Zulgad: 2024 NFL draft set to be biggest for Kwesi Adofo-Mensah

The very plugged-in Dianna Russini of The Athletic had an eyebrow-raising item on Monday in the digital version of the publication’s Scoop City newsletter. It was more of a tease for her Wednesday column, but if you follow the Minnesota Vikings, it caught your attention.

Russini wrote:

I have a list of five GM’s who I believe need to nail this draft for their own job security and, more importantly, their team’s future. This Wednesday, my column will go live. But I’ll give you an exclusive here: The GM under the most pressure in this draft is the Vikings’ Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

Three years into his regime, his Vikings are 20-14 but without a playoff win. After letting Kirk Cousins walk — despite his head coach’s public desire to keep the QB — Adofo-Mensah is running out of time. This might be the best opportunity he has to add a franchise-altering passer.

I expect the Vikings to do everything they can do move up on Thursday to get their guy.

There is no mention of Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell being on the hot seat, yet Russini’s sources are telling her that if Adofo-Mensah doesn’t get this right, he could be shown the door. Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell will be entering the third year of four-year contracts, and this marks the first time the two aren’t being linked together.

There are a couple of things at work here.

Russini appears to be indicating that if the Vikings don’t come away with a quarterback in the first round, quite possibly by paying a steep price to move into the top five, Adofo-Mensah will be the one to take the fall. That is, unless the Vikings grab a quarterback with the 11th pick or get into the top 10 and are able to get one of the top quarterbacks available in this draft. There are some who will tell you the Vikings would be happy coming away with Bo Nix at either Nos. 11 or 23, but that is up for debate.

Quarterback is the most pressing position for Adofo-Mensah, but if his job is in jeopardy it goes far beyond one spot. Adofo-Mensah’s first draft appears to be nearly a complete bust, and it’s likely owners Zygi and Mark Wilf are looking at their chief decision-maker and wondering what happened.

Adofo-Mensah’s defenders will point out that the 2022 draft came only three months after he was hired, meaning he didn’t have much of his staff in place. His critics will point to Adofo-Mensah’s decision to trade back from No. 12 to No. 32 — thus passing on star safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 14 — and taking seldom-used safety Lewis Cine.

That wasn’t an isolated blunder. The Vikings had 10 selections in that draft, and the only real contributors are right guard Ed Ingram, who had a miserable rookie season before showing some improvement last year; cornerback Akayleb Evans; and running back Ty Chandler. Evans has started 17 of 25 games in two seasons but isn’t guaranteed a starting role in 2024. Chandler is likely to be the backup to veteran free agent addition Aaron Jones.

Adofo-Mensah had better fortune last spring, taking promising wide receiver Jordan Addison at No. 23 and then grabbing cornerback Mekhi Blackmon in the third round. But the Vikings released a video from their draft room in the first round where Adofo-Mensah appeared to be discussing a trade of the 23rd pick as O’Connell encouraged him to take Addison.

So was Adofo-Mensah trying to work another trade of a first-round pick when there was a very productive player already available? That’s how it looked, and it looked as if O’Connell might have saved the day.

It was interesting that O’Connell said in a public appearance last week that he had shot down the front office’s desire to take a quarterback in the past two drafts.

“I have had to, in a lot of ways, fight off some mistakes from being made (previously), mainly because in the evaluation process I go through, I think about the things that are fixable,” O’Connell said.

It’s fair to assume that means that Adofo-Mensah might have been interested in drafting quarterbacks in either 2022 or 2023, or both, and that O’Connell stepped in to make sure what he considered a mistake wasn’t made.

O’Connell’s comments also made it obvious that if the Vikings do get a quarterback, it will be his decision. That would mean Adofo-Mensah will be in charge of getting the Vikings in the right position before getting out of the way.

The Wilfs made an interesting decision to replace former general manager and football lifer Rick Spielman with an Ivy League-educated data expert who once worked on Wall Street.

Adofo-Mensah was a commodities trader and portfolio manager before joining the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 as a research and development specialist. He was the vice president of football operations for the Cleveland Browns for two seasons before getting his first shot as a GM with the Vikings.

The Wilfs knew they were taking a gamble by turning to Adofo-Mensah as their GM and, clearly, there are some in the Vikings organization who are skeptical about whether this is working. If the Vikings get their franchise quarterback, Adofo-Mensah might not get much of the credit, but his job should be safe. But if O’Connell comes away from this draft unhappy with the process and the Vikings miss the playoffs for a second year in a row, Adofo-Mensah could find himself as a convenient fall guy.

Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire