NFL Draft trade scenarios: How Vikings can get the QB they want

A couple of weeks ago, Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah shook up the tail end of free agency by trading with the Houston Texans to acquire the No. 23 pick of this year’s draft, thereby giving Minnesota two first-round picks.

After losing quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency, it doesn’t take an NFL insider to figure out what the Vikings are trying to do. They are trying to arm themselves with the capital to trade up and grab a quarterback in one of the best classes in years.

Of course, it takes two to tango, and Minnesota isn’t the only team left in need of a quarterback. In fact, they aren’t even the only team in the market to trade up. That likely means that it will take more — much more ­— than just the No. 11 and No. 23 pick to move into the top five to take one of the best quarterbacks in the class.

It doesn’t mean Minnesota won’t do it. I fully expect them to try, if they aren’t already. From sources I’ve talked to, the Vikings, and coach Kevin O’Connell in particular, like Drake Maye, the former UNC quarterback with a high floor and tremendous pocket presence. Maye would be a shoe-in to the Shanahan offense that O’Connell runs and would be in great hands between O’Connell and quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, both former NFL signal-callers themselves. 

But will Minnesota be able to trade up high enough to get him? Will Maye fall a couple of spots further than previously thought? 

I think there’s a world where Maye is gone, but the Vikings like J.J. McCarthy as well. Though McCarthy wasn’t asked to do a lot in a national championship offense at Michigan and therefore lacks some experience, he has traits that have him climbing up draft boards all over the league. Minnesota could be one of them, and with the aforementioned coaches, plus weapons like Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, T.J. Hockenson, Aaron Jones and a couple of great bookend tackles on the offensive line, McCarthy could develop quickly in Minnesota.

There’s a world where Sam Darnold is the starter come Week 1 and they let whoever they draft sit in a more long-term approach. We’ve seen that work out many times if an organization can stomach the patience it takes to do it.

Vikings are the betting favorite to land J.J. McCarthy

Vikings are the betting favorite to land J.J. McCarthy

So, let’s explore some hypotheticals. Who might the Vikings end up with, and what will it take to get them?

A haul up to get their first choice

This scenario requires some assistance from both Washington and New England. If we assume the Chicago Bears take Caleb Williams first overall, and the Commanders stand pat at No. 2 but take LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Maye would still be in play. Then comes the self-awareness of the Patriots to know they aren’t quite set up for a young franchise quarterback, and they have a ton of needs. Would they take the opportunity to trade down?

To trade into the top three, Minnesota has to give up a lot in both current and future assets. Not only do they package the No. 11 and No. 23 picks in this draft, but they also send their first and third-round picks next year. Keep in mind that Minnesota will likely get two third-round compensatory picks for losing both Cousins and Danielle Hunter, but it’s … a lot. To determine compensation, I went back to just last year, when the Houston Texans traded up from No. 12 to the third overall pick — after picking C.J. Stroud No. 2 overall. It cost them the No. 12 and No. 33 selections plus first- and third-round picks in 2024. The last pick ended up being a pick swap because they got the No. 105 selection back. But in this scenario, don’t forget the Vikings aren’t the only ones trying to trade up. The Denver Broncos are also likely on the phones making their own offers. The New York Giants and the Las Vegas Raiders might be doing the same. To get into the top three, Minnesota is more than likely going to have to overpay — but if it results in them getting their guy for the foreseeable future, it’ll be worth it.

Who should be the QB drafted after Caleb Williams?

Who should be the QB drafted after Caleb Williams?

Arizona sees the value in a haul, and the Vikings need to jump other quarterback-needy teams

The first team that doesn’t need a quarterback in the top five is the Arizona Cardinals, who pick fourth overall. The problem for Minnesota is that in this scenario, quarterbacks have gone 1-2-3 and they are now looking at their second choice in McCarthy. Is he worth No. 4 overall? Maybe not, but it may be the only way to ensure they get him before a team like Denver or Las Vegas can. 

The Vikings not only have to make an offer attractive enough that it’s better than whatever those other two teams are offering, but they also have to sway the Cardinals to move out of that pick instead of taking wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who could be a huge difference maker for their team. What’s playing in Minnesota’s favor is that wideout isn’t the only need the Cardinals have — far from it. Because of that, Arizona sees the value in getting a haul that ends up including No. 11 and No. 23 along with both fourth-round picks this year and next year’s first. The Vikings also get to minimize the future impact of a trade like this by taking this scenario.

A trade up to No. 5 for Plan B

FOX Sports’ Dave Helman and I went through this very scenario in our latest mock draft on the NFL on FOX podcast. I had Minnesota trading the No. 11 and No. 23 picks plus a 2025 first-rounder, along with a pick swap of their third-round pick next year, getting a fourth-round pick back from the Los Angeles Chargers for the No. 5 overall pick. This was based on the way the draft had already fallen with Washington taking Maye thanks to Helman making that selection. This is also trusting that the Cardinals wanted Harrison that badly and wouldn’t trade out, thereby allowing a team to jump Minnesota.

To move into the fifth spot and take McCarthy, the Vikings give up the least amount of capital, but it still includes their first-rounder next year. There doesn’t seem to be a way around that when having to move up from outside the top 10 (though barely) and into the top five with other quarterback-needy teams trying to jump you.

Who knows how this will all shake out. This was meant as a thought exercise to show how much work is yet to be done by the Minnesota front office. But given they were reportedly in on trying to trade up for Stroud last season with a fraction of the capital they have now and Cousins still on the roster, I have to think they’ll be as aggressive as they need to be this year.

Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, which added the title of Super Bowl Champion (and boat-parade participant) to her résumé. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.

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