The Vikings are paying more than lip service when showing their interest in the quarterback crop in next month’s draft. They aren’t letting their mouths do the talking. They’ve been on the road letting their eyes do the scouting for them.
The Vikings were well-represented Tuesday in Tallahassee, Fla., to work out Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, according to NFL.com. Ponder worked out in front of a full contingent of Vikings offensive representatives, which included head coach Leslie Frazier, offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson. Vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman was also rumored to have been in attendance at the workout. The same contingent is scheduled to travel to Auburn, Ala., today to work out Cam Newton.
The schedule of player visits comes after the team reportedly already worked out Jake Locker of Washington and Ricky Stanzi of Iowa – another pair of quarterbacks expected to go in the first couple of rounds of April’s draft. In addition to pro-day workouts that the team has attended, there isn’t a quarterback on their radar that they haven’t seen in person and the only two with starter potential they haven’t formally worked out (that we know of) are Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert and Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett – the former is expected to be long gone by the time the Vikings pick and the latter is a player who has been linked to the Vikings in numerous mock draft scenarios. The Vikings had a “get-to-know-you” dinner with Gabbert following his Pro Day March 17.
Ponder, who battled arm injuries last season at Florida State, is a three-year starter at FSU who is viewed as one of the most cerebral college quarterbacks in several years and an unquestioned leader. However, there are significant questions about his ability to throw the needed passes that quarterbacks have to make at the NFL level – not just making the throw, but make the throw with zip and velocity in a confined space.
As many as nine quarterbacks could go in the first two or three rounds – Gabbert, Newton, Locker, Mallett, Ponder, Stanzi, Colin Kaepernick (Nevada), Andy Dalton (TCU) and Pat Devlin (Delaware).
Without a third-round pick – lost in the Randy Moss trade – if the Vikings are going to get one of those nine players, they will have to do it in the first two rounds of the draft. If it isn’t No. 12 (or a pick acquired trading down out of the 12th spot) or the second round (with the 43rd pick), it likely won’t happen. After they pick at No. 43, the Vikings aren’t scheduled to have another pick until No. 106 – coming in the fourth round. Those 63 picks will be made over the course of two days and a lot of players will come off the board in between them.
If the Vikings are, as they have expressed, truly interesting in using the draft to get a quarterback and expecting him to start, it’s going to have to come early … or it’s not going to come at all.
Given the Vikings’ position, they may have to up the ante on pulling off a trade for a disgruntled veteran quarterback if the draft plan doesn’t materialize – it is safe to say that the Vikings will have players at other positions rated higher than quarterback at No. 12 if Gabbert and Newton are both gone. A name that keeps popping up is Donovan McNabb. The Redskins are rumored to be interested in Newton and, more specifically, not excited about moving forward with McNabb, who never fit in with new head coach Mike Shanahan and was benched late in the season. McNabb and the Vikings continued to be linked in the rumor mill, despite his biggest supporter (Brad Childress) being gone and, with him, perhaps the version of West Coast offense and McNabb knows as well.
A long-awaited Vikings stadium proposal in the Minnesota Legislature is expected to be introduced this week, possibly as early as today.
It was a bad day to be NFL players Tuesday, especially if you were first-round draft picks in Texas. Buccaneers 2008 first-round draft pick Aqib Talib had a felony arrest warrant in Garland, Texas, issued against him. The charge is tied to an investigation of a domestic incident in which gunshots were fired. The warrant charges Talib with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The filing states that both Talib and his mother fired gunshots at Shannon Billings, the boyfriend of Talib’s sister. Talib was suspended the first game of last season after being charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a cab driver in Tampa.
Cowboys 2010 first-rounder Dez Bryant didn’t fare much better Tuesday. Apparently he bought a lot of jewelry on credit. According to papers filed against him, he opened a line of credit in the 18 months prior to becoming a pro and, in addition to receiving $35,000 in cash, he bought a $65,000 gold-and-diamond cross, a $60,000 custom charm, diamond-encrusted gold dog tags, as well as rings, earrings, bracelets, nine different watches (seven men’s, two women’s) and expensive tickets to the hot sporting events like playoff games for the Cowboys and Mavericks and courtside seats to see LeBron James play. A man from Dallas and a company based in New York both filed suit against Bryant Tuesday, seeking a combined $861,350, plus interest and attorney costs. A third lawsuit was filed against Bryant in Payne County, Okla., seeking $3,500 in unpaid rent and damages to his college apartment.
The best thing both Talib and Bryant have is that it can be argued that, in a lockout scenario, the league may be powerless to punish players for incidents that happen during that time span. They technically are no longer employees and, as such, likely not legally bound to the rules of their former employers. It may be yet another court case determining player and league rights.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.