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Scoggins: Choose a QB, Kevin O'Connell. Draft that QB, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

The mighty Michigan Wolverines arrived at Huntington Bank Stadium in early October for a night game against the Gophers that proved to be no contest.

The third row of the press box was occupied by four of the Vikings' top personnel evaluators, including General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and senior vice president of player personnel Ryan Grigson.

That level of interest was not surprising considering the Wolverines were the best team in college football last season with a roster stocked with future NFL players.

One couldn't help but wonder, though, if the Vikings contingent wasn't there to put eyeballs on one Michigan player specifically. Perhaps their 2024 first-round draft pick, quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

Now that Kirk Cousins' tenure is over, the Vikings slightly answered the question of "what's next?" by agreeing to sign veteran Sam Darnold to a one-year contract worth $10 million. For those freaking out about this development, reread the previous sentence. It's a one-year deal. We call the Darnolds of the league a bridge quarterback, the guy you use to get you from the past to the future.

And while Darnold might become the 2024 starter, the Vikings are squarely in the market to draft a quarterback, and there are no bylaws that prevent a rookie from winning the starting job.

Throw a rock in the direction of any mock draft right now and it's likely to hit one that projects the Vikings taking McCarthy with either the No. 11 overall pick or trading up to select him.

That scenario makes the most sense.

The top three quarterback prospects — USC's Caleb Williams, LSU's Jayden Daniels and North Carolina's Drake Maye — are projected to be drafted 1-2-3 by Chicago, Washington and New England.

Washington and New England desperately need franchise quarterbacks, and there's no chance the Bears will trade the No. 1 overall pick and bypass the opportunity to grab Williams.

That scenario leaves McCarthy available.

Draft prognosticators have picked apart McCarthy's skillset and debated whether he should be a first-round pick or taken later.

The criticism that he played in a run-heavy offense at Michigan sounds silly because that was Jim Harbaugh's scheme and overall coaching philosophy, not a knock against McCarthy's talent.

McCarthy attempted only 22 passes per game last season, which ranked 92nd nationally. However, he completed 72.3% of his attempts, which ranked sixth nationally, and he also ranked top-10 in quarterback rating.

Michigan asked him to be efficient more than spectacular. Watching McCarthy in person gave me a better appreciation for his mobility and command of the game. The best compliment is that McCarthy is a winner. That trait is especially endearing.

Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O'Connell now face two burning questions that could be franchise-altering: Which quarterback do they love, and what will it take to get that quarterback?

Each man is responsible for one of those questions.

The quarterback choice rests in O'Connell's lap. This is his area of expertise. This is partly why he was hired, to find the organization's long-awaited franchise quarterback.

For sure, drafting a quarterback is ripe for failure because it's the hardest position in professional sports, most college teams run entirely different styles of offenses than NFL teams and so many variables factor into whether a quarterback succeeds or fails. As armchair evaluators, we think we know how a certain quarterback will fare, but even experts swing and miss after conducting exhaustive research.

O'Connell knows what he desires in a quarterback and what skillset fits best in his system. Whether that is Maye or McCarthy or Michael Penix Jr., this will and should be O'Connell's call.

Adofo-Mensah's task is to discern what will be required to land their preferred choice. The pre-draft buildup is a cauldron of rumors and subterfuge. No NFL team knows for sure what anyone else has planned. The guess, though, is that the Vikings will need to move up to ensure they don't miss out on their guy.

If that's McCarthy, the rookie will be insulated by a collection of high-end skill players, including the game's best wide receiver, Justin Jefferson.

J.J. to JJ could become a catchy phrase.