Vikings trade up to select Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy with No. 10 pick

The assumption was that the Vikings would have to make a blockbuster move to get their next quarterback. They couldn’t sit back and wait. Not with so much riding on this decision.

In the end, the Vikings only had to make a minor move to get their guy, acquiring the No. 10 pick in the 2024 NFL draft and using it to select Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy. It’s the first time the Vikings have ever selected a quarterback in the top 10.

The cost of the Vikings trading up was not nearly as astronomical as originally expected with them only having to flip the No. 129 pick and the No. 157 pick to the New York Jets to get it done. The fact that the Vikings were able to hang on to the No. 23 pick was an added bonus, and they used it to trade up to No. 17 and select Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner.

This served as a satisfying conclusion to the past couple of months for the Vikings as general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O’Connell found a way to add a pair of impact players.

“We’re really excited about what we were able to do tonight,” Adofo-Mensah said. “Obviously there were a lot of things outside of our control, so we wanted to make sure we were ready for every scenario.”

Looking specifically at McCarthy, the Vikings seemingly tried to downplay their interest in him throughout the predraft process, often speaking in generalities about the position group as a whole in an effort to keep up the facade of who they actually wanted.

As much as the Vikings tried to hide it, however, prognosticators consistently connected them to McCarthy.

“He’s a competitor and a guy that believes very strongly that the best football is out of front of him,” O’Connell said. “He’s going to work like crazy to make that happen.”

It’s not hard to envision McCarthy playing the position under the tutelage of O’Connell considering his progression in college.

He played in a reserve role as a freshman, arriving on campus in Ann Arbor as a highly touted recruit, and getting his feet wet late in games. He went on to win the starting job as a sophomore, finishing with 208 of 322 on pass attempts for 2,719 yards and 22 touchdowns. He had similar stats as a junior, 240 of 332 on pass attempts for 2,991 and 22 touchdowns while leading Michigan to a national championship.

“He was somebody whose skill set we were really excited about,” Adofo-Mensah said. “He’s as talented as anybody in the draft.”

The biggest knock on McCarthy is that he wasn’t asked to throw as much as some of his peers in college. That said, McCarthy was extremely efficient when he did drop back to pass, evidenced by him setting a school record by completing 67.6 percent of his pass attempts throughout his career.

The good news for McCarthy is he won’t have to play right away if he isn’t ready. He can learn the ropes under journeyman quarterback Sam Darnold, who the Vikings signed to a one-year, $10 million deal in free agency last month.

“We’re not going to rush his development,” Adofo-Mensah said. “We’re going to do what’s best for the Vikings in the short and long term, and we’re excited to have him.”

All things considered, the Vikings were fortunate to get McCarthy given the amount of teams that targeted quarterbacks in the first round.

Not suprsingly, the Chicago Bears took Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick, the Washington Commanders took LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels with the No. 2 pick, and the New England Patriots took North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye with the No. 3 pick.

No doubt the most surprising selection of the first round came when the Atlanta Falcons took Washington quarterback Michael Penix with the No. 8 pick. Then, after the Vikings nabbed McCarthy with the No. 10 pick, the Denver Broncos took Oregon quarterback Bo Nix with the No. 12 pick.

As he contemplated trading up, Adofo-Mensah noted how he wanted to minimize regret, noting how nobody is going to care about what they gave up to get McCarthy if he turns out to be as good as they expect he can be. That’s why Adofo-Mensah made the move to make sure McCarthy didn’t end up anywhere else.

“Obviously I’m a spreadsheet calculator guy myself,” Adofo-Mensah said. “Sometimes we’ve got to step out from there, take the Clark Kent glasses off, and have a championship mindset.”

As tense as the Vikings’ war room inside TCO Performance Center was throughout the first round, that moment provided a chance for everybody to breathe a sigh of relief.

“Once we were able to do that and agree to that deal, and I knew we were going to be selecting J.J. it was pure excitement,” O’Connell said. “There was a goal in mind coming into the first round tonight to really add that quarterback of the future.”

It’s safe to say the Vikings accomplished that goal.

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