Vikings Urged to Settle on ‘Kirk Cousins-Level’ Prospect Ahead of Draft

O'Connell, Cousins, Vikings

Getty Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell (left) and quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The Minnesota Vikings had a good thing with Kirk Cousins, so why not draft a prospect whose NFL comparison is his predecessor — ergo J.J. McCarthy?

That’s what Colin Cowherd has proposed for the Vikings, who trade the Los Angeles Chargers for the No. 5 pick and land the Michigan quarterback in Cowherd’s latest mock draft.

“[McCarthy] is moving into a furnished apartment. He doesn’t have to play. He can sit behind Sam Darnold. They have the … best young left tackle, best receiver in football, top-five running back, great No. 2 receiver, top-five or six or seven tight end and a good O-line,” Cowherd said.

Speaking with NFL scouts, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler detailed the most common NFL comparisons for this year’s quarterback prospects and found McCarthy projected as a mix between Brock Purdy and Cousins — both cerebral game managers who have some physical limitations.

Neither comparison is flattering when considering the Hall of Fame potential a top-five pick carries.

That’s not a problem for Cowherd, who thinks the Vikings can win with a “Kirk Cousins-level” replacement with the perks of a rookie contract to build around.

“I don’t think J.J. McCarthy has a big-time arm … [or] a big-time NFL body. Does Kirk Cousins? … Remember, because you get rid of Cousins’ salary you can add pieces. So you’re going to get basically, I think, a Kirk Cousins-level prospect … without the salary,” Cowherd added. “You can win a lot of games in this league doing that.”

While some fans and media have called for the Vikings to deal as much future draft capital needed to land a generational quarterback prospect, McCarthy’s floor and the ability to build around him is an appealing path to contention.

J.J. McCarthy is the Rookie QB Most Capable of Replacing Kirk Cousins

JJ McCarthy

GettyJ.J. McCarthy.

Contrary to how the offseason played out, the Vikings did want Cousins back — but at a certain price.

Cousins is one of the league’s best studies, a former fourth-round pick turned Pro Bowler whose ascent has largely come through his mental mastery of the game.

The Vikings saw that it takes a special mind to thrive in O’Connell’s offense — and not even a rocket scientist in Joshua Dobbs was able to just pick it up in a matter of weeks. It even took Cousins two full years of dogged study to fully grasp the offense.

If the Vikings are considering which rookie quarterback would be ready to start Day 1 and maximize their ceiling early, it’s McCarthy.

“What you’re seeing now is the coaches and coordinators are more involved in the draft process [in March and April], and they are realizing, s***, he’s a pro already,” an NFC executive told Fowler. “And he showed more arm strength at his pro day than I thought he had.”

McCarthy was a fringe first-round talent at the end of the college football season as it seemed that Michigan carried him to a national championship. However, as scouts and coaches have spent time with him and taken a longer look at his film, he’s proving he’s the most NFL-ready prospect in terms of mentality and leadership.

Vikings Are Weighing the Cost of Each QB

Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels, J.J. McCarthy

Getty2024 NFL Draft quarterback prospects Drake Maye of North Carolina (left), Jayden Daniels of LSU (middle) and J.J. McCarthy of Michigan (right)

As the draft draws nearer, the Vikings have shown they’re “in love” with quarterbacks at several tiers in the first round.

The cost to land those quarterbacks will have an impact on how much talent they can surround each prospect.

If the Vikings were to trade up to No. 3 at the cost of three or four first-round picks, that quarterback would have a much heavier load to carry than if the Vikings stick and pick at No. 11 and use all those first-round picks to bolster the rest of the roster.

The Vikings might have a better chance at contending over the next four years with Bo Nix selected at No. 23 than Drake Maye for the cost of four first-rounders.

Those are the scales the Vikings are continuing to weigh in determining what prospect at each spot would provide the best value for the team.

A trade-up to No. 5 for McCarthy would likely cost both the Vikings’ first-round picks this year — and the Vikings must determine if he’s worth that price.