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Vikings trade up twice in NFL draft, taking Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy, Alabama edge Dallas Turner

Vikings trade up twice in NFL draft, taking Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy, Alabama edge Dallas Turner


EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings traded up twice in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday night, jumping one spot to No. 10 for Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy to ensure they didn’t miss out on their most dire need and making a six-spot leap to No. 17 for Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner.

“I always talk about minimizing regret,” Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah said. “Obviously I’m a spreadsheet-calculator guy myself, but sometimes you’ve got to step out from there, take your Clark Kent glasses off and just have a championship mindset and swing for a great player.”

The departure of veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency to Atlanta left a void — and an opportunity that Vikings leadership has been strategizing about for two-plus years.

“Every quarterback in the class that I interacted with wanted to go to Minnesota,” McCarthy said.

Minnesota also has one of the, if not the best wide receiver in the league in Justin Jefferson, who is a free agent after this season.

McCarthy went 27-1 as a starter on a defense-driven and run-first team that raised questions about the 6-foot-2, 219-pound passer’s potential. He set the program record with a 72.3% completion percentage.

Adofo-Mensah acknowledged that more projection was required with McCarthy than the others in this class. In a recent video conference call, Adofo-Mensah said, McCarthy asked him directly if there were any reason the Vikings wouldn’t draft him. Adofo-Mensah had nothing.

After Caleb Williams (Southern California) went to Chicago, Jayden Daniels (LSU) went to Washington and Drake Maye (North Carolina) followed to New England with the first three selections, the Falcons surprised the league by picking Michael Penix Jr. (Washington) with the eighth overall pick despite the presence of Cousins on a $180 million contract.

That put the Vikings in danger of having a quarterback-seeking team like Denver or Las Vegas leapfrogging them, so they made the swap with the New York Jets to ensure they’d get McCarthy. Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell said he felt “a range of emotions” as the draft unfolded.

“We knew we weren’t the only ones that had identified him as a quarterback we wanted to select,” O’Connell said. “You start thinking about the what-if.”

The Vikings sent fourth- and fifth-round selections (No. 129 and 157) to the Jets for a sixth-rounder (No. 203) to complete the deal.

“That’s where he wanted to go. That’s where he had his heart set. I’m just so happy for him,” said Los Angeles Chargers coach Jim Harbaugh, who led McCarthy and the Wolverines to the national championship last season. “I love him like a son. I was praying and pulling for it to work out the way he wanted it to work out, and the stars aligned.”

The Vikings had been aiming for this day since Adofo-Mensah and O’Connell came on board two years ago, with a deep rookie class at the position and the team at a crossroads following an NFC North title with a 13-4 record in their 2022 debut and a 7-10 finish in 2023.

The highest the Vikings had drafted a quarterback previously was Daunte Culpepper at No. 11 in 1999. They’ve used a first-round pick on a quarterback only four other times in the franchise’s 63-year history, with Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32) in 2014, Christian Ponder (No. 12) in 2011 and Tommy Kramer (No. 27) in 1977 the others.

With O’Connell, a former NFL quarterback who directed two of the best seasons that Cousins has had in 12 years in the league, calling the plays on the sideline and superstar Jefferson headlining a talented offense around him, the Vikings have a favorable environment for the 21-year-old McCarthy. They signed Sam Darnold, the 2018 third overall pick by the Jets, to bridge the gap and reduce the pressure on the rookie to develop quickly.

McCarthy was widely seen as the most pro-ready of all the prospects, thanks to his combination of leadership, intelligence and toughness. Still, there’s no guarantee the Vikings got the right guy, given the track record across the NFL of success by first-round quarterbacks is essentially a coin-flip proposition.

The Vikings added the 23rd pick in a recent trade with Houston for their second-round picks this year and next year. They don’t own any second-day selections, minimizing their opportunity to add starting-caliber players and increasing the pressure to hit a home run in the first round. With offense accounting for the first 14 picks, the Vikings were in position to add a premier player on defense.

Once defenders started to fall off the board, the Vikings struck a deal with Jacksonville by sending their fifth-rounder (No. 167) and third- and fourth-round picks in 2025 to move up from No. 23. Turner was a first-team Associated Press All-American who tied for eighth in the FBS with 10 sacks last season.

After letting Danielle Hunter, D.J. Wonnum and Marcus Davenport depart in free agency, the Vikings signed Jonathan Greenard and Andrew Van Ginkel before adding Turner in this rapid restock.

Turner was the second edge rusher taken. The Jaguars indicated they had an offer from another team for No. 17, forcing the Vikings to increase their offer. But they viewed Turner as one of the few outliers on defense in this draft. He was widely seen as one of the steals of the first round.

Turner said he was surprised to last that long, but only to a point in a first round with 23 offensive players taken.

“The game is changing,” he said. “Teams need what they need, so you’ve got to expect it.”

TOP PHOTO: FILE – Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates after catching a pass for a first down during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

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