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Zulgad: Kevin O’Connell isn’t likely to dash Vikings’ desire for QB

Kevin O’Connell made it clear during a speaking engagement at a Twin Cities church last week that in his first two seasons as the Minnesota Vikings’ coach he has played the role of quarterback Grinch during the NFL draft.

Maybe it involved putting the breaks on taking Desmond Ridder or Malik Willis in the third round in 2022 before Atlanta and the latter by Tennessee selected the former. It could have been last year when projected first-round pick Will Levis fell to Tennessee with the second pick of the second round.

“For a couple of years I’ve, you know, I’ve been kind of known as the ‘quarterback killer’ when it comes to the draft in Eagan,” O’Connell said in response to a question about draft philosophy.

O’Connell’s willingness to say this publicly was a bit surprising — even if it did come in a place of worship. In part because it shed light on something many of us assumed but didn’t know for sure. That is how much power O’Connell has when it comes to making the call on a quarterback. It can be assumed that one of those who previously might have been pushing for Kirk Cousins’ successor included general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.

There could have been a couple of reasons for O’Connell’s insistence on passing on a quarterback in the early rounds. 1) Cousins remained under contract and was going to be the starter; and 2) O’Connell wasn’t sold on any of the quarterbacks who were available to his team on the first or second day of the draft. (Jaren Hall was a fifth-round pick last April.)

As the first round of this long-awaited (at least for Vikings fans) draft approaches on Thursday, the Vikings’ circumstances have changed. Cousins opted to bolt for the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, and the Vikings could find themselves in a far better position to land the type of top level quarterback that O’Connell hasn’t had the option of getting in his first two years on the job.

Getting the type of quarterback O’Connell wants almost certainly will mean trading up from the 11th overall pick. That’s an area in which O’Connell can weigh in, but the final say belongs to Adofo-Mensah. Both men know their futures could be determined by what happens on Thursday and whether the Vikings come away with Jayden Daniels (unlikely), Drake Maye (possible), or J.J. McCarthy (more possible).

Give up multiple first-round picks to move up — a very realistic scenario — and the price will be forgotten, if the pick turns into a franchise quarterback. But if the player struggles, Adofo-Mensah, O’Connell or both might not be around for long.

“The feeling … that I feel from our fan base is when we get this next guy, he’s gonna be the guy,” said O’Connell, a former backup quarterback in the NFL who spent two seasons getting the most out of Cousins. “And I feel it. I know you guys all feel it. So 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.

“I think about the things that are coachable and then you think about the things that you could coach another 15 years with the player, and you might not be able to fix. Hope and faith are wonderful things, (but) I do like them to not necessarily be strategies.”

If the Vikings do move into the Top 5 to select a quarterback it will mark the first time in the franchise’s 63 seasons they have taken a QB in the Top 10. The Vikings have only taken four quarterbacks in the opening round: Tommy Kramer at No. 27 in 1977; Daunte Culpepper at No. 11 in 1999; Christian Ponder at No. 12 in 2011; and Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32 in 2014.

There will be many inconsolable Vikings employees and fans if that number doesn’t reach five on Thursday evening. O’Connell is likely to be one of them.

Story originally appeared on Vikings Wire