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Lunchbreak: 'Star Tribune' Outlines Vikings Expected Work at NFL Combine

EAGAN, Minn. – The NFL world converged on Indianapolis this week for the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine.

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell and General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah are addressing media at press conferences Tuesday, but the Star Tribune laid out what the Vikings need to do at the combine.

For Vikings beat writer Ben Goessling, it all starts at quarterback.

It's been a decade since the Vikings last traveled to the NFL scouting combine knowing they could draft their next starting quarterback in the first round. Since 2018, they've used the combine almost annually to conduct business with Kirk Cousins' agent about a new contract for the quarterback.

This year, the Vikings could do both of those things.

Their discussions at the combine, with Cousins' agent Mike McCartneyand the rookies in a deep quarterback class, arguably could shape the most important decision of General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah's and coach Kevin O'Connell's tenure in Minnesota. The Vikings, who have never selected a quarterback higher than 11th overall, have the No. 11 pick in this year's draft; they could select a QB there who would tie Daunte Culpepper as the highest-drafted passer in franchise history, or trade up to draft a quarterback in the top 10 for the first time.

View photos of current Vikings players during their time at the NFL Scouting Combine from previous years.

In addition to quarterback, Goessling highlights other needs the Vikings could address this offseason. Minnesota has two picks in the first three rounds and nine selections overall. The team also has more than 20 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.

Goessling mentioned the quarterback depth in this year's draft class before turning attention to the Vikings defense.

After exploring a move up to the top of the draft for a quarterback last year, the Vikings wasted little time scouting a 2024 QB class headlined by USC's Caleb Williams and North Carolina'sDrake Maye. LSU's Jayden Daniels, who won the Heisman Trophy, has put himself near the top of many QB rankings, possibly ahead of Washington's Michael Penix, Jr., Oregon's Bo Nix and Michigan's J.J. McCarthy.

With the 11th pick, the Vikings are sitting behind a number of QB-needy teams, such as the Commanders, Patriots and possibly the Bears (who have pick Nos. 1 and 9). That could mean they have to move up to the top of the draft to get one of the first QBs on the board, or determine if they like one of the players who might be there at No. 11. They could also explore a trade back, to acquire another pick for their other needs before selecting a QB later in the first round. Or, they could take a defensive player at No. 11 before coming back for a quarterback, either with the 42nd overall pick or a trade back into the first round (a la Teddy Bridgewater in 2014).

Despite all the quarterback talk, many NFL mock drafts project a defensive player to the Vikings in the first round. Goessling explored that possibility and said Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores "figures to have plenty of input in how the defense will look in 2024."

The Vikings need a talent infusion across the defense, from defensive tackle to edge rusher to cornerback, and if they don't use their first-rounder on a quarterback, it wouldn't be surprising to see them spend it on a playmaker for Flores' defense.

Players such as Iowa cornerback Cooper DeJean, Clemson corner Nate Wiggins, Illinois defensive tackle Jer'Zhan Newton, Alabama edge rusher Dallas Turner and Florida State edge rusher Jared Verse could be options for the Vikings in the first round. Expect them to meet with a number of defenders at the combine, and build a list of players who could provide the kind of surprising value later in the draft that undrafted rookie linebacker Ivan Pace, Jr., did in 2023.

Click here to read Goessling's full story.

5 Thoughts from The Athletic ahead of Combine

Sticking with the combine, The Athletic's Alec Lewis delivered five thoughts ahead of the scouting event.

Lewis acknowledged he is most curious about what O'Connell and Adofo-Mensah will say about Cousins. After that, he pivots his focus to rookie quarterbacks.

O'Connell and Assistant Quarterbacks Coach Grant Udinski monitored Oregon quarterback Bo Nix and Washington quarterback Michael Penix, Jr., at the Senior Bowl. Most evaluators consider those two to be second-tier options, so this week in Indianapolis will be the coaching staff's first up-close opportunity to assess its top-tier QBs: USC's Caleb Williams, North Carolina's Drake Maye, LSU's Jayden Daniels and Michigan's J.J. McCarthy. The Vikings are likely to meet with some of them.

Lewis also mentioned free agency, which is one the way on March 13 when the new league year begins.

Think briefly about the free agents the Vikings have signed in the past two years.

In 2022, the team inked cornerback Patrick Peterson, edge rusher Za'Darius Smith, defensive tackle Harrison Phillips and linebacker Jordan Hicks to short-term deals. Last year, Minnesota signed tight end Josh Oliver, edge rusher Marcus Davenport, cornerback Byron Murphy, Jr., and defensive lineman Dean Lowry.

None of these contracts broke the bank, nor did they infuse the roster with top-tier talent. This makes sense as an approach in that you pay the highest premiums for players on the free-agent market, and Adofo-Mensah is an executive who prefers to buy low and create surplus value. Teams need stars to succeed, though, and this offseason presents a few options that could elevate the Vikings defense.

Click here to read Lewis' full combine preview.