INDIANAPOLIS – Inside a suite at Lucas Oil Stadium, Vikings General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, offensive coaches and scouts opened the NFL scouting combine on Monday by interviewing quarterbacks from a 2022 draft class of passers that has been anything but heralded.

One by one, prospects came through for 20-minute cross-examinations. Liberty's Malik Willis and Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder and the like were greeted in the Vikings' suite by replays of their college games, highlights and lowlights, and asked why the play succeeded or failed, among other queries.

"I see a lot of good stuff on film from these guys," Adofo-Mensah said. "They come in and you're trying to grade them on their recall, and it's like, they're all great. It's some level of great. You're trying to mince small details there. I'm not going to sit here and stamp this quarterback class. I think there's a lot of talent there, and we'll see what happens."

As Kirk Cousins enters a contract season — familiar territory for a veteran who has maximized guaranteed dollars by never agreeing to a deal longer than three years — the Vikings are embracing the unknown in looking at potential cost-effective successors with the No. 12 overall pick in this year's draft.

"That question needs to be answered," Adofo-Mensah said. "Now, does it need to be answered this year versus the next five years, things like that. It's trying to be smart about how you try to answer that question generally to sustain success in the NFL. But, again, he's under contract. Kirk is our quarterback. He's a really good player. I think he's going to play at a high level for us, given all the things Kevin [O'Connell] wants to do with him."

Criticism 'we don't deserve'

A year after the trumpeted 2021 quarterback draft class, when five passers were selected within the first 15 picks, this is not considered a good time to need a quarterback. The class lacks a standout prospect like recent top overall picks Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow, who were college stars expected to help their NFL teams immediately.

Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett and Ridder are perhaps the readiest as four-year college starters. Willis may be the riser of the crop. He is the "most mobile and electrifying player" in this class, according to ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, who cautioned Willis will need time to develop as an NFL passer.

The Vikings, with Cousins, are positioned to let a rookie sit for at least a year, should Adofo-Mensah overlook the label of this being a poor quarterback class.

"It's funny, I just had a conversation with somebody about that," Adofo-Mensah said a day after interviewing quarterbacks. "I would probably go back and ask people what they thought about [Patrick] Mahomes and [Deshaun] Watson's class. I thought they said the same thing. You always want to be open-minded."

Nevada's Carson Strong is the latest Mountain West passer trying to emerge from college obscurity, following Jordan Love, Josh Allen and Derek Carr. Strong's arm is praised by evaluators, but multiple knee surgeries might limit his mobility. North Carolina's Sam Howell is a dual threat, but he shows inconsistent accuracy.

They are the top of this questioned quarterback class.

"I would say everybody is entitled to their opinion," Willis said, "informed, not informed."

Willis created the most buzz at the combine, where his deep passes wooed some onlookers, and his generosity was caught in a viral video when he was seen giving clothing to someone experiencing homelessness in Indianapolis. The negative view of the class is discussed among these passers. Strong called it criticism "we don't deserve."

"I live with [Ridder], and we work together so we've talked just a little bit about it," Strong said. "I think Malik [Willis] is, like, a crazy athlete. That dude, I mean, he can run, he can throw."

A crowded QB market

The Vikings are one of many NFL teams without a stable quarterback situation, intensifying the draft hunt for a long-term solution and creating uncertainty over whether another front office will come calling for Cousins via trade if there's a need to win now. Adofo-Mensah said "everything's in play" at the position.

The Buccaneers and Steelers just lost their franchise passers to retirement. The Packers are considered likely to hold on to Aaron Rodgers if he keeps playing, which would keep the NFL MVP off the market. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll did little to douse speculation about Russell Wilson, saying the team has "no intention" of trading him. The Colts could enter the fray if they move on from Carson Wentz. The Saints are still looking for an answer after Drew Brees left.

Broncos General Manager George Paton, a longtime Vikings assistant GM, is also still looking. Only Drew Lock is under contract in Denver.

"Everything's on the table," Paton said. "You don't know who is going to be available in free agency, the draft, a lot of ways to acquire them. We're keeping all our options open."

The most desperate suitors might be in Washington and Carolina, considering leadership there may need to win soon. While a Cousins return to Washington is far-fetched, coach Ron Rivera said the Commanders are working to succeed where they failed in pursuit of Matthew Stafford last offseason.

"When you get that guy, it makes things a lot easier," Rivera said. "Last year, some things happened, you know, we were trying to get into that, and we lost out to the Rams. Now, this year, we are being very proactive."

Panthers General Manager Scott Fitterer danced around the topic, saying "you don't ever want to force" a solution. But last year's trade for Sam Darnold didn't pay off, and Fitterer acknowledged the pressure from ownership to turn things around.

"Winning can't happen fast enough around here," Fitterer said. "We need to push it. That's our responsibility. We need to put a product on the field that can win, and so that's our emphasis and I would love for it to be this year."