Vikings are amassing draft picks. Might they want the Patriots’ top pick?

The New England Patriots are both in a position of power — and, in another sense, powerless.

The 2024 NFL draft is expected to have QBs go 1-2-3. The top prospects are Caleb Williams, Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye. So the Patriots are likely happy to have a pick where they can at least get one of them. The problem, of course, is that if they rank one of those players below the others, they are forced to settle for that player.

And that’s where the Minnesota Vikings come into play.

On Friday, they acquired an additional first-round pick for this year’s draft. The Vikings now have the 11th overall pick along with the Texans‘ 23rd overall selection. Those two pieces are, according to many of the modern draft-value calculations, good enough to get Minnesota up to third overall. Of course, those calculations don’t consider the value of quarterbacks. When teams are trading up for a QB, they often overpay considerably. So if the Vikings were trading up with New England, it might require an additional first- or second-round pick.

In particular, the Patriots might have a hard time saying no to Nos. 11, 23 and a 2025 first-rounder. 

That’s a genuine godfather offer for a New England team that made virtually no big-ticket out-of-house signings in free agency and, in turn, looks riddled with needs across the roster.

Whom might the Vikings want at No. 3 overall? Well, they may want Maye, who is the odds-on favorite to go in that spot. Maye is connected to Josh McCown, the team’s QBs coach (and former NFL quarterback). McCown was Maye’s high school coach. So they go way back. That’s why it’s easy to imagine the Vikings are targeting third overall (not second or first). Not only would it take an insane package to get into the top two picks, but neither the Bears nor the Commanders have shown any interest in moving back.

Of course, New England needs a quarterback as much as Minnesota does. In order for the Patriots to want to move down, they’d need to have one of the two following opinions: 1) Maye is not a future high-end starter and/or 2) there is at least one equal or better prospect who will be available after the third overall pick. There’s not much the Patriots can do if they don’t believe in Maye — except trade down and take the picks. 

Best landing spots for J.J. McCarthy, Michael Penix Jr., Drake Maye

If the Patriots fall into the category of liking another QB more than Maye — and the popular name as QB4 is Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy — then that’s a trickier situation. If New England wanted to trade back with the Vikings and still come away with a QB, the Patriots would need to trade back up into the top six. 

And that might not be possible, given that the New York Giants, who own the No. 6 pick, are supposedly buzzing over McCarthy. Of course, it’s worth noting that it’s smokescreen season, and the Giants have every reason to say they want McCarthy when they really want another prospect. If four quarterbacks go in the top five picks, the Giants will get the second-best non-QB prospect. That’s a pretty good situation for New York.

The obvious problem for the Vikings trading up to third overall isn’t value. It’s possible the Patriots like Maye and have no plans to trade the pick. And there was plenty of buzz out of the NFL Combine that GM Eliot Wolf and coach Jerod Mayo do, indeed, like Maye. The Patriots believed he was the most impressive quarterback in interviews, according to NBC Sports Boston. Maye openly discussed how much he vibed with the Patriots’ staff. It’s normal for prospects to sell themselves to high-picking teams. It’s normal for high-picking teams to compliment prospects. But let’s say all of this is genuine. And they’re a match.

That would mean the Vikings aren’t targeting Maye at all. Because if they’re stocking up on picks, it would be because they have a sense they can get into the slot where they can get the QB they want. So in that case, they could be looking to snag McCarthy. And it seems like they want to trade into the top six picks to get him. 

This scenario makes plenty of sense.

J.J. McCarthy among RJ Young’s best NFL fits for the draft

That means Minnesota would need to find a trade partner among the Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Chargers and Giants. The Chargers, in particular, make a lot of sense to trade back, given they just traded their star receiver Keenan Allen and released their WR2 Mike Williams due to a major salary cap crunch.

If the Vikings want to play chicken with the Giants (supposing New York is bluffing about their interest in McCarthy), Minnesota could also trade into the seventh pick, owner by the Falcons, to take the Michigan quarterback.

Minnesota’s move has created options for the QB-needy team. But it’s likely that the Vikings didn’t just make the move to acquire the Texans’ first-rounder to create options. They must have a plan. We’ll see how it unfolds in the coming weeks.

Prior to joining FOX Sports as the AFC East reporter, Henry McKenna spent seven years covering the Patriots for USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Boston Globe Media. Follow him on Twitter at @henrycmckenna.

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