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As quarterbacks take center stage at combine, Vikings are paying attention

INDIANAPOLIS — Friday and Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine are all about the quarterbacks.

Vikings brass, including general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O'Connell, have already held formal, 18-minute meetings with this year's quarterback prospects inside their team suite at Lucas Oil Stadium.

On Friday, they'll get another chance to hear from Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Jayden Daniels and J.J. McCarthy, among others, at the podium.

On Saturday, some (but not all) of the quarterbacks will throw during on-field drills.

Here's a rundown of the draft's top six quarterbacks:

Caleb Williams, USC

The presumed No. 1 draft pick to the Chicago Bears, Williams is among the trio of top passers, including Maye and Daniels, who are reportedly not expected to throw in front of scouts on Saturday. But NFL evaluators might not need to see more from Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner who has thrown 72 touchdowns to 10 interceptions over his last two seasons at USC. Williams is also an elusive runner, scoring 21 rushing touchdowns in that span. His playing style has drawn lofty comparisons to Chiefs star Patrick Mahomes.

"Pat needed some time to clean some things up and got a chance to sit for a year," NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "I don't think Caleb is going to be afforded the same luxury in that department, but I think you can put a plan in place where you put more on his plate the longer that he goes."

Drake Maye, North Carolina

Vikings scouts and executives have long had eyes on Maye, who is considered by many analysts to be the draft's No. 2 passing talent. He's big (listed 6-foot-4 by UNC). He's got a cannon for an arm. He's mobile, running for over 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns the past two seasons. Those are coveted traits that turn even unproductive college passers (see: Josh Allen) into high draft picks.

"It will be helpful for him to explain some things," Jeremiah said. "Because when I watch the tape I have questions of just, man, he gets a lot of unblocked pressures, and there doesn't seem to be answers [within the playbook]."

Jayden Daniels, LSU

Daniels, a former Arizona State transfer, won the Heisman Trophy during a breakout season for the Tigers last fall. The dual-threat quarterback nearly doubled his career passing touchdown total, throwing for 40 scores and three interceptions. Daniels was especially efficient throwing deep. His top target, receiver Malik Nabers, is expected to join him as a first-round pick.

"Everything got cleaned up and tightened up this year," ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller said. "He deserves a ton of credit. Detractors are going to say when you have [receivers Malik] Nabers and [Brian Thomas Jr.], it's easy. But it's not. We've seen a lot of quarterbacks struggle with great receivers around them. He had to do the work to get better from within the pocket."

J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

McCarthy was incredibly efficient — 72.3% completion, 22 touchdowns and four interceptions — while leading the Wolverines to a national championship. Michigan didn't need him to do much more than manage a run-heavy offense with a lights-out defense. But he's considered a quick-thinking, accurate and reliable passer. He's an underclassman who didn't attend the Senior Bowl, an annual college all-star game, meaning this is his first chance to talk and work out for NFL scouts.

"I'm really intrigued by him," Miller said. "We all saw how well C.J. Stroud did at the combine and how that helped his stock. J.J. could absolutely have a similar week, whether it be the interviews, the testing portion, the throwing portion. Those are all really, really crucial for him."

Michael Penix Jr., Washington

Penix is another college transfer who thrived in his new locale. He left Indiana and went 25-3 as a starter for the Huskies, ending on a down note while struggling against Michigan in the national title game. That came a week after his 430-yard, two-touchdown performance in a semifinal win over Texas. Penix turns 24 in May and has a long injury history, including two ACL tears and shoulder problems.

"He plays with smart pocket mobility and a willingness to get rid of the football," NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote. "His delivery is bundled and his release point is very low, but his monster game against Texas showed flashes of impeccable touch."

Bo Nix, Oregon

Nix also thrived in a new environment after he transferred from Auburn to Oregon, where he threw 74 touchdowns to 10 interceptions over the last two seasons. Nix, like Penix and Daniels, is on the older side for an NFL rookie as he turned 24 years old in February. But he's one of six passers in this class labeled as a possible long-term starter in the pros.

"He's accurate. He makes good decisions," Jeremiah said. "We've seen so many examples of quarterbacks shining at their second spot, and I actually think him and Penix, both those guys going through adversity in their first stop I think is good for them wherever they land."