Dane Mizutani: Forget USC quarterback Caleb Williams, Vikings shouldn’t be sellers at trade deadline

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You can kiss USC quarterback Caleb Williams goodbye.

That much the Vikings essentially guaranteed with an upset win over the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night. All of a sudden, the Vikings are 3-4 and right back in talk of the playoffs. They are seemingly in decent position to chase down the Detroit Lions in the NFC North.

That should make the decision pretty easy for Vikings general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah in the short term. After nearly a month of various reports indicating that the Vikings might be willing to go into tank mode, it’s now safe to assume they won’t be sellers at the trade deadline.

As a result, it’s no longer worth fantasizing about who the next franchise quarterback is going to be, and what it’s going to take to get him to Minnesota.

You can stop living and dying with how each win or loss is going to impact the chances of the Vikings garnering a high draft pick. Truthfully, they were never going to be bad enough to be in contention for Williams, North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye or any other blue-chip prospect in the 2024 draft. It was just fun to pretend for a couple of weeks.

There are some really, really bad teams in the NFL at the moment, and the Vikings aren’t in the same conversation. Not with the amount of talent they have on their current roster.

The only way the Vikings were ever going to get themselves in the conversation was if they instituted a fire sale.

That seemed like a legitimate possibility a couple of weeks ago after the Vikings placed star receiver Justin Jefferson on injured reserve. Nothing to that point suggested that better days were ahead as they pressed on without their best player. Even after the Vikings scored an ugly win over the Chicago Bears last weekend, it was fair to wonder if they were actually capable of stringing wins together.

The trade rumors continued to swirl.

Maybe the Vikings were going to try to convince veteran quarterback Kirk Cousins to waive his no-trade clause, though that always felt more like fodder for First Take rather than something that could actually happen.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – OCTOBER 23: Camryn Bynum #24 of the Minnesota Vikings celebrates his game ending interception against the San Francisco 49ers at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 23, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Maybe the Vikings were going to trade star pass rusher Danielle Hunter to the highest bidder, which, considering all the options, seemed like the most realistic possibility.

Maybe the Vikings were going to seek out a desperate team that wanted to add a veteran presence like receiver K.J. Osborn ahead of a potential playoff push.

All of it should be off the table in the aftermath of the Vikings taking down the 49ers.

There are winnable games ahead, with the Vikings slated to play the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints and Denver Broncos over the next month.

It’s not absurd to think the Vikings could get extremely hot and rattle off a half-dozen wins in a row. Plus, they could be getting Jefferson back in a few weeks, which could make them a potentially dangerous team the second half of the season.

Now, there are inevitably going to be parts of the fan base that criticize the Vikings if they aren’t sellers at the trade deadline. Those people have already decided they have no problem neglecting the present as they set their sights on the future.

It’s the byproduct of a generation that grew up playing the video game Madden, where it is commonplace to simulate to the end of the season without any repercussions.

That’s not how it works in the real world. If the Vikings were to trade away a bunch of players after earning their most impressive win to date, they would run the risk of losing the locker room. This group has gotten itself back into the playoff race. It deserves to see how far it can take this thing.

Even if it costs the Vikings some draft positioning in the process.

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