What are the Vikings going to do at the quarterback position in the upcoming draft? It is clear they have to make a key move at the position after losing starting quarterback Kirk Cousins to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency.

Characterizing the departure of Cousins as a loss may not be accurate or fair. While he had impressive numbers for the Vikings during his six-year stay with the team, the Vikings struggled to win games against elite opponents with Cousins at quarterback.

He was well-liked in the Minnesota locker room and reportedly respected by general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and head coach Kevin O'Connell. However, he signed a four-year, $180 million deal with the Falcons and the Vikings apparently did not think that Cousins was worth that price.

The Vikings have signed veteran Sam Darnold to take over the QB1 role for the 2024 season, but there is little reason to think that he is a long-term answer for the franchise. Darnold signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Vikings and he has had several decent games over his career, but he has not demonstrated season-long consistency.

Vikings ready to find their QB in the draft

This is a quarterback-heavy draft, with as many as six who could be drafted in the first round. The Chicago Bears have the No. 1 pick in the draft and it appears all but certain that they will be drafting Caleb Williams with that pick. The USC quarterback has been ranked as the top player in the draft going back to the 2023 college football season.

However, the Vikings may have a chance to move up to the No. 2 or 3 spot for Jayden Daniels of LSU or Drake Maye of North Carolina. The Vikings have the No. 11 and 23 picks in the first round, and if they trade those two picks along with another selection — possibly a 2025 or 2026 first-round selection — they may be able to swing a deal with the Washington Commanders of New England Patriots.

However, giving up first-round draft picks from multiple seasons appears to be a major gamble for any team willing to make such a trade. No matter how attractive first-round quarterbacks look before they are selected, there are no guarantees they will be successful at the next level.

J.J. McCarthy should be available to the Vikings

If the Vikings are not going to make a huge gamble by making a trade for the No. 2 or 3 pick, they could move up to the No. 4 or 5 slot by trading their two first-round draft choices. The Arizona Cardinals have the No. 4 selection and the Los Angeles Chargers have the No. 5 spot. One of those two teams seem quite likely to accept a trade that would net them two first-round picks and allow the Vikings to move up.

J.J. McCarthy of Michigan, Michael Penix of Washington and Bo Nix of Oregon are the three highest-rated quarterbacks after Williams, Daniels and Maye. McCarthy appears to be the best of those three and he will likely be selected before Penix or Nix.

He did not come from a heavy passing offense at Michigan, but he aced every assignment he had and he also excelled in Michigan's biggest games. He led the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff in each of the past two seasons, and he was able to help the Wolverines gain the national championship last season.

McCarthy's top skills and advantages

McCarthy is incredibly accurate as he had a 72.3 completion percentage in 2023. He completed 240 of 332 passes for 2,991 yards with 22 touchdown passes and 4 interceptions. He had very similar numbers in 2022 when he completed 208 of 322 passes for 2,719 yards with a 22-5 TD interception ratio. In addition to his passing numbers, he also ran for 8 touchdowns during those two seasons.

He has the ability to read defenses and understand how they are attempting to blunt the attack. The belief is that he can do this as well as any of the quarterbacks who are available in this draft.

While those numbers are impressive, the Vikings and other NFL teams are more impressed by McCarthy's ability to succeed under pressure. He may not have the same kind of accuracy or passing skill as Cousins, but the belief is that McCarthy will find a way to be successful at the most crucial moments and lead his team to the type of wins that they could never gets when Cousins was under center.

When it comes to accuracy, reading defense and intangibles, McCarthy could turn out to to be the quarterback the Vikings need. Those are the three primary reasons that he could be successful for the Vikings if he is their selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.