The Minnesota Vikings have announced that Kevin O’Connell will name their starting quarterback tomorrow, a decision that could mean the difference between the Vikings making the playoffs or falling short.
While there are plenty of doubts about all three potential candidates for the Vikings starting quarterback job- Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens, and Jaren Hall- I believe Jaren Hall gives the Vikings the best chance to win. Here’s why:
Turnovers have been the killer for the Vikings this season- far and away the biggest reason behind their losses. Having a quarterback who doesn’t turn the ball over has to be a top consideration for the starting job going forward, particularly with the defense playing well.
Josh Dobbs, for all his playmaking ability with his feet, has been a turnover machine as well. So far this season he has ten interceptions and 14 fumbles- 4th and 1st in the league respectively. And while not all of those have been his fault, he has also had some turnover-worthy plays that he was lucky did not result in turnovers- including a bad throw and decision against the Bears that should’ve been a pick-six. Dobbs’ turnover-worthy play rate is 4.3% this season, 4th worst among starting QBs.
Nick Mullens has also struggled with ball security during his NFL career. His career interception rate is 3.5%, which would be worst among starting quarterbacks this season. Mullens also has fumbled 8 times in the 17 games he’s started in the NFL. In terms of turnover-worthy plays, Mullens has a career rate of 4.5%- worse than Dobbs this season.
Jaren Hall, while it’s a very small sample size, has yet to throw an interception or even have a turnover-worthy play according to PFF. He had one fumble lost on a strip sack in the Green Bay game- Hall was about to throw when he got hit- but that’s it. In college, Hall had a turnover-worthy play rate of 2.4% according to PFF, which was roughly top quartile among starting FBS QBs and the same as top QB prospect Drake Maye in 2022. Hall had six fumbles in each of his last two seasons starting for BYU, eight of which happened while running- with one lost per season according to Fox Sports Stats.
Overall, when it comes to ball security and past performance, Jaren Hall looks like the best bet in this category- which is perhaps the most important among QBs that are unlikely to be top performers overall.
Whichever quarterback starts for the Vikings going forward is going to need to deliver the ball with accuracy to take advantage of one of the best - if not the best - receiving groups in Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, and TJ Hockenson. If the Vikings’ QB can’t throw with accuracy, the offense will struggle, and the Vikings’ top receiver group will not be maximized for success.
Josh Dobbs’ adjusted completion percentage this season (completions less drops, throwaways, tipped balls) as a proxy for accuracy is just 71.8% this season- second worst among starting QBs according to PFF. Kirk Cousins has the league’s highest rate at 80.5% for comparison.
Nick Mullens’ career-adjusted completion percentage is higher and a respectable 77.1%.
Jaren Hall’s adjusted completion percentage - again super small sample size- is 80.0%. Last year at BYU, Hall’s adjusted completion percentage was 75.9%, roughly similar to top QB prospect Drake Maye’s 75.6% this year, and not too far off Caleb Williams’ 77.5%.
Overall in this category, Dobbs’ accuracy is the most problematic - and that’s shown up on tape. You could make the argument for either Mullens or Hall as perhaps the best in this category, given Mullens’ larger sample size, but I also tend to be more skeptical of Mullens’ arm at this stage compared to Hall’s. So, overall I’d give this category to Hall as well.
I’m going to group all the other key factors of top quarterback play into one group, as all of these are more qualitative than quantitative attributes- meaning there are no stats to go by.
Overall this category represents a quarterback’s ability to stand and deliver the ball from the pocket without panicking and being able to aggressively take what the defense gives him.
I don’t think there is a clear winner in this category, although if there was it wouldn’t be Nick Mullens. Both Dobbs and Hall have shown good pocket presence and poise, although Dobbs might have the edge and certainly more of a sample size to evaluate. Hall and Dobbs are both pretty good at getting through their progressions, although I’d tend to give Hall the upper hand in that category as he’s shown that in the reps he’s had and was known for that as a strength in college. In terms of decision-making, I’d also tend to favor Hall, in part because of his lower turnover-worthy play rate- part of which is a function of decision-making.
Overall, this is a category without a clear standout, but perhaps Hall has a slight advantage overall compared to the others. You could make the case that Dobbs has the advantage here as well, along with a larger league sample size.
This category is where Dobbs is elite, Hall above average, and Mullens below average.
Dobbs has shown Mahomesian ability in this area, particularly in the red zone. And while a quarterback’s main function is passing, you can’t discount the ability to run and extend plays as an invaluable quality at times.
Jaren Hall clearly has mobility and the ability to move the chains with his feet but has yet to show elite ability in this area. My guess is that if Hall were to be named as the starting quarterback tomorrow, the Vikings would make it clear to Hall to avoid contact when running with the ball, given his concussion history which dates back to college. Early slides and avoiding contact would be the expectation.
Mullens has never shown much ability in this area and is clearly the least mobile quarterback of the three. I’d also put his play-making ability below the other two as well.
Knowledge of the Vikings’ Offense / Readiness
Nick Mullens arguably has the best knowledge of the Vikings’ offensive scheme, given he’s been with the Vikings the longest, but Jaren Hall has been here since he was drafted in late April and should have full command of the playbook as well. He didn’t play long enough to really know if the Vikings felt a need to limit the play calls, but that’s not the sense I got from the coaching staff when Hall was named the starter after Cousins went down. Hall is known for his intelligence and maturity coming out, and he’s had basically a full season to get up to speed on the Vikings’ scheme and installs- and I believe he has done so.
Dobbs has been around the shortest time but is also intelligent and was able to work some magic in his first couple of games without knowing the scheme very well. But greater knowledge has not led to greater success, and Dobbs may have the least comfort overall with the Vikings’ scheme, between playbook, scheme concepts, and familiarity with coaching staff and players.
Overall while important, it isn’t as big a factor as the others considering Dobbs will now have a month working in the scheme and a bye-week to study it more, while Mullens and Hall have a season or two of familiarity with it.
The second part of this category I’ll call readiness, in which Dobbs is the readiest given he’s been the starter and is healthy, with Hall second given he’s played the next most recently, and finally Nick Mullens who hasn’t played this season and has been on IR with a back issue.
Probably not a clear standout in this category, but nevertheless areas worthy of consideration.
Going with Josh Dobbs as the starter would be a decision based on his play-making ability and hoping he somehow improves in all the other areas enough to win. That hasn’t been his history, however, and seems more like a plan to fail as turnovers and inaccuracy have been as much of his game as has his mobility and ability to extend plays. Moreover, it seems the more defenses see of him on tape, the worse his performance.
Nick Mullens is perhaps the safest option in the sense that you’d expect the least amount of variance in his performance. He has the most experience and the most familiarity with the scheme, players and coaching staff. He’s been reasonably accurate throughout his career as well. The problem of course is that his performance throughout his career has been mediocre at best, and it is likely to be so in the future as well.
That leaves Jaren Hall. He’s arguably the best option of the three in every category except mobility/play-making ability, but he is also a rookie with limited experience in the league, which makes him a risky, more volatile option as well. Rookies have rookie moments, but also can progress and improve as they gain more reps and experience. We should expect both from Hall should he be given the starting job- which I’d be surprised if that happened. Coaches tend to favor experience and familiarity over upside or potential, but given the other options, the way turnovers have plagued the Vikings this season, the way the defense is playing, and the need to get the most from the Vikings’ receiver group, Jaren Hall seems like the best risk among three risky options.
Who will Kevin O’Connell name as starting QB for the Vikings on Wednesday?
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