The Minnesota Vikings are a need-based team in this year’s draft. Although Rick Spielman will say that they will take the best player available, that player will just so happen to fill a need on the roster.
With this in mind, the odds of the Vikings selecting a quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft are slim. For a team that needs to win next year, there are more pressing needs on the roster that will get Spielman’s attention. But if they have the opportunity to select Mac Jones, they can’t afford to pass it up.
The Alabama quarterback is one of the most polarizing prospects in this draft. His stats suggest he’s a prospect on par with Joe Burrow, but his style of play has pundits like Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus comparing him to Kirk Cousins. While Cousins has been a top-10 quarterback since arriving in Minnesota, he’s seen as an average quarterback both locally and nationally. Cousins struggles to create plays off-script, and teams have viewed Jones’ pocket-oriented style of play as a negative.
This puts him behind more dynamic prospects such as Justin Fields and Trey Lance and would leave Jones as the most likely quarterback to be there when Minnesota is on the clock at 14. Does this feel eerily reminiscent of when the Vikings overdrafted Christian Ponder? Sure. But this might be the time for the Vikings to take the risk.
Jones is a quarterback that would be a perfect fit for the Vikings’ offense. Like Burrow, he put up mind-blowing stats in college with 4,494 yards, 41 touchdowns, and four interceptions during an All-SEC schedule last year. Jones was accurate at all three levels, his best work came in the deep passing game, where he threw 17 of his touchdowns and posted a 128.0 passer rating.
Some of these numbers are inflated because of his supporting cast. The Crimson Tide featured projected first-round picks in Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith and had Najee Harris, the top running back in this year’s class, in the backfield. Jones also played behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation. And with Steve Sarkisian as his offensive coordinator, Jones was put in a situation to succeed.
However, there’s an argument that the Vikings would provide him with similar accommodations. Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL. Dalvin Cook ranked third in Pro Football Focus’s overall grades. While the offensive line has major holes, they could be plugged later in the draft or with a late signing.
This sounds a lot like Cousins’ situation in Minnesota, but that could be a good thing. By starting Cousins for one more season, the Vikings can groom Jones to take over in 2022, allowing them to shop Cousins next offseason.
It wouldn’t seem like the Vikings could get much for Cousins entering his age-34 season but it also didn’t seem like the Kansas City Chiefs would get anything for Alex Smith. When they were ready to turn to Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City traded the 34-year-old Smith to Washington for Kendall Fuller and a third-round draft pick. It wasn’t a haul, but it gave them a solid player while clearing the way for the future.
Jones would also give the Vikings a chance to take advantage of the rookie window. Instead of jumping through hoops to get under the salary cap every spring, they could hit free agency and add players that could help them right away. This could open the door to an offseason similar to the one the Cleveland Browns had this year. With Baker Mayfield under his rookie contract, they were able to sign Troy Hill and Jadeveon Clowney as players that could fill holes on the roster.
There’s also the talent in this year’s quarterback class. There is a chance that five quarterbacks could go in the top 10, making this year a buyer’s market. That can’t be said for next year’s class where North Carolina’s Sam Howell and USC’s Kedon Slovis are good prospects but aren’t sure things.
Waiting a year could put the Vikings in a similar situation as the Green Bay Packers. While the Packers have the benefit of having Aaron Rodgers, they invested in the wrong quarterback class and took Jordan Love.
Jones doesn’t have the same questions that Love had coming into this year, but teams are still unsure if he’ll be the answer. For the Vikings, it would be wise to start thinking about their future. If they want to pull the trigger, they could do worse than Jones.