July 16, 2024

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FARGO — The Minnesota Vikings are projected to select the potential heir apparent to veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins, according to ESPN NFL Draft analyst Matt Miller.

Miller published a mock draft that predicted the first two rounds on Monday, Feb. 5. Miller has the Vikings taking Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. at No. 42 overall in the second round.

Miller cited injury concerns as a primary reason Penix Jr. is likely to last until the second round, having four season-ending injuries when he played for Indiana.

“Penix has excellent arm strength and velocity, and as a pure passer, he’s a first-rounder,” Miller wrote. “He threw for nearly 5,000 yards in 2023 and helped lead Washington to the national title game. But those injury and durability questions push him to the Vikings.”

Penix helped lead the Huskies to the College Football Playoff national championship game where it lost to Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan Wolverines. The 6-foot-3, 213-pound Penix completed 65% of his passes for 4,903 yards and 36 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in 15 games this past fall, his sixth collegiate season.

Cousins, who will be 36 years old by the start of the next NFL season, is coming off an Achilles injury and is also a free agent due for a new contract.

“It’s great news for Minnesota, where Kirk Cousins is set to become a 35-year-old free agent coming off an Achilles injury,” Miller wrote. “Penix can be the quarterback-in-waiting if Cousins is re-signed, or the immediate starter if he is not.”

In the first round, Miller has the Vikings adding an edge rusher to their front seven. He has Minnesota selecting Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner at No. 11 overall. The 6-foot-4, 252-pound Turner led the Crimson Tide with 11 sacks in 14 games this past season.

Miller said the Vikings could consider Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy, Oregon QB Bo Nix and Penix in the first round, but added Turner is a perfect fit in defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ system.

“One NFC area scout thinks his ceiling is higher than former college teammate Will Anderson Jr., who went No. 3 in last year’s draft,” Miller wrote. “Turner has excellent speed in space with a pro player comparison to the Jaguars’ Josh Allen. He’s my top-ranked defender in the class and would be a steal this late in the night.”

Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter had a career-best 16.5 sacks last season, but the 29-year-old is also a set to become a free agent, like Cousins.

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