Vikings

Arif Hasan's Vikings 2024 Mock Draft 3.0: Trading Up For Drake Maye

Photo Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are now one of the contenders for a dramatic trade-up in the 2024 NFL Draft, so a mock draft that features a jump into the top three makes the most sense. For this exercise, I used the NFL Mock Draft Database’s Mock Draft Machine, which allows trades and uses its internal consensus board to rank players.

Can the Vikings walk away with a full draft class of players while still trading up to grab one of the top quarterbacks available?

Trade simulators do a poor job of calculating the cost of a trade when a quarterback is involved. We know about the haul of picks that the Carolina Panthers gave up for Bryce Young, the Los Angeles Rams gave up for Jared Goff, the New York Jets gave up for Sam Darnold, and – relevant to the Vikings in 2024 – what the San Francisco 49ers gave up for Trey Lance.

That’s not quite the same as what the Miami Dolphins gave up for Dion Jordan or what the Buffalo Bills gave up for Sammy Watkins. I looked at every trade into picks No. 2 through No. 4 of the NFL draft in the rookie salary cap era and found, using the values of the Rich Hill Trade Chart, that teams trading up for a quarterback give up about 100 more points than the chart calculates to be an “even” trade.

Teams trading up into picks No. 2 through No. 4 for a non-quarterback still gave up “too much,” but it was to the tune of about 40 points. The 100-point difference against the chart is about the equivalent of a mid-second-round pick, which is often expressed as a future first-round pick, while a 40-point difference is a late third-round pick.

Trading up from Pick 12, the 49ers gave up even more than that. For the third-overall pick in 2021, they traded their 2021 first-round pick as well as three future picks – two firsts and a third, with the final first-round pick coming in 2023.

Using the 50% discount rate the NFL has historically used for future picks, that means they gave up 637.5 points to receive 514 points back. An even trade would have ditched the 2023 first-round pick entirely and received a late 2021 third-round pick back from the Dolphins on top of the third-overall pick from that year.

For the Vikings, we’ll model that overpay. In order to make the mock draft interesting, we’ll also do what we can to preserve this year’s second-round pick, just like San Francisco did.

Round 1, Pick No. 3: Drake Maye, QB North Carolina

The NFL Mock Draft Database considers a trade up from No. 11 to No. 3 as one that only requires a future first-round pick. Using the quarterback tax calculated above, it looks like the Vikings would also have to give up a second-round pick.

Because we’re preserving that pick and because the Vikings don’t have a third-round pick, the only way to make up those 80 points on the Rich Hill chart is to give up the rest of the draft.

The database doesn’t allow that, only allowing the Vikings to trade all of their Day 3 picks except pick No. 190 for some reason. That means the Vikings traded Picks No. 11, 109, 130, 156, 166, and 179 in 2024 — and their first-round pick in 2025 — for Drake Maye.

Regardless, Vikings fans wouldn’t be mad if they traded merely a 2025 first-round pick and all of their Day 3 picks if their quarterback works out.

While there’s quite a bit to say about Maye, especially his pocket management, there’s no denying his general regard by the draft community. The North Carolina quarterback excels in big-play capability. He ranked second in the FBS in big-time throws, a product of his offense, arm strength, and personal risk tolerance.

But it should be noted that these big plays go away compared to his peers when isolating to in-pocket, unpressured throws between 1.5 and 2.5 seconds. Whether those big plays will go away in the NFL as he becomes a more structured quarterback remains to be seen.

His off-platform ability is astounding. Pairing that with his athleticism and his all-level accuracy could mean a very exciting quarterback. With prototypical size and a keen understanding of defensive spacing, there’s a lot for Vikings fans to like about Maye – even if he’s prone to throwing an interceptable pass here or there.

Round 2, Pick No. 42: Trade to the Los Angeles Rams

We’re left with two picks in the draft, which makes for a very boring mock on a team that needs some more juice. So we’re going to be trading down quite a bit.

The first one is a trade to the Los Angeles Rams for their 52nd-overall pick and the 100th-overall pick. That’s an even trade on the Rich Hill chart. The Rams take T.J. Tampa. Players of note at positions of need, like edge rusher Chris Braswell, nose tackle T’Vondre Sweat, edge rusher Bralen Trice, and defensive lineman Braden Fiske all go off the board between 42 and 52, but no other corners are taken.

Round 2, Pick No. 52: Trade to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

One more pick isn’t enough. We need even more. The Buccaneers have the 57th pick, so we snag that as well as pick No. 126. That’s still an even trade, but it’s tilted slightly in Minnesota’s favor. Exciting. We let defensive lineman Kris Jenkins pass us by.

Round 2, Pick No. 57: Trade to the Buffalo Bills

The hope going in is that this would be the final trade (it’s not). The offerings on the board are pretty tempting at this point. They include defensive tackles Michael Hall and Ruke Orhorhoro, cornerbacks Mike Sainristil and Kris Abrams-Draine, and interior offensive lineman Christian Mahogany.

Aside from being all-name team candidates, these are high-quality players. Nevertheless, we persist.

The Bills give us the 129th pick for the privilege of exchanging the 57th and 60th picks. This trade is also very slightly slanted in Minnesota’s favor – more than the Tampa Bay one. That’s not too bad. Receivers Malachi Corley and Ricky Pearsall go off the board, as does running back Trey Benson.

Round 2, Pick No. 60: Trade to the Kansas City Chiefs

This is the first trade that felt like a risk. There are four players who seem like quality selections, and trading down four spots puts all of them in danger. But the machine demands more prospects, so we go through with it.

The Kansas City Chiefs offer Pick 64 and 133. Another win by the trade chart. What could go wrong?

All four players of interest are selected in the intervening four picks. Time to trade down one last time.

Round 2, Pick No. 64: Trade to the New York Jets

The trade-down with the Jets is pretty substantial. This time, the team netted the 72nd overall pick, with the 112th thrown in for the trouble. Technically, this is an even more dramatic win than any of the others.

Luckily, the primary target for the pick is still there at 72. Before that, let’s look at the trades.

In essence, Pick 42 turned into Picks 72, 100, 112, 126, 129, and 133. That’s a net gain of 43 points on the Rich Hill chart, or about the value of the 100th pick.

By the analytics-oriented charts, these are massive wins – worth about 2,600 points on the second-contract-oriented Fitzgerald-Spielberger chart, which is the value of the second pick. That is, the second overall pick in the draft, not a second-round pick.

Let’s get some guys.

Round 3, Pick No. 72: Kamren Kinchens, S Miami (FL)

Partially thanks to a relatively poor performance at the NFL Combine, it looks like the Vikings will get a discount on a safety who otherwise demonstrated excellent range in college, especially in 2022. Kinchens is a bit of a mystery given his high-level performance a year prior and poor performance in the 2023 season and 2024 combine. But at his best, his centerfield capability as a true high-safety and versatility as a slot and occasional box safety make him a big asset to a team that may need to invest more in the secondary.

Kinchens has a knack for finding the ball, excellent reaction speed, and is a fluid mover who hits hard. There’s room on the defense for that.

Round 3, Pick No. 100: Max Melton, CB Rutgers

The Vikings have greater needs than safety on defense, so it might be odd to wait until the 100th pick to select a cornerback. But Max Melton has immediate starting potential. Some peg him as a second-round pick, especially after his excellent performance at the NFL Combine and the Senior Bowl.

With length, explosiveness, agility, and speed, he’s the complete package athletically at the position. Melton has a great eye for the ball and fantastic instincts to get where he needs to go. Though he’ll make occasional technical or experiential mistakes – wasted movement or an inability to get his head around in deep man coverage – he overall showcased high-level ability in both man and zone coverage.

His play strength does make him a bit of a liability against the run, but that’s not an issue of willingness. Melton sticks himself in there just as much as any defender. In time, he could add muscle mass that might resolve this. His 187 lb. frame at the combine leaves room to add muscle. Still, the name of the game is coverage, and he’s pretty good at it.

Round 4, Pick No. 112: Gabriel Murphy, EDGE UCLA

There are not many players available in the fourth round who demonstrated high-level athleticism at the NFL Combine and also had 90th-percentile production in predictive statistics like pass-rush win percent and run-stop rate.

Although Gabriel Murphy isn’t as sophisticated with his handfighting as the more well-known UCLA pass rusher and has moments where he gets washed out in the run game, he has the profile of a second-round edge rusher, not a fourth-round guy.

Round 4, Pick No. 126: Marshawn Lloyd, RB USC

There aren’t many athletic metrics that help predict running back performance, partially because running backs don’t have much control over their own production. But Lloyd’s performance at the combine got washed away by Isaac Guerendo and Trey Benson‘s performances. Nevertheless, it was very good for a 220 lb. back.

He didn’t look like David Montgomery, and he’s two inches shorter, but his size – both were 220 lbs. at the combine – and incredible penchant for forcing missed tackles in college make the comparison for me. Lloyd played for a great offense, but that doesn’t mean he played in a system that featured his best assets. He could be a better pro than a college player, and he was a good college player.

Round 4, Pick No. 129: Jamari Thrash, WR USC

Jamari Thrash had a pretty average combine, which is a bit surprising given how explosive he was on the field. For the past two years, he’s been a YAC monster because of his athleticism, though his power and physicality also played a big role.

His separation statistics are strong, but there are some reasons to think he can’t separate at the next level. His technique as a pure route-runner isn’t completely there. He also has a pretty significant hands issue. While he was nevertheless productive in college, it’s something to watch for as he transitions into the NFL.

Still, he has all the tools to be a high-level receiver, and he projects as someone who thrives when he can be given slot-type roles away from press coverage. If the Vikings want to add a Tutu Atwell or Jerricho Cotchery element to their offense, they could do a lot worse than Thrash, who is an all-name team candidate.

Round 4, Pick No. 133: Tommy Eichenberg, LB Ohio State

The Vikings will need to add a starting linebacker in the off-season in addition to Ivan Pace Jr., and it’s not clear that someone like Tommy Eichenberg would help right away. Still, he’s an interesting developmental player at the position while projecting as an immediate special teams asset.

But Eichenberg is still worth some investigation. His college production wasn’t ideal, and he didn’t do that much in the way of testing at the combine, but something stuck out when watching his drills: He was one of the most fluid players among the off-ball linebackers. That doesn’t match his on-field tape, which suggests there’s some potential to unlock with good coaching.

He’s a good straight-line, downhill-type linebacker who can still add more lower-body strength. Nevertheless, his film taking on blocks is impressive, and he didn’t miss many tackles. That, along with good instincts for the position, means there will be a role for him in the NFL if he improves his coverage technique.

Round 6, Pick No. 190: Logan Lee, DT Iowa

This is the only original Vikings pick in the mock, and it made sense to return to roots and overdraft an athlete. Lee may not find himself selected, but there are a number of sixth-round picks with worse profiles who end up in the league. Lee had an excellent combine and has solid numbers as a producer, both as a pass rusher and as a run defender.

Another player hidden by poor sack numbers and high pass rush win rate numbers, Lee could turn out to be a hidden gem whose athleticism could make the Vikings’ defense a lot more dynamic than it is right now.

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