Jim Souhan
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These truths we hold to be self-evident because they've been rammed down our throats for months:

• The Chicago Bears will take Caleb Williams with the first pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.

Jayden Daniels is the most talented quarterback in the draft.

The Vikings are enamored of North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye.

• Trading to acquire Maye might be difficult or ridiculously expensive.

J.J. McCarthy is the fourth-highest-rated quarterback in the draft and could go as high as the fourth pick.

Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix are intriguing talents who could go anywhere between the fifth and 35th picks.

We hold these truths to be self-evident because a dozen NFL sources and a dozen plugged-in reporters have created perceptions that affect the marketplace.

We have a few days before one of the most consequential drafts in Vikings history to stop investing in opinions created by an industry that constantly misjudges quarterback prospects.

The sources of all of this information are the same people who regularly take the wrong guy.

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If you can, forget everything you've heard about this quarterback class in the past three months and travel back to Jan. 8, 2024.

At that moment, if you watched a lot of college football and were preparing to enjoy the national championship game between Washington and Michigan, your quarterback rankings would have looked much different.

Until that final game began, Penix looked like the second or third best quarterback in the land, and McCarthy looked like an intriguing game manager.

Then they played that last game and perceptions changed.

Michigan's excellent defense hit Penix early and often, damaging his ribs. Michigan's power running game shredded Washington's defense, producing 303 yards and four touchdowns.

Michigan won 34-13, and McCarthy was on his way to rising to the top of the draft class and Penix was on his way down the same ladder.

It's easy to remember McCarthy as the superior quarterback that day.

What really happened?

McCarthy completed 10 of 18 passes for 140 yards and no touchdowns. He put up the kinds of numbers that get Gophers quarterbacks benched.

Penix, under intense pressure all night, played despite his injuries and completed 27 of 51 passes for 255 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.

If you played that game again and switched quarterbacks, the guess here is that McCarthy's reputation and ribs would have taken a beating and Penix would have led Michigan to an even bigger victory.

McCarthy might develop into a quality NFL quarterback. Penix has already played like one.

Penix makes quick decisions, has a quick release, throws well on the move, is a fast runner but prefers to buy time to make big plays downfield, throws with accuracy and anticipation, and excelled in a pro-style passing offense.

By those measures, Oregon's Nix should also be considered a superior prospect to McCarthy. Nix's statistics were even better than Penix's.

Penix attempted 555 passes last season. Nix attempted 470. McCarthy attempted 332 for a team that only occasionally needed him to pass well to win.

Talking about player evaluation the other day, Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly, who has built two NBA Western Conference powerhouses, said, "I just guess."

He was being modest and glib. He was also admitting that every decision requires projection and risk.

History tells us that of the top six quarterback prospects, two will fall somewhere between good and excellent, two will bounce around the NFL and two will utterly fail.

If Williams, Daniels and Maye go in the first three picks to the teams that currently hold those picks, the Vikings will be left to decide whether to trade up for McCarthy, or to "settle" for Penix, Nix or a lower-rated quarterback.

Because we will all be second-guessing the Vikings' upcoming decision for years if not decades, it is only fair to first-guess it.

My first guess: The Vikings would be better off taking the spectacular college passers than the reliable game manager. They should bet on Penix, or Nix, rather than McCarthy.