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It's mock draft season. Here are 5 Vikings takeaways from a big one

The NFL draft is always a big deal for fans of every team. But it feels turbo-charged for Vikings fans because this is not a normal year.

The Vikings created a sense of urgency and intrigue greater than in any year in recent memory with the way the early stages of free agency played out.

Kirk Cousins departed for Atlanta. The Vikings signed Sam Darnold to a one-year deal to be a placeholder at quarterback. They made a trade with Houston to add the No. 23 pick. They have positioned themselves to take their quarterback of the future.

But will they be able to do that? Which QB will they target? Those questions will play out over the next month. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. provided some clues into the process with his latest mock draft and follow-up conference call, which I talked about on Wednesday's Daily Delivery podcast.

Here are five key takeaways about the Vikings from what Kiper wrote and had to say:

1. It's not just Vikings fans watching to see what happens. Minnesota is a national story to the point that Kiper started writing his mock draft section on the Vikings by saying they are "now the most interesting team in this draft" based on how the offseason has transpired so far. They hold the key to some of how the entire first round will unfold.

2. That said, the pick for now from Kiper is pretty straightforward. He has the Vikings being able to wait until No. 11 to take Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy, without needing a trade up. That could be wishful thinking — and how you feel about it probably depends on how you feel about McCarthy.

Kiper on Wednesday's conference call said McCarthy is among the hardest players and certainly QBs to scout in this year's draft because Michigan didn't rely on him to win games. He was a piece of a great team, but typically college quarterbacks are asked to carry teams. That wasn't the case at Michigan.

3. Of particular interest in the mock draft is the idea that New England, which holds the No. 3 pick, might be open to a trade. Wrote Kiper: "New England wouldn't pass up a quarterback here, right? I'm not as confident as I was before free agency began."

Could the Vikings package picks 11 and 23 plus next year's first-round pick to move up to No. 3 to (probably) get North Carolina QB Drake Maye? The answer seems like a stronger "maybe" than we might have thought.

4. Wait, wasn't Maye mocked at No. 2 for a long time? Yes, but Kiper (and plenty of others) have moved LSU's Jayden Daniels to Washington at that spot. On the conference call, Kiper said something particularly interesting: He thinks the gap between Daniels and Maye as prospects is wider than the gap between Maye and McCarthy.

Maye has a lot of covetable traits and could fit well with the Vikings. But again, a lot will depend not just on how they feel about available quarterbacks but what they need to do to ensure they don't get shut out from drafting the QB they want.

5. On the conference call, Kiper reiterated that it's "never too early for a quarterback." That could mean the Giants are a threat to take McCarthy at No. 6 if they decide Daniel Jones isn't their long-term answer and if New England stays put and takes Maye. The Broncos are also in the market for a QB; Kiper has Oregon's Bo Nix going to Denver at No. 12, one pick after the Vikings, even though Nix projects as a lower pick.

The upshot of all this is that we might be settling into a waiting game even as new information is revealed over the next month. "If Minnesota really wants to try to move up in Round 1 for a quarterback," Kiper wrote, "I could see it waiting until draft day to see how the board shakes out."