What are the Vikings looking for in their next quarterback?

INDIANAPOLIS — As of right now, the Vikings are preparing for Kirk Cousins to be their starting quarterback next season. That’s been the messaging this week with general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell both expressing their desire to retain Cousins moving forward.

Still, the Vikings have also been doing their due diligence at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, sitting down with a number of top prospects with an eye toward the future.

This is a highly skilled class of rookie quarterbacks, with Caleb Williams of USC, Drake Maye of UNC, and Jayden Daniels of LSU possibly going No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3, respectively, in the 2024 NFL Draft. Though the Vikings won’t be able to select any of those players without trading up, they could be in position to pounce on the next wave that includes J.J. McCarthy of Michigan, Michael Penix Jr. of Washington or Bo Nix of Oregon.

What are the Vikings looking for in their next quarterback? That’s a complex question layered with nuance.

“There’s so much that goes into it,” O’Connell said. “There’s a lot of great examples of players coming into our league with some of those foundational points and then adding the rest of them to their skill set to become the complete player that they are.”

The most challenging part of evaluating quarterbacks is the fact that there is so much variance across the league. Some teams place a premium on talent above anything else, for example, while other teams take more of a holistic approach to the evaluation.

Asked for his most important qualities in a quarterback, O’Connell talked at length about the ability to process information and the ability to throw with accuracy. That makes sense considering his offense is predicated on diagnosing coverage quickly and delivering the ball on time.

It’s why he likes working with Cousins so much.

“You try to find those traits first and then go back and apply those traits to them doing certain things,” O’Connell said. “You’re just trying to piece together the best possible profile on the player.”

There’s also something to be said about player’s ability to create off schedule. As much as O’Connell values a quarterback who can drop back, stick his foot in the ground and rip the ball downfield, he understands the benefit of having somebody who can make something happen in a pinch.

“When the play doesn’t exactly go as planned, maybe a teammate struggles, ‘How does that person overcome context?’ ” Adofo-Mensah said. “That’s something we’re going to look for.”

The way a player carries himself off the field is another area to consider. The quarterback has to be a leader who can effortlessly command the respect of the locker room. Some of the formal interviews conducted at the combine in Indianapolis will go a long way in determining what the Vikings decide to do.

“You talk about somebody like Kirk and he sets an example with how he works,” Adofo-Mensah said. “He’s got a phrase: ‘It’s not a hobby.’ He lives every day that way. You need somebody at that position that embodies that for the team.”

It’s important to note that the Vikings are open minded with the way they evaluate the position. They understand that there isn’t a singular way of having success. Not at quarterback.

“I think what makes us unique as a coaching staff and as a football operation is we appreciate players for how they perform and how they get to their value,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We say, ‘You can be a starting quarterback and it’s not going to look the same.’ ”

Ultimately, if the Vikings decide to pull the trigger on a rookie quarterback in the coming months, O’Connell made it clear that he plans to do everything in his power to empower that player every day so he can reach his full potential.

“We’re in it with them from Day 1,” O’Connell said. “That’s how we have to look at it.”

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