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State of the 2024 Minnesota Vikings: When does J.J. McCarthy take over? Will overhauled pass rush lift D?

Where does your squad stand ahead of the 2024 NFL season? Adam Rank sets the table by providing a State of the Franchise look at all 32 teams, zeroing in on the new faces to know, one significant fantasy spin and the stakes at play in the campaign to come.

Members of the Vikings organization, Vikings fans around the world and those who feel like The Hold Steady is one of the most overlooked bands in music ...

It was a tough go for Minnesota in 2023. There was a lot of hope entering the season -- and a whole lot of pluckiness during a five-game win streak in the middle of the season -- but ultimately, the Vikings finished at the bottom of the NFC North with the Bears at 7-10. It was as disappointing as receiving a pair of khakis on Christmas. Speaking of khakis, Kirk Cousins is gone. He suffered a season-ending injury in October and then signed a $180 million deal with the Falcons in March. That forced the Vikings to do something they don't normally do: take a quarterback with their opening pick of the draft. Selected 10th overall, J.J. McCarthy is the highest-drafted quarterback ever by Minnesota and just the fifth first-round signal-caller for the franchise in the common draft era (since 1967). How quickly can the Vikes get back to the playoffs? Let's take a look.

2024 brain trust

Table inside Article
Head coach Kevin O'Connell
General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah
Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips
Defensive coordinator Brian Flores
Special teams coordinator Matt Daniels

Roster reshuffling

Below is a rundown of the Vikings' most notable roster developments for the 2024 season, including this year's draft class, as well as key acquisitions and departures via free agency and trade.

Table inside Article
Draft class (round-pick) Key additions Key departures
J.J. McCarthy, QB, Michigan (1-10) Sam Darnold, QB Kirk Cousins, QB
Dallas Turner, OLB, Alabama (1-17) Aaron Jones, RB Josh Dobbs, QB
Khyree Jackson, CB, Oregon (4-108) Robert Tonyan, TE Alexander Mattison, RB
Walter Rouse, OT, Oklahoma (6-177) Dan Feeney, IOL K.J. Osborn, WR
Will Reichard, K, Alabama (6-203) Jonathan Greenard, OLB Marcus Davenport, OLB
Michael Jurgens, C, Wake Forest (7-230) Andrew Van Ginkel, OLB Danielle Hunter, OLB
Levi Drake Rodriguez, DT, Texas A&M-Commerce (7-232) Jihad Ward, OLB D.J. Wonnum, OLB
Jonah Williams, DL Dean Lowry, DT
Jerry Tillery, DT Anthony Barr, LB
Blake Cashman, LB Jordan Hicks, LB
Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB Greg Joseph, K
Shaq Griffin, CB

New faces to know

Aaron Jones
RB · Year 8

The Vikings finished near the bottom of the NFL in most rushing categories last year, including tying for the league low with just seven touchdowns on the ground. Jones, who signed a one-year, $7 million deal, has racked up 6,612 scrimmage yards and 50 total scores over the last five seasons. Maybe more importantly, he brings good vibes. Jones was a real pillar for the rival Packers, a truly integral part of the operation. Now he's bringing his talents to Minneapolis.

Jonathan Greenard
OLB · Year 5
Andrew Van Ginkel
OLB · Year 6

Minnesota lost a flock of edge rushers in free agency, most prominently Danielle Hunter, who just made his fourth Pro Bowl after posting a career-high 16.5 sacks. But the Vikings also added a flock of edge rushers in free agency, most prominently Greenard, who just racked up a career-high 12.5 sacks for Houston -- the team Hunter defected to. The underrated Van Ginkel set a career best of his own with six sacks in 2023.

Dallas Turner
OLB · Rookie

The Vikings also did pretty well in the draft, getting both their quarterback of the future (more on him in a moment) and their quarterback hunter of the future in Round 1. Turner had 10 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss in 2023, earning SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors. No one thought the Alabama product would be available in the second half of the first round, but thanks to an unprecedented run on offensive players to open the draft, Turner was still on the board at No. 17. Minnesota pounced, trading up to secure the athletic freak's services. Bottom line: Defensive coordinator Brian Flores has some fun new toys to play with.

State of the QB

I was kind of excited to see what Kevin O'Connell could do with Sam Darnold. I still believe the former No. 3 overall pick can be an NFL starter in the right situation. And actually, he still has a chance to start some games this season. But the Vikings did move up a spot to select J.J. McCarthy in the top 10, so we all know what the ultimate plan is here. It's a pretty interesting fit for Minnesota, as the team has averaged the third-most passing attempts per game (38.3) over the past two seasons. Last year at Michigan, McCarthy averaged just 22.1 passing attempts per game -- the fewest among Power Five quarterbacks with 300-plus total attempts. J.J. did excel in completion percentage with a 72.3 mark, which might make you openly wonder if the Vikings grabbed this draft's version of Mac Jones. But McCarthy's far more athletic -- and he's pretty effective when he lets it fly. According to PFF, McCarthy ranked top four in the FBS in completion percentage (60.5) and passer rating (131.7) on downfield passes (10-plus air yards) in 2023. And in Minnesota, he's flanked by one of the best pass-catching groups in football.

Most important non-QB

Justin Jefferson
WR · Year 5

No question. The Vikings thought so, too, locking him up on a four-year, $140 million contract with $110 million guaranteed. Jefferson is now the highest-paid non-quarterback in league history, and rightfully so. J.J. McCarthy is on a rookie contract, so the most expensive position in football is capped in Minnesota. Why not use excess funds on a 24-year-old who could already be the best receiver in the game? (I'll let the Tyreek Hill marks make their argument.) Since he was selected by Minnesota with the 22nd pick of the 2020 NFL Draft, Jefferson ranks second in the NFL with 5,899 receiving yards. He leads the league with an average of 98.3 receiving yards per game in that span. It's why you can't discount whoever's under center for the Vikings this season. With Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson (once his knee's right) catching passes and Kevin O'Connell calling plays, a whole bunch of quarterbacks could do well in this offense.

My HOTTEST Vikings fantasy take:

Jordan Addison's in for a sophomore slump.

Even with a new quarterback on tap in Minnesota, I still have Justin Jefferson as the WR5 this year. He's just that talented. But Jordan Addison is another story, given the uncertainty around who will be throwing him the football. Even though T.J. Hockenson is still recovering from a major knee injury, theoretically giving Addison more opportunity, I just can't overlook the fantasy risk associated with the second-year pro. Last season, he scored seven touchdowns in eight games with Kirk Cousins and just three touchdowns in nine games without the veteran QB. Good young player, no doubt, but I'm not ready to pay the price he's commanding in fantasy drafts.

2024 roadmap

Three key dates:

For 2024 to be a success, the Vikings MUST:

A) Win the Super Bowl
B) Make a playoff run
C) Earn a playoff berth
D) Finish above .500
E) Show progress

My answer: E) Show progress. The Vikings could be one of those upstart teams that surprisingly makes a run at the playoffs. I wouldn't count on it, though. C.J. Stroud has kind of spoiled everyone into thinking their rookie quarterback can instantly claim a division title, but there is a huge difference between last season's AFC South and the coming season's NFC North. The North was already one of the most competitive divisions last year, and at least three of the teams made significant improvements during the offseason. If J.J. McCarthy simply comes in and looks like the quarterback of the future, that should be enough to keep Skol types satisfied.

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