Mailbag: How Vikings Can Approach Trading Up in 2024 NFL Draft

Mailbag: How Vikings Can Approach Trading Up in 2024 NFL Draft
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Some NFL draft, some free agency in this week’s mailbag. Let’s dive in on all of it …

From Jason Weeks (@jasontweeks): Greater likelihood … Vikings trade to 3 for Maye or 4 for JJ?

Jason, I’d say the Minnesota Vikings move to No. 4 for J.J. McCarthy, but that’s not to say they prefer the Michigan quarterback (though they might, I don’t know one way or the other). It’s because of what it sure seems like is going to happen within the top three. And at this point, my information, and we reported this in my Kirk Cousins story Monday, is that teams that have tried to trade into that range have been met with polite no’s from the Chicago Bears, Washington Commanders and New England Patriots.

Mailbag: How Vikings Can Approach Trading Up in 2024 NFL Draft

McCarthy, Maye and Daniels (left to right) are all highly-debated QB prospects for 2024.

From left: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports; Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports; Stephen Lew/USA TODAY Sports

That doesn’t mean that can’t change. It’s possible we get closer to the draft, and the Patriots decide they like one of the non–Caleb Williams quarterbacks. If that guy isn’t there, and they don’t see the others being worth a third pick, they could be willing to move the pick while they’re on the clock. But for right now, it seems less likely that a trade into the top three will be there for the Vikings, which presumably would mean no Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels for Minnesota, with at least the perception those two are going Nos. 2 and 3, in some order.

Now, do I think Maye might be Minnesota’s preference? Sure. Maye was coached by Vikings quarterbacks coach Josh McCown for a stretch in high school, and was teammates with McCown’s son. There’s a lot to like there. But whether they like him or Daniels or McCarthy, if they can’t get into the top three, then, naturally, the Vikings will have to be comfortable with all four of the top QBs to warrant moving up to the fourth or fifth pick (to position themselves in front of the New York Giants at No. 6 and go get one).


From Derek Nelson (@_derekn): Is it Giants vs. Vikings for McCarthy/Maye (QB4)?

Derek, I think the Giants are considering drafting a quarterback either at No. 6 or as part of a trade up into the top four. My feeling is the Vikings are going to actively try to move into the upper reaches of the draft. And those two approaches are pretty different.

It’s probably worth noting, too, that the Vikings did get ahead a bit on their quarterback scouting to prepare for the possibility that Kirk Cousins would bolt in free agency, as he did.


From Jeremy Bonk (@JBonk1212): Any truth to the rumor that Pittsburgh is working to get Justin Jefferson?

Jeremy, take a look at this list of receivers: Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Juju Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, George Pickens.

Those 10 have two things in common. One, they were all drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers over the last 26 years. Two, none of them went in the first round. Throw first-rounders Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress into the mix, and you have a dozen homegrown, good-to-great players in the NFL. Some were character risks, for sure, but Pittsburgh, for the most part, was able to manage and get the most out of them.

I’m laying this out to explain why it’d be completely out of character for the Steelers to take that kind of swing at a position, particularly when you consider their ability to scout and develop much more affordable options at the position.

Obviously, this is no indictment on Jefferson, the NFL’s best receiver. It’s just a statement of fact. And the Vikings aren’t looking to deal Jefferson anyway.


From James English (@Hollywood1114): Olu Fashanu from Penn state was considered a top ten lock as the top or second-best tackles and now I am seeing he is the fourth best tackle and going late teens. How did this happen that he has fallen. I haven’t seen any reason for this drop.

James, I’m not going to tell you that I’m breaking down Penn State offensive line tape. But I’ve heard from the folks who do, and Fashanu’s performance in 2023 certainly had an effect on the way NFL teams view him. And maybe the problem is that expectations were sky high.

Fashanu earned first-team All–Big Ten honors in 2023.

Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports

I had a couple teams tell me right around last year’s draft that if Fashanu had declared then (and he was eligible), rather than return to school for a fourth year, he may have been taken ahead of Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., who went No. 7 to the Arizona Cardinals. As it was, an uneven final season in Happy Valley—and a rough go of it against Johnson’s old Buckeye teammates, in particular—opened the door for Notre Dame’s Joe Alt to pass Fashanu.

Now, Fashanu is very young for a four-year player. He played his first college season at 17 years old and won’t turn 22 until December. Athletically, he basically profiles as someone who was built in a lab to play left tackle. But Alt does too, and he had better tape this year, and actually is two years younger than Fashanu.

In the end, I’d say both go top 10 and have a good shot at long NFL careers.


From jake (@SourdoughSpam): Brandon Aiyuk thoughts/prediction?

Jake, my thoughts are that this is probably the one place where the San Francisco 49ers can look and see where they might be able to get creative—thanks to their surplus at the skill positions.

Simply put, San Francisco wouldn’t be the same without Trent Williams at left tackle, Nick Bosa at defensive end, Fred Warner at middle linebacker or Charvarius Ward at corner. All those players are paid accordingly. But if you get, say, a late first-rounder for Aiyuk, there’s certainly a scenario in which, good as Aiyuk is, the Niners come out no worse for the wear.

As far as surrounding Brock Purdy with the high-end weapons, even without Aiyuk, the Niners are working with Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey. And, again, good as Aiyuk is, the Niners are positioned to replace him if need be—not only is the draft class loaded at receiver, but Kyle Shanahan’s track record of drafting and developing the position he played is also sparkling.

So let’s say, for argument’s sake, the Niners trade Aiyuk to the Jaguars for the 17th pick, and then take Texas’s Adonai Mitchell there (I’m assuming the first three receivers will be gone by then). Does having Mitchell on a rookie contract with all those other players on board stop the Niners from making the Super Bowl next year? Of course not. Which is why, I think, something like that could happen.


From Tom Kunz (@ThomasK808): Are the Seahawks a better or worse team now than the end of the season?

Tom, I don’t get some of the negativity I’ve heard around the Seattle Seahawks’ roster.

I think the last two draft classes give Mike Macdonald’s first staff in Seattle a good foundation to work from, with pieces like tackles Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas; receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba; edge-rushers Boye Mafe and Derick Hall; corners Riq Woolen, Devon Witherspoon and Coby Bryant; and running back Kenneth Walker III all in the group.

Add to that older guys like DK Metcalf and Geno Smith, factor in the re-signings of guys like Leonard Williams and Noah Fant, and then consider middle-class adds like Jerome Baker and Rayshawn Jenkins, and there’s no real reason why Seattle shouldn’t contend in the fall.


From ThatNerdBrett (@GamingGibbsbets): Who would you rather build a franchise around, Bo Nix or Drake Maye?

Brett, I think, just based on what I know (and, again, I’m not a scout), Maye’s the easy answer on this one.

He’s bigger and has a stronger arm than Nix, and is just as athletic. The easy way to explain it, through what I’ve heard, is that there is a ton of growth potential for Maye. With Nix, two years older and with five years of starting experience, you’re a lot closer to maxing out what he is. In other words, Nix is a really good player, and has done great meeting teams (as he was expected to), but he is still viewed by some to be so limited he may just be an NFL backup.

Obviously, those assessments could be wrong. But for now, that’d be what I see as the prevailing wisdom on these two players—and why I’d view the two of them as very, very different prospects from one another.


From Darren Boyd (@DarrenBoyd13): Why is Justin Simmons still on the Market?

Darren, I don’t know specifically, but oftentimes in a situation like this it’s because a third-contract veteran has to come to grips with the fact that he won’t be making quite as much as he’s become accustomed to making.

Simmons is one of the top free agents remaining.

Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports

Simmons signed a four-year, $61 million contract in 2021. He was second-team All-Pro the last two years. He was a Pro Bowler last year and led the NFL in interceptions the year before. He maintained his performance through five different head-coaching regimes over his eight years with the Denver Broncos. He’s still just 30 years old.

I can understand why, if you’re him, you’d be miffed that you’d have to take a pay cut. But the reality is, while Simmons may have a few good years left, guys in their 30s (that don’t play quarterback) generally aren’t paid the same. The free-agent market this year was also flooded with safeties, so the market for him was never going to be what it would’ve been if he made it to free agency in one of the two years the Broncos franchised him.

But he still can play. And these things have a way of working out, where this sort of veteran lands in a good place where he can go contend for a championship. My guess is that’s what we see happen with Simmons.


From The Sports Narrative (@sportsnarrative): If you were Joe Douglas and assuming the Jets sign a WR, would you take Bowers, Fuaga, Fautanu or [Brian] Thomas Jr. at 10?

Narrative, I really like the idea of going with Brock Bowers if you’re the New York Jets, and I think the acquisitions of Tyron Smith, Morgan Moses and John Simpson along the offensive line give them the flexibility to go away from the position at No. 10. Bowers would complement what they’ve already got in Garrett Wilson and Breece Hall, and the Jets could still add a receiver later in the draft, given that position’s depth in this year’s class.

But the prudent thing to do, I think, is double down on tackle. I know it wouldn’t be the popular thing, and maybe even the owner wouldn’t like it. But Smith and Moses are both well into their 30s and up after 2024, so it’d be nice to have someone like Taliese Fuaga, the Oregon State mauler, ready to roll at one of the tackle spots in ’25. Or maybe sooner.


From Bob Gassel (@bobgassel): What’s the best landing spot for Ryan Tannehill?

Bob, I was going to say Jets because of Todd Downing, but they now have Tyrod Taylor. I could’ve said Washington since it might need a bridge for a rookie (which may be a possibility even after signing Marcus Mariota). The New Orleans Saints could use a more experienced backup, with 2023 rookie Jake Haener now the top backup to Derek Carr, so perhaps that’s a possibility.

But presuming that playing time is the goal, I think Denver would be the team that makes most sense. While Sean Payton likes Jarrett Stidham, the coach also likes having a sort-of second offensive coordinator taking snaps for him, and so Tannehill’s experience and knowhow would appeal to him. And if the Broncos can’t position themselves to draft a quarterback, it’s hard to imagine Stidham having an endless leash as starter.

So gimme Denver for Tannehill.


From Zeze (@Zezex0_0): What is the likelihood the Cardinals trade down from pick 4 with Marvin Harrison Jr. available?

Zeze, if I had to bet right now, I’d say Arizona sticks and drafts Marvin Harrison Jr. He’s considered a wheelhouse pick for GM Monti Ossenfort, the same way Harrison’s old college teammate, Johnson, was a year ago: a character-clean prospect with great workout and football makeup, and high-end measurables for his position.

So landing Harrison seems like the likelihood. But as Ted DiBiase used to say, everyone’s got a price. And maybe a team like the Vikings is willing to pay it … which is to say I don’t think Ossenfort is married to sticking at No. 4 and taking a player, no matter how perfect he may be.

From Chris Mercurio (@Cmerc5): You’ve reported that the Patriots have rebuffed teams looking to trade up (thankfully), is there a scenario you can see them change their mind? What would a trade offer look like to entice them?

Chris, sure. I think it’d take a couple things. One would be if they were uneasy with the quarterback that falls to them—and remember that they have no control over which one winds up getting to No. 3. And two, I think it’d have to be a real haul, with enough current-year assets so that New England could fill more than one of its pressing needs in 2024 with top-100 picks. If it happens, my guess is it’d be an on-the-clock trade.


From Anthony Amico (@amicsta): We have heard a lot about the top 4 QBs in this class, but what’s the latest buzz on Bo Nix and Michael Penix? How likely are they to be selected on Day 1?

Anthony, my feeling now is Nix won’t be. And Michael Penix Jr. is iffy. Maybe it’s just who I was talking to, but I had too many people at the combine refer to Nix as an NFL backup to ignore it. Meanwhile, with Penix, the medicals will obviously be a big part of the equation. One team exec I talked to about the Washington quarterback said his doctor’s grade on Penix “wasn’t awful,” but there was still plenty to work through. And while Penix helped himself, for sure, last year, I still don’t think teams are as high on him as the public thinks.

April 25 might be a long day for both of them.


From Bernie Bahrmasel (@BernieBahrmasel): How do you anticipate the Dak contract extension sorting itself out or otherwise?

Bernie, in the end, I think even with his concerns, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t going to want to see what’s behind Door No. 2 if he lets Dak Prescott go. And, remember, via the last negotiation, the Cowboys can’t franchise Prescott again, which gives the quarterback pre-training camp leverage over the negotiation.

My guess would be there’s a new deal in place in July, with lots of huffing and puffing and back-and-forth before then.


From Zach Fogelman (@FogelmanZach): What is the Rams plan for defense now after the Aaron Donald retirement? Is Hasson Reddick an option for them or Dallas Turner in the draft?

Zach, it’s interesting because new defensive coordinator Chris Shula, grandson of Don, is now going at his first shot running a unit with a no-name defense of his own. The Los Angeles Rams do have young, promising pieces like Kobie Turner and Byron Young. But it’s hard to predict how different everyone looks without Aaron Donald to pull all the attention away from the other 10 players in the huddle.

Short answer: I think the Rams will have their ear to the ground for opportunities like the one they pounced on with Jalen Ramsey in 2019. Otherwise, they’ll focus their draft effort in trying to further build up the defense group around their young stars


From Rise Up Kirko (@RiseUpReader): What’s the Falcons plan for the defense? Any other big moves in the works or are we looking at the draft?

Kirko, as we detailed Monday, the Atlanta Falcons pivoted off a plan to pursue Christin Wilkins and Danielle Hunter after signing Cousins. Now, with Rondale Moore and Darnell Mooney added, the offensive line solidified, and the young skill talent stars in place, I think GM Terry Fontenot focuses Atlanta’s No. 8 pick and beyond in the draft on adding to the defense.

Alabama’s Dallas Turner would be just what the doctor ordered, as I see it.


From how bout those CHIEFS (@hbtCHIEFS): What are you currently hearing on L’Jarius Sneed and the latest on his potential trade status?

Chiefs, the Vikings, Detroit Lions, and Indianapolis Colts were the three teams in early on him. I’d say Detroit is less likely now after the trade for Carlton Davis, but the other two are lingering in the picture, and there’s no real urgency now to get something done.

My guess would be things heat up on Sneed prior to the draft.


From Necha (@justnecha): Will learn from others. Reading mode activated

Thanks for showing up, Necha. That’s half the battle.

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