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Vikings meet with top QBs at NFL combine. 'It was special,' one says.

INDIANAPOLIS – J.J. McCarthy, the national championship winner out of Michigan, was among the many quarterbacks in this year's NFL draft who walked into the Vikings' suite at Lucas Oil Stadium this week for a formal, 18-minute sit-down interview.

Quarterbacks at the scouting combine spoke with reporters on Friday, when McCarthy and ex-Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who lost to McCarthy's Wolverines in the national title game, said they were confident in how they came across to a Vikings contingent that included coach Kevin O'Connell, General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and new quarterbacks coach Josh McCown.

"Coach O'Connell led the whole thing," McCarthy said Friday. "Everything they talked about wanting out of a QB aligns with what I want. Just being able to get on the board with them, go through their plays, it was special."

On Saturday, quarterbacks take the field to throw and run in front of NFL scouts. Vikings evaluators will get to watch McCarthy, Penix and Oregon's Bo Nix. But the three passers atop most draft rankings — USC's Caleb Williams, North Carolina's Drake Maye and Louisiana State's Jayden Daniels — are expected to sit out throwing drills.

Penix said he will throw on Saturday, but whether he will run is a "game-time decision." He said outsiders may knock him for his speed, and he may wait until Washington's pro day later this spring.

He spoke with more conviction about how his Vikings meeting unfolded.

"It was great," Penix said. "I feel like that's a good organization over there. They show a lot of good things, got a lot of good players as well. I felt very confident in that meeting."

Williams, the presumed No. 1 overall pick to the Chicago Bears, is manipulating the draft process even more.

Williams said he has refused medical testing in Indianapolis, where all 32 teams typically get chances to evaluate everyone.

"Not 32 teams can draft me," Williams said. "There's only one of me. The teams I go to for my visits, those teams will have the medicals and that will be it."

Maye, the 6-foot-4, dual-threat passer, already has a Vikings connection in McCown, who was an assistant coach at Myers Park High School, Maye's school, in Charlotte in 2019. McCown split duties between being an Eagles backup quarterback and coaching Maye, who threw for 50 scores and two interceptions that season.

Maye transferred to Myers Park as a sophomore. "One of the best decisions I made," Maye said. "That really changed my football [life]."

Daniels, the dual-threat Heisman Trophy winner, was asked how he would feel going to an NFL team that wanted to sit him for a year. That could be the case in Minnesota, where the Vikings still want to retain quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins would become a free agent on March 13 if he doesn't have a new contract.

"Freshman year of high school, I started on varsity," Daniels said. "Freshman year of college, I started. So, it's something that I'm accustomed to. [But] whatever the staff or organization feels is best for me, that's their plan. We'll sit down and talk about it."

If the Vikings want Maye or Daniels, they will likely have to trade up from pick No. 11. Williams, Maye and Daniels are frequently projected as the first three picks.

What would it take for the Vikings to get into that range?

"You're talking about the 11th pick, the first-round pick in '25 and a first-round pick in '26," NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "That would be the cost for them to get up to [pick] number three."

McCarthy, Penix and Nix are considered the next best options.

"I would probably lean towards McCarthy," Jeremiah said. "Everything he does in terms of accurately delivering the football, his ability to move around a little bit. The way he sees everything and kind of plays under control. I think Kevin O'Connell would like him."

"Really, really quick mind," Jeremiah added. "Quick release. Just everything he does is real smooth."

In his latest mock draft, ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller has the Vikings selecting Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner in the first round.

Then Miller has the Vikings taking Penix in the second round at No. 42 overall.

"The thing I've heard about the Vikings consistently the last year now is they want to be aggressive to get the next quarterback," Miller said. "Could they take J.J. McCarthy at 11? I definitely think so. … [But] Penix would work really, really well in that offense just because it's all timing-based throws. That's something he does really well from a clean pocket."

"I know Round 2 might not be where Vikings fans want to invest in the quarterback position," Miller added. "But if they do, I think Penix is a good fit."