyBrock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers and Head Coach Kevin O’Connell of the Minnesota Vikings.

McCarthy steps into a similar situation as Purdy. There are far greater expectations placed upon him than the former Mr. Irrelevant thanks to his draft pedigree, though.

Still, McCarthy is stepping into a revered offensive system with a well-respected play-caller in O’Connell. Their strong coaching infrastructure is strengthened by Quarterbacks Coach Josh McCown. He is a 17-year veteran with 16 seasons of NFL playing experience under his belt.

Skill players Justin Jefferson, T.J. Hockenson, and Jordan Addison mirror the 49ers’ setup.

The Vikings can improve on the ground to help McCarthy. They ranked 23rd in yards per attempt and 28th in total attempts in 2023. They hope former Green Bay Packer Aaron Jones will help.

McCarthy’s pre-draft rise raised eyebrows. He is coming off a season in which he attempted the fewest passes per game of the eventual first-round QBs. His 22.1 attempts per game would have ranked 30th among NFL QBs with 10-plus starts last season, per Pro Football Reference.

He attempted eight passes in a game last season.

The former Michigan Wolverine and reigning National Champion had five outings with fewer than 20 attempts.

Vikings’ J.J. McCarthy Could Be Most NFL-Ready Rookie QB

Jim Harbaugh, J.J. McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings

Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the Michigan Wolverines celebrates with J.J. McCarthy #9.

His former head coach at Michigan, Jim Harbaugh, now of the Los Angeles Chargers, touted McCarthy as playing the position of quarterback better than any of his peers during the pre-draft period.

“It’s well documented I think he’s the best quarterback in the draft,” Harbaugh told reporters at the Annual Meeting on March 25. “That’s just what I think is my opinion. He’s the one who plays quarterback of all the quarterbacks that are in the draft. There’s great quarterbacks in the draft. I think he plays quarterback the best of any quarterback in the draft.”

That may have been lip service, doing his polarizing prospect a solid.

But the numbers back up McCarthy being able to adapt to elements of NFL offense that most rookies have to adjust to when coming in.

Particularly lining up under center and turning their backs to the defense. It is there that a lack of eye discipline and feel can lead to sacks if not turnovers. Vikings quarterbacks absorbed the 10th-most sacks and threw the fourth-most interceptions last season.