Skip to main content

INDIANAPOLIS — When Minnesota Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was asked about the quarterback class being dubbed as “weak,” he smiled and said that he had just been talking with someone about that very topic. He’s not alone. Everyone at the NFL Combine has been talking about quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks all week.

Inside one hotel bar, a former player talked about why Kirk Cousins’ slow footwork limits his tight-window throws. Inside a hotel lobby, a current assistant coach praised an analyst’s criticisms for the Vikings’ QB. Inside another bar, a head coach stood around with three colleagues and said he thought the Vikings could coach Cousins better and get more out of him. In the same place, a popular NFL personality talked about how Cousins didn’t have the gutsiness to take the chances needed to win.

Inside another Indy haunt, a person in the know broke down the percentages of Cousins’ contract and salary cap limitations. “Why not trade him and draft Malik Willis for upside?” another person involved in the league asked. “None of these prospects are a sure thing though,” someone else responded.

Two days before the QBs got on the field inside Lucas Oil Stadium, Adofo-Mensah pointed out the sure-thing fallacy. Most of the league’s elite quarterbacks were far from sure things, yet the evaluators failed to factor that players have the capability to grow.

“People come through, they improve their mechanics, they get different coaching, they get in different schemes that fit their skillsets,” Adofo-Mensah said. “I'm not going to sit here and stamp that this isn't a great quarterback class because I see a lot of good stuff on film from these guys.”

As the Combine played out, the quarterbacks started to make their case as a better-than-weak class.

"Malik Willis is a freak athlete who can sling the ball," Nevada quarterback Carson Strong said. “I think that this quarterback class just gets a lot of crap that we don't deserve. Maybe I'm being personal and biased because I'm in it, but I think that there's a lot of guys who have a ton of potential to be really good in the league."

After Willis, the most oft-mocked top QB, met with teams, reports surfaced that teams were impressed by his football acumen. When he got on the field for workouts, he threw accurately and cut loose several throws that traveled in the range of 75 yards through the air.

“Willis consistently made things look easy on Thursday night, showing excellent arc on his deep throws,” NFL.com’s Chad Reuter wrote. “While he did overthrow a couple of shorter targets, his slants got into the receiver's hands in a hurry. The moment wasn't too big for him, and he was encouraging his fellow combine participants during their reps.”

A video also emerged of Willis assisting a homeless person on the streets of Indy. It might not increase his draft stock but he couldn’t have had a better week.

Jeff Howe, an NFL Insider for The Athletic, Tweeted: “Malik Willis has been blowing teams away with his interviews at the combine, too. It's a continuation of his impressive Senior Bowl week. Of the teams I've spoken to, the overwhelming majority believe he's got the highest ceiling of the QBs in this draft class.”

The other quarterbacks would have something to say about their stocks as well. Kenny Pickett and Desmond Ridder received strong reviews throwing the ball and then posted Combine numbers that were comparable to some of the NFL’s better athletes at the position. According to Relative Athletic Scores, Pickett scored in the 92nd percentile of QB athletes, comparing closely to Andrew Luck and Ridder graded in the 98th percentile, similar to Marcus Mariota. Ridder produced elite numbers in every speed drill and Pickett ran a sub-4.7 40-yard dash.

North Carolina prospect Sam Howell threw the fastest velocity pass at 59 MPH and delivered strikes down the field during his workout. Howell ranks as Pro Football Focus’s No. 1 quarterback, in part because he’s the youngest QB in the class, coming out after his junior year.

“Coming into the Combine, Howell had the distinction of being the best deep ball thrower in the class,” CBS Sports’ Josh Edwards wrote. “He and Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett were probably the most accurate with their downfield attempts. The trajectory on Howell's deep passes is impressive. When looking for translatable traits, Howell has that feather in his cap.

The prospects made a significant impact on analysts’ opinions during their stint in Indy. CBS Sports published a mock draft with five quarterbacks being taken in the first round and three before the Vikings pick at No. 12.

The question around the league — and for the Vikings — might be whether they believe their first instincts about the QB class or if the Combine has changed their minds.

They’ll also be asking how much better they think the 2023 draft class is going to be.

“We don’t want to make the mistake of: We need this right now,” Carolina Panthers GM Panthers GM Scott Fitterer said at the podium. “Let’s fix this right now. Let’s keep the big picture in mind and know what it looks like a year or two out.”

But the question always comes back to whether any QB class actually can be projected accurately. Last year was dubbed a historic draft and only Mac Jones shined in Year 1. The 2018 draft was hyped as well and only Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have become true franchise quarterbacks. Neither was the top pick. The 2015 draft saw middling prospects Teddy Bridgewater, Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo taken in the late-first or second round all turn into quality NFL starters and top quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Johnny Manziel fail.

Adofo-Mensah admitted during his session with beat reporters that the draft is unpredictable — though he added that there are edges to be gained.

“The draft is random, but it's more random in certain spots than others, right?” the Vikings’ new GM said. “Trying to address certain needs that you need, you probably should do it in the more high-probability places in the draft. And obviously, there are probably certain positions that are harder.”

Will Adofo-Mensah believe that picking a quarterback is random and that all QB picks are good QB picks or will the Vikings’ new brass think that the QB class’s Combine showings weren’t enough to go all-in on a top draft pick at QB this year?

With Kirk Cousins’ contract running out following the 2022 season and little buzz of an extension coming in Indy, analysts are starting to include the Vikings within the group of clubs who could take a quarterback. But the Vikings’ needs on the rest of the roster are immense. Without much work they could easily justify selecting a cornerback, defensive end, interior offensive lineman, interior defensive lineman, safety or linebacker. If they take a QB, it means kicking a lot of needs down the road without a “sure thing” quarterback prospect to pick.

Are there any sure things in football? Maybe only that there will always be quarterbacks that are intriguing at the NFL Combine and that teams will always think next year’s class is better. 

Next Up

Screen Shot 2022-07-05 at 7.01.29 AM

Fireworks likely cause of garage blaze in Hugo

The fire fortunately didn't spread to the house.

Ellie Ragin

Police obtain 'valuable information' in search for missing 6-year-old Elle Ragin

The 6-year-old is still missing following the death of her mother by suicide.

ambulance

Fatal crash involving 18-year-old in western Minnesota

The 18-year-old was not wearing a seatbelt, the State Patrol said.

Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 7.11.05 AM

2 women stabbed during parking lot brawl in St. Cloud

Police are searching for another woman in connection with the attack.

Screen Shot 2022-07-04 at 10.02.43 AM

One killed in St. Paul house fire

Two firefighters were injured as they battled the blaze.

fireworks-gad76f1de1_1280

Minneapolis: Stop calling 911 for fireworks noise complaints

The city wants people to submit complaints online instead.

American flag at half-staff/half mast.

What's open and closed in Minnesota on the Fourth of July

Grocery stores are open, though some have limited hours.

ambulance

18-year-old killed by exploding firework in Brooklyn Park

Police arrived at the scene to see the victim's friend performing CPR.

Screen Shot 2022-07-03 at 9.31.25 PM

Boy found in Brooklyn Park is reunited with parents

The boy was found shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday.

police tape, crime scene

1 dead, 1 arrested after shooting involving teens in Duluth

A 17-year-old was arrested around 1:45 a.m. Sunday. Neither the victim nor the suspect has been identified.

Screen Shot 2022-07-03 at 1.03.19 PM

NASCAR driver joins MN boy in reclaiming 'Let's go Brandon' slogan

Brandon Brundidge gained recognition when his mother shared the story of how he found inspiration in "Let's go Brandon" signs.

Related

Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis

Vikings can make it make sense by drafting a quarterback

The Vikings' offseason hasn't seemed to make progress toward the short or long term but that can change in the draft.

Combine Reports

The Vikings' QB situation, randomness and the edges they are searching for

Now here’s where it gets spicy. Kwesi, do you believe that this is a weak QB draft class?

Sauce Gardner

The Vikings' potential non-QB targets shined at the NFL Combine

The Vikings have been connected to pass rushers and cornerbacks and they made a strong impression at the NFL Combine.

NFL Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium

Everything we're looking for at the NFL Combine

The Vikings' new GM and head coach will both talk with the media in Indy.

Malik Willis

Senior Bowl reveals that good QB prospects do exist

Malik Willis saw his draft stock rise over the week in Mobile, Alabama -- did he catch the eye of the Minnesota Vikings?

VK_GM_Presser-3

The Vikings, Harbaugh and 'playing it safe' with a coaching hire

The Vikings have a final four, how should they pick a winner?

QBS

Is it hard to replace competent quarterback play?

Clearly the Vikings were afraid of the worst-case scenario in making the decision to keep Cousins.

Vikings Rams, Cam Dantzler

Coller: The Vikings want to be the Rams but that will take time

It takes time to go from a 1997 Ford Ranger to a 2022 Lincoln Navigator.