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Lunchbreak: Vikings Aggressive in Latest Mock Draft from ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr.

ESPN's Mel Kiper, Jr., released his newest mock draft Wednesday.

Kiper projected selections – and in some cases, trades up or down – for Rounds 1 and 2 of the quickly approaching 2024 NFL Draft.

The Vikings are not currently slated to have a pick on Day 2, and Kiper kept that as such. But in the first round, he had Minnesota sending its 11th and 23rd slots, along with a 2025 first-rounder, to the Chargers to move up to No. 5.

With that pick, Kiper had the Vikings selecting Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy.

In recent conversations with Vikings Entertainment Network, some draft experts felt a similar trade would be likely, while others felt that moving up that far would be giving up too much.

Kiper addressed that in his mock draft, writing the following:

At this point in the process, based on everything I've heard, I don't think the Vikings can afford to wait until No. 11 if they want one of the top four quarterbacks. They're going to have to trade up. Are they giving up too much? It's certainly possible. But if they believe McCarthy can be their long-term Kirk Cousins replacement, shouldn't they be OK with sending out their 2025 first-rounder?

Kiper noted that he has McCarthy at No. 14 on his "Big Board" but added, "I can see on tape why a team might take him in the top five."

He has intriguing physical traits and took a huge step forward as a precision passer in 2023. In Minnesota, with Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson catching his passes, he would have the playmakers around him to succeed as a rookie.

It's interesting to see what Kiper projected for Minnesota's division rivals, as well.

The Bears have the No. 1 overall pick, and it's generally believed they'll take USC quarterback Caleb Williams.

I don't think we need to spend much time debating the direction the Bears will go here. Justin Fields is gone, and Williams is the clear best quarterback in this class. With Keenan Allen, DJ Moore and Cole Kmet as his top three targets, he's going to have a chance to hit the ground running.

Chicago also has the No. 9 pick, which Kiper had them use to grab Washington receiver Rome Odunze. He called it a "dream scenario" for the Bears to get Williams and Odunze in the top 10.

Green Bay and Detroit aren't on the board until No. 26 and 29, respectively.

Kiper mocked Georgia tackle Amarius Mims to the Packers after they parted ways with longtime left tackle David Bakhtiari, noting "this is the draft in which teams should pursue a first-round tackle."

And for the Lions, Kiper projected Texas receiver Adonai Mitchell.

Looking at this Lions roster, there aren't many holes to fill. I could make the case for them taking a depth interior offensive lineman, an edge rusher or a corner, but receiver also stands out, particularly one who could run vertical routes and play on the other side of Jameson Williams.

Mitchell could be a fit. At 6-2, he ran a 4.34-second 40 at the combine, showing off impressive physical tools. He had 11 touchdowns last season.

Click here to review Kiper's entire mock draft.

Coller takes closer look at Vikings young core

If the Vikings do draft a quarterback this year, they have an existing nucleus of players who "are likely to be around for the majority of a 2024 QB's rookie contract."

Matthew Coller of Purple Insider noted the above in a recent article. He took a closer look at Minnesota’s young core, grouping players into four different categories.

View photos of Vikings S Camryn Bynum from the 2023 season.

Coller first looked at "established young players likely to stay," which included Justin Jefferson, Christian Darrisaw, Camryn Bynum, Josh Metellus and Byron Murphy, Jr. Coller wrote:

Two of these players qualify as being at the absolute top of their profession. Darrisaw is now sitting on back-to-back seasons of top 10 PFF graded pass blocking, and Jefferson is the most decorated receiver in the NFL over the [past] four seasons, leading the league in yards per game in that span and ranking in the top five by [analytics site Pro Football Focus] every year. He is the single biggest reason to argue that the Vikings draft pick could succeed. It likely isn't a coincidence that the recent hits at QB have almost all had someone like A.J. Brown, Tyreek Hill, Deebo Samuel, Ja'Marr Chase, etc.

View photos of Vikings WR Jordan Addison from the 2023 season.

Coller also looked at a group of players who don't have a huge sample size yet, but what we've seen so far has been "promising" for the youngsters: Jordan Addison, Mekhi Blackmon, Ivan Pace, Jr., and Ty Chandler.

There are few players more important to the operation going forward than Jordan Addison. At 22 years old, the former USC and Pitt standout delivered 911 yards and 10 touchdowns while being given a heftier role than expected when Jefferson went out with a hamstring injury. Teams with one top receiver can be stopped. Teams with multiple difference-making receivers are a nightmare — look no farther than Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk in San Francisco or Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins in Cincinnati … or [Stefon] Diggs/[Adam] Thielen, [Randy] Moss/[Cris] Carter and so forth of Vikings yesteryear.

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Coller called Pace a "revelation" in 2023 as an undrafted rookie.

There are always ups and downs with linebackers but Pace's game is predicated in aggressiveness and football IQ, which will play for a long time to come.

The other two categories Coller covered were players who have struggled or faced multiple injuries early on, as well as players whose future is "still unclear." Players in the latter group included 2023 rookies Jay Ward, Jaquelin Roy, Jaren Hall, Andre Carter II and DeWayne McBride.