NFL Analysis


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What Happens If Vikings Can't Find a Trade Partner in 2024 NFL Draft?

Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell stands on sidelines vs. Bengals
Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium. Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

When the Minnesota Vikings traded up with the Houston Texans for the 23rd-overall pick, the takeaway was clear — the Vikings are prepared to make another trade up into the top of the first round for a quarterback.

It’s easy to see why Minnesota would put this deal together. Since Kirk Cousins left in free agency, the Vikings don’t have many quarterback options. Their major move was signing Sam Darnold to a one-year, $10 million contract. 

The Vikings could package the 11th-overall pick, the 23rd pick and more to jump into the top five. By the Jimmy Johnson chart, which teams still use as a guide to match up trade values, the 11th and 23rd picks are between the value of the third- and fourth-overall pick. By more modern charts, it’s around the first-overall pick.

But there is always a premium on big trade-ups, especially for quarterbacks, so the Vikings would likely have to pay at least $1.20 on the dollar for a deal. Minnesota already paid a premium by trading the 42nd, 188th and a 2025 second-round pick in exchange for the 23rd and 232nd pick this year.

Everything is set up for the Vikings to make this move … but what if they don’t? Let’s look at some questions surrounding Minnesota and its quest for a quarterback.

Are The Vikings a Lock to Trade Up?

It’s fair to believe the Vikings have some tentative agreement for the next move and have an idea of what it would take to make a deal. But that doesn’t guarantee a trade will be completed. This isn’t the San Francisco 49ers trading up for the third-overall pick a month before the draft in 2021 — a trade that cost them a third-round pick and two future firsts to move up from 12 to 3.

It’s more likely than the Vikings would like that their ideal trade-up situation does not come to fruition. In a best-case scenario, Minnesota is forced to take the third quarterback on the board, with a more realistic shot at the fourth. The Vikings need their desired quarterback to be there and nothing strange to happen in front of a possible landing spot.

If a quarterback does start to fall, that could make it easier for a team like the Denver Broncos or Las Vegas Raiders, who need a quarterback and sit at picks 12 and 13 but don’t have the same draft capital, to move up into the top five as the Vikings. 

Even if the Vikings want to be patient, they might need to be aggressive to prevent teams from jumping ahead of them.

Can They Take a Quarterback Later?

This is where things get tricky if the start of the draft does not go the Vikings’ way. If Minnesota is out of quarterback options at 11, they can still do something with pick 23. But it’s hard to believe the Vikings would like a quarterback enough to take him 23rd overall, yet not like him enough to pick him 11th.

Every year, we get overzealous about how many quarterbacks will go in the first round. Typically, one or two quarterbacks are routinely mocked in the first round and go much later. Will Levis was a potential top-10 pick at this time last season.

However, the Vikings won’t have the luxury of seeing who falls into the second round since their pick in that round, 42nd overall, was included in the trade to Houston for the 23rd overall pick. After pick No. 23, the Vikings won’t pick again until 108, eight selections into the fourth round.

Minnesota could trade out of either first-round pick to recoup some of their lost draft capital from the Houston trade or start to collect assets in 2025 — a draft where the Vikings will already be without their second-round pick. 

The Vikings could slide out of the 23rd pick and gain a second from a team wanting to jump into that range to get in on the second tier of wide receivers. A team could want to jump the cluster of the Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs, who could all be looking for receiving.

Who are The Vikings' Mid-Round Options?

Minnesota’s options later in the draft depend on where the Vikings would pick. There aren't many intriguing options if they’re stuck in the fourth round. 

Usually, prospects in this range who become capable starters have plus accuracy but lack the top-end traits that would push them into the earlier rounds. That kind of quarterback just doesn’t exist this year.

Bo Nix could be a fit if the Vikings get back into the second round and the Oregon quarterback is still on the board. According to the draft day predictor from ESPN Analytics, Nix is around 60 percent likely to still be on the board at pick 23 but just around 25 percent likely to be available at the start of the second round.

Nix is a player with good short-to-intermediate accuracy but wasn’t asked to do much down the field. More than one-third of Nix’s passes were at or behind the line of scrimmage in 2023. 

His profile — from the accuracy to the depth to some underrated athleticism — looks a bit like Gardner Minshew’s when he came from Washington State. Minshew can hold his own as a starter and nearly helped the Colts to a playoff spot last season, but there is a defined ceiling with him leading an offense. 

The other Day 2 quarterback with some intrigue is Spencer Rattler of South Carolina. Like Nix, Rattler has short and intermediate accuracy but played in an offense heavily centered around the line of scrimmage. In 2023, 34.8 percent of Rattler's pass attempts did not cross the line, the highest rate in this draft class.

Rattler does have a bit more juice in his arm than Nix and could use that to target the intermediate level of the field, which is where the Vikings have had success under Kevin O’Connell.

Minnesota has not been a behind-the-line passing team under O’Connell and had the fifth-lowest rate of those throws last season. It would be an adjustment for quarterbacks like Nix or Rattler to shift to targeting the short area of the field more, but those throws would be schemed open with heavy use of play-action.

The Vikings will need a Day 2 pick to get a Day 2 quarterback. Doing so while regrouping some other draft picks to be ready for another quarterback move in 2025 could be just as difficult as trading up in the first place.

>> READ: Vikings Take Bo Nix in Latest Mock

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Darnold
The Minnesota signed former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Sam Darnold as a free agent but must improve at the position in this year's draft. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Is Darnold Passable For a Year?


Are You Sure?

We do this plenty with Darnold. There will be flashes that will make people believe he can live up to his status as a former third-overall pick, but those won’t last.

This is easily the best supporting cast and coaching staff Darnold has been around, with a reasonable expectation of playing. He was in San Francisco last season but was never a threat to Brock Purdy.

Darnold did have one successful start in a Week 18 game against the Rams. He averaged 0.31 EPA per play (Purdy led the league at 0.29) with a 52 percent success rate. He lived in the short-to-intermediate range and found openings under pressure. 

But given how the 49ers’ offense functioned last season, it would be more alarming if Darnold had struggled than it is promising that he played well in one of the best-constructed offenses we’ve seen in the modern era.

Darnold has played well in stretches, and this could look like what happened when Joshua Dobbs took over for the Vikings. O’Connell was invigorated by controlling the quarterback and calling the game to make things as easy as possible. Still, their success wasn’t sustainable, as the quarterback’s flaws could only be hidden for so long.

Darnold has never been a particularly accurate quarterback and has mixed in high interception and sack rates throughout his career. Some of that could be masked in an O’Connell offense that features Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson, but it’s hard to imagine Darnold playing clean football for a full 17-game season. 

Cowboys QB Dak Prescott looks out as he walks off the field.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) walks on the the field after a play during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports.

What Are 2025 Options?

Whether Darnold or a non-first-round rookie leads the way, the Vikings could look to next year’s draft as the path to a quarterback.

Because of the strong offensive supporting cast and improvements on defense, the Vikings might not be bad enough to be at the top of the 2025 draft order.

Minnesota still won seven games in 2023 while getting half a season from Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and Jaren Hall. The defense created chaos, sure, but it wasn’t very productive — it was just 20th in EPA per play.

Even with six or seven wins, the Vikings could find themselves as a fringe top-10 drafting team, placing them in a similar situation to this draft, but there is expected to be less top-end talent at quarterback available.

If Minnesota wanted to speed up its process, it could try to take a big swing in free agency. Dak Prescott is scheduled to be a free agent after this season and has made little progress in an extension with the Cowboys. 

Should he hit the market, Prescott would likely set the record as the highest-paid quarterback, earning around $55 million annually.

This offseason, the Vikings hesitated to give Cousins multiple guaranteed years as he’ll be a 36-year-old quarterback coming off an Achilles injury. Prescott’s case would be different since he would be 32 at the start of the 2025 season. 

The Vikings have more than $100 million in projected cap space for the 2025 season. That does not include Jefferson’s inevitable extension sometime this season before his rookie contract expires. Minnesota could afford top-of-the-market deals for quarterback and wide receiver but would be locked into that as the core of the roster for the next few seasons.

The Vikings could also watch the trade market. The biggest name might be Trevor Lawrence. The odds are slim, and it would be an insane thing for the Jaguars to do, but let’s say things don’t go well in Jacksonville this season. 

Lawrence would have his fifth-year option in 2025 and be looking for a top-tier contract extension afterward. If the Jaguars want to clean house across the board, it’s not out of the question they could include the quarterback.

All of these situations would need to break exactly right for the Vikings to have a clear path to a future quarterback. They might be less realistic than the trade-up scenario in front of them for the 2024 draft.

That makes it all the more essential for the Vikings to figure out how they want to approach this draft and do what they can to find the next quarterback. Minnesota might not be in an ideal place, but the alternate path is more dangerous.