How Good are JJ McCarthy and Dallas Turner Projected to Be vs Rest of 2024 NFL Draft Class?

jj mccarthy, dallas turner, minnesota vikings
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

A month has passed since the Minnesota Vikings welcomed JJ McCarthy and Dallas Turner into the organization during the 1st round of the 2024 NFL draft. Since then, the anticipation for the upcoming season has been building, the two draftees bring fresh hope and energy to a fanbase that’s been waiting for a shot of fresh adrenaline for years.

Minnesota Vikings rookies JJ McCarthy and Dallas Turner projected as top of class

How good will the Vikings’ top rookies be? Well, ESPN recently released some rookie projections for the upcoming season, highlighting the expected stats for top rookies. Naturally, JJ McCarthy and Dallas Turner made the list, drawing considerable attention.

The projected numbers for McCarthy come from ESPN football expert Mike Clay, and they are certainly on the optimistic side (over 3,500 YDS and 19 TD), coming in ahead of both Jayden Daniels (Commanders) and Drake Maye (Patriots), with one less start.

Rookie QB projected passing yards and touchdowns

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Photo: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

1. Caleb Williams, Chicago Bears: 3,532 yards, 23 TDs (15 starts)
2. J.J. McCarthy, Minnesota Vikings: 3,527 yards, 19 TDs (14 starts)
3. Jayden Daniels, Washington Commanders: 3,457 yards, 16 TDs (15 starts)
4. Drake Maye, New England Patriots: 3,378 yards, 17 TDs (15 starts)
5. Bo Nix, Denver Broncos: 3,165 yards, 16 TDs (14 starts)

Barring injury, Williams (the No. 1 overall draft pick), Daniels (second), Maye (third), McCarthy (10th) and Nix (12th) are going to play early and often as rookies, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if all five are under center in Week 1.

There have been 24 quarterbacks who appeared in at least 14 games as a rookie since 2011, and that group averaged 3,433 passing yards and 18.4 touchdown passes as rookies. If we conservatively project 14-15 starts for this year’s group (as noted above), the projected output seems to check out.

ESPN – Projecting top five NFL rookie leaders by stat categories

Clay believes there’s a decent chance that all five rookie quarterbacks could be starting for their teams in week one, which adds an interesting twist to the Vikings’ situation, given they have a quarterback competition supposedly starting in camp this week, between JJ and newly signed Sam Darnold. Obviously, Clay believes so McCarthy will win that job.

Related: Justin Jefferson Skips Vikings’ First Round of OTAs

Rookie pass rusher projected sacks

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Photo: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

1. Laiatu Latu, Edge, Indianapolis Colts: 5.4 sacks
2. Darius Robinson, Edge, Arizona Cardinals: 5.2 sacks
3. Jared Verse, Edge, Los Angeles Rams: 4.9 sacks
4. Bralen Trice, Edge, Atlanta Falcons: 4.5 sacks
5. Dallas Turner, Edge, Minnesota Vikings: 4.2 sacks

The Vikings also made a significant addition to their defense by drafting Dallas Turner, an EDGE rusher from Alabama, in the first round. Turner brings freak level talent to the OLB position. Clay projects him to finish the season with 4.2 sacks, ranking him fifth among all rookies.

Rookies are averaging 108.2 sacks per season over the past decade. The high (130 in 2019) and low (71.5 in 2020) during the span have both been hit in recent years, and first-year players totaled 118.5 sacks in 2023.

ESPN – Projecting top five NFL rookie leaders by stat categories

Above, you’ll find a bit more detail on how they arrived at their projections. But let’s be real, when all is said and done, projections are just that—projections. It’s all in good fun, after all.

If Turner finds the field early, it wouldn’t shock me if he pushes that sack number up. He’ll have to be ready, though, because the Vikings have two solid starters on the EDGE already, in Andrew Van Ginkel and Jonathan Greenard

The Vikings have a bunch of talented young rookies, even after they failed to secure a day two pick, and it’ll be exciting to see how they fare on game days. Next season is definitely one to watch, and one to keep your roster card handy.

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