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The 2024 NFL Draft's quarterback arms race intensified on Friday. The Minnesota Vikings, whose quarterback room is comprised of Sam Darnold, Jaren Hall and Nick Mullens after Kirk Cousins left for the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, beefed up their 2024 draft war chest. 

They acquired the 23rd overall pick as well as a seventh-round selection (232nd overall) from the Houston Texans in exchange for their 2024 second-round pick (42nd overall), a 2024 sixth-round pick (188th overall) and their 2025 second-round pick. 

That means the quarterback-starved Vikings now have two first-round draft choices in this April's draft: their own (the 11th overall pick) and the Cleveland Browns' that they acquired from the Texans (the 23rd overall pick). Three quarterbacks are universally projected to be the taken with the 2024 draft's first three picks in some order: USC quarterback and 2022 Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams, North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye and LSU quarterback and 2023 Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels. A fourth, Michigan's J.J. McCarthy, is viewed as a first-round-caliber prospect as well. 

Here is how the complexion of the 2024 NFL Draft's first round has now changed with the Vikings loading up to most likely put themselves in an aggressive position to find their next quarterback of the future. 

1. QB J.J. McCarthy is most likely a top 10 pick

The starting quarterback of the 2023 College Football Playoff national champion Michigan Wolverines threw 44 touchdowns and only nine interceptions in his two seasons as his squad's unquestioned starting quarterback. Michigan won 27 of his 28 starts in this span with the only loss coming in the 2022 College Football Playoff semifinal against the TCU Horned Frogs. 

McCarthy's college film displays the athleticism, mobility and accuracy to be an NFL quarterback in 2024. He played in a run-first, stereotypical Big Ten offense in college, but he has done enough to be first-round pick. Now with the Vikings likely determined to move up in the draft, there is no way McCarthy makes it out of the top 10. Either the Vikings will take him higher than 11, or the threat of the first four quarterback prospects flying off the board early will cause another team to trade up and take him high. 

2. QB Michael Penix is likely going to be a first-round pick

Given the clear demand for quarterbacks early in this draft, there will be a team who needs a quarterback who misses out on the ones who will go inside of the draft's first 10 selections. Whether it's the team who trades back with the Vikings in the top 10 or perhaps a quarterback-thirsty squad like the Denver Broncos, who have the 12th overall pick and kicked Russell Wilson to the curb this offseason, or the Las Vegas Raiders, whose top two quarterback options are journeyman Gardner Minshew or 2023 fourth-round pick Aidan O'Connell, there are more than four teams who have transparent needs at football's most valuable position. 

At the beginning of this draft cycle, there were some concerns about 2023 Heisman Trophy and CFP runner-up quarterback Michael Penix Jr. Whether they were age-related -- he turns 24 in May -- or durability-related -- he suffered season-ending injuries in 2018 (torn ACL), 2019 (dislocated shoulder), 2020 (torn ACL) and 2021 (separated shoulder) -- the NFL community wasn't sold on Penix as a first-round talent shortly after his college career at Washington concluded. 

Penix has since balled out at the Senior Bowl, and now that the first wave of free agency is in the rearview mirror, those without quarterbacks will begin to look at more of his pros than his cons. 

Some of those pluses include:

  • Penix led college football in passing  yards (4,903) in 2023
  • Penix leads college football in passing yards since 2022 with a total (9,544) that is also the most in a two-year span in Pac-12 history 
  • Penix leads college football in both completions (60) and passing touchdowns (26) of 25-or-more air yards since 2022
  • Penix's 37 completions of 25-or-more air yards in 2023 were the most in a season in the past five years

A team could trade back for Penix or perhaps surprise and take him inside the top 20. With the Vikings clear desire to find a fresh-faced quarterback, he will have an engaged market after four quarterbacks presumably fly off the board early. 

3. Trade-up compensation packages for quarterbacks will need to be more aggressive

Thanks to the Vikings having two first-round picks, they could potentially surrender both of those, plus their first in 2025 and then some later round future compensation to get a deal done to move up and take Maye, who has a history with the team's new quarterback coach Josh McCown, or McCarthy. 

Other teams who may also desire to move up, looking at you Broncos and Raiders, will have to potentially be willing to sacrifice their first-round picks in the next three drafts to get a deal done to top what the Vikings now have the ability to offer. Teams who don't need a quarterback who are in possession of top 10 draft picks can now demand a king's ransom thanks to what they know Minnesota will propose. 

4. The 2024 NFL Draft could be the first ever to have quarterbacks selected with first four picks

There have been three NFL drafts in which quarterbacks have represented the first three picks in a row: 1971, 1999 and 2021. Never has an NFL Draft had quarterbacks get taken with the first four opening selections. That could now change. The team's with the first three picks -- the Chicago Bears (first overall), the Washington Commanders (second overall) and the New England Patriots (third overall) -- all have quarterback needs. 

The team with the 2024 NFL Draft's fourth overall pick, the Arizona Cardinals, has a franchise quarterback -- two-time Pro Bowler Kyler Murray (the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft) -- and a general manger in Monti Ossenfort who displayed a willingness to deal top 10 picks in his first draft running the team in 2023. Last year, the Cardinals entered the draft with the third overall pick.

However, Ossenfort dealt that selection to the Houston Texans along with a fourth-round pick to then drop back nine spots by receiving Houston's 12th overall pick, plus a 2023 second-round choice, their 2024 first-round pick and their 2024 third-round pick. Arizona then traded back into the top 10 by sending the 12th overall pick, a 2023 second-round pick and a 2023 fifth-round pick to the Detroit Lions to move back up six spots to the sixth overall pick to select Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. and also pick up a 2023 third-round pick. 

Thanks to all that wheeling and dealing, the Cardinals currently have two firsts -- their own (the fourth overall pick) and the Texans' (the 27th overall pick) -- in 2024. If the Vikings and/or another team call up the Cardinals for their fourth overall pick, Ossenfort will at least entertain their proposal, opening the door to the possibility to draft history being made in 2024. 

5. Teams could be more willing to trade up for non-QBs

If the first four picks are indeed quarterbacks or even simply four of the top 10 picks are quarterbacks, some of this draft's blue-chip, non-quarterback prospects could slide down lower than many teams have them on their draft boards. 

Should the first four picks be quarterbacks, that means the draft's top three wide receivers as well as overall top prospects -- Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr. (considered a generational prospect), LSU's Malik Nabers (51 forced missed tackles leads all SEC wide receivers since 2022) and Washington's Rome Odunze (led college football with 1,640 receiving yards in 2023) -- could slide to later spots than expected. Ditto for the draft's top tight end, Georgia's Brock Bowers, and top offensive tackle, Notre Dame's Joe Alt. 

The surprise availability of those highly regarded prospects being available past their projected draft slots could cause teams to be more open to greenlight trading up to acquire some of the top collegiate prospects at key, non-quarterback positions.