Vikings take McCarthy, Turner in first-round bid to 'swing for a great player'

The Vikings began one of the most aggressive first rounds in franchise history by drafting a quarterback higher than they ever have. They ended it by trading up for the second time on Thursday night to take a pass rusher in the first round for the first time since 2005.

They traded up one spot to select Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy with the 10th overall pick they acquired from the Jets. McCarthy, who won a national championship in his final year with the Wolverines, was drafted one spot higher than the Vikings selected Daunte Culpepper in 1999. The Jets received the Vikings' 129th and 157th picks.

Then, after an NFL draft record run of 14 consecutive offensive players to open the draft, the Vikings traded up a second time and cut against the grain of the 2024 first round. They moved from No. 23 to No. 17 for Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner, who became the third defensive player taken and the first Vikings first-round pass rusher since Erasmus James in 2005. To get Turner, the Vikings sent the 167th overall pick, as well as third- and fourth-rounders in 2025, to Jacksonville.

It was only the fourth time in the Super Bowl era the Vikings had made two top-20 picks in the same draft; the only other times were 2005, 1994 and 1967.

"You know, we're always talking about minimizing regret," Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said. "If you're sitting on your couch one day, and you're like, 'That extra fifth [-round pick] or whatever it was, and you could have had a chance at a guy you think could be special,' you're never going to care about that fifth-round pick. And there's ways of getting it back. Obviously, I'm a spreadsheet guy myself, but sometimes, you've got to step out from there, take your Clark Kent glasses off, have a championship mindset and swing for a great player."

The 2024 draft stood in sharp contrast to Adofo-Mensah's first draft with the Vikings two years ago, when he moved back 20 spots in a deal with the Lions before selecting safety Lewis Cine. Combined with the Vikings' March deal to acquire the 23rd pick from the Texans, their draft-night deals left them with no picks in the second through fourth rounds in 2025 (though they could get a compensatory pick back from Kirk Cousins' departure for Atlanta).

But after two drafts that have so far yielded underwhelming results, the Vikings GM got aggressive to find help at two of the game's most important positions.

"I do think we set some goals in mind," Adofo-Mensah said. "We've accomplished a lot of them. You know, you're never perfect, you're never clean. But if you told me, you know, a few months ago, when it started that we ended up here, I think I'd be excited."

McCarthy was the fifth quarterback drafted in a wild opening to the first round that saw six QBs taken with the first 12 picks. The Bears and Commanders opened the draft by selecting Southern California's Caleb Williams and Louisiana State's Jayden Daniels, respectively, and the Patriots took North Carolina QB Drake Maye, whom the Vikings were believed to be interested in trading up to select.

"There was certainly a range of emotions," coach Kevin O'Connell said. "You go through it, sitting in a place where you know that quarterbacks were going to be very popular in this draft. That's where you lean on that process. You lean on making sure that you feel comfortable with multiple scenarios, because that's really what it is. J.J. has won at every level. When you really dive into the tape, and some of the things I really emphasize in my evaluation process, there was a lot to really like about J.J."

The 21-year-old went 27-1 as a starter at Michigan, winning a national title a week after the Wolverines beat Turner and Alabama in the Rose Bowl to advance to the championship game. Michigan's offense under Jim Harbaugh meant McCarthy threw only 713 times in 28 career starts, but he impressed scouts with his throwing session at the NFL combine and interviewed with O'Connell and quarterbacks coach Josh McCown there.

"Coach O'Connell led the whole thing," McCarthy said in his news conference at the combine on March 1. "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."

He figures to begin his time with the Vikings behind Sam Darnold on the depth chart, getting time to learn the Vikings' offense while the team relies on the 26-year-old Darnold for now. But the effectiveness with which McCarthy develops under O'Connell could define the rest of the decade for the Vikings.

"You really wish you had more time every single day, and we're going to try and maximize that time and not put any sort of preset target date," O'Connell said. "It's going to be our jobs as coaches to put him in the greatest learning environment we possibly can."

Predraft chatter suggested the Vikings might have needed to move up further than they did to get McCarthy.

The Giants were reported before the draft to be in the market for a quarterback at No. 6 overall. But New York instead took LSU wide receiver Malik Nabers, raising the possibility the Vikings could pick between McCarthy, Washington's Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon's Bo Nix at No. 11. But the Falcons, who signed Cousins to a four-year, $180 million deal last month, pulled the surprise of the night by drafting Penix with the eighth pick, putting the former Vikings quarterback in the situation he thought he'd escaped by leaving Minnesota for a deal that could include three guaranteed seasons.

It meant the Vikings were down to McCarthy and Nix. And with the Jets on the clock at No. 10 and the Broncos in the QB market at No. 12, the Vikings decided they couldn't wait any longer.

The Vikings, who had traded their 2024 and '25 second-round picks in a deal with Houston last month, could have only two picks in the first four rounds of the 2025 draft: the first-rounder they didn't have to trade away on Thursday and the third-round compensatory pick they figure to get after Cousins left for the Falcons. There wasn't a defensive player taken until the 14th pick, when the Colts took UCLA edge rusher Laiatu Latu. The Seahawks drafted Texas defensive lineman Byron Murphy II 16th, and the Vikings moved up to take Turner one pick later.