Perhaps no player in this year’s draft is in for a more nerve-wracking day than Washington QB Jake Locker.
As it currently stands, his dream scenario is to be off the board by the Vikings’ pick at No. 12. However, there are few who are projecting Locker to go before the Vikings’ pick at No. 12, which creates a dilemma – a long, long dilemma.
The first round of the draft takes as much as eight hours. Each of the 32 first-round picks can take as long as 15 minutes to make a selection (even more if you were in the inner circle of the Tice Administration in April 2003, when the draft world was introduced to “The Gaffe”).
Top prospects meet with most of the teams picking early in the draft and many leave convinced they are right. Cam Newton, for example, has been linked to being the first overall pick to the Carolina Panthers. Those who surround him – lawyers, agents, family, entourage of close friends, etc. – are rightfully setting their hopes on being the first pick in the draft. The same is true in the Blaine Gabbert camp. And Marcell Dareus. And Nick Fairley. The problem is there can only be one player picked first, second, third and so on until you get to Mr. Irrelevant.
If Newton is on the board until Arizona picks at No. 5, he will be in the Green Room for an hour – and likely shown on screen a dozen or more times. If he stays on the board until Washington at No. 10, he will be in the Green Room for more than two hours – and likely shown on screen 30 or more times. It’s happened before.
Ben Roethlisberger looked uncomfortable at his table as he stayed on the board longer than expected. To a lesser extent, the same was true with Matt Leinart, who was in flop-sweat mode from the moment Tennessee chose Vince Young and his drop began. But few compare to Brady Quinn, who was thought as being a player who could potentially end up with the Vikings (we’ll never know, but if Adrian Peterson was gone it was a possibility). Quinn’s slide was so pronounced that he was in the Green Room for more the four hours and chairs at adjoining tables were being stacked and moved around him, as his bitter fiancée blanched every time the red light on the camera turned on. Quinn may have been on camera more than 50 times before he finally was selected by Cleveland with the 22nd pick in the draft.
Locker may find himself in a similar situation, barring a trade or being the Vikings’ pick at No. 12, and that could be why he declined an invitation to the Green Room in New York City, according to Pro Football Talk. While Quinn’s drop on the draft board wasn’t a shock – from about the 15th pick on, there were rumors that a team might be trading up to get him – Cleveland finally did pony up its first-round pick for 2008 to get into the spot. Locker’s may already be set in stone.
Of the first 12 picks (as they currently stand), an argument can be made that Newton or Gabbert could end up holding a Panthers, Broncos, Bills, Bengals, Cardinals, Browns, 49ers, Titans or Redskins jersey. Any of those would be top-10 teams in the first round, which may go a long way to explaining why they are teams looking for a franchise QB. If either of them somehow runs that gauntlet without getting grabbed, he won’t might not make it past the Vikings at No. 12.
If both are gone, if the Vikings want to assure they get Locker, they may have to use the 12th pick to get him. If they pass, it gets interesting … for everyone other than Locker.
Detroit and St. Louis, who pick at Nos. 13 and 14, aren’t going to take a quarterback. They used the first pick in the last two drafts to cover that base. At picks Nos. 15 and 16, Miami and Jacksonville are next. It can be argued that quarterback is a need, but history says they aren’t likely to pick a QB in the first round. Miami hasn’t drafted a quarterback in the first round since taking Dan Marino in 1983. In their 16-year history, the Jaguars have taken a quarterback in the first round just once – in the same year (2003) that they jumped in front of the Vikings to take Byron Leftwich.
Once you get past the Jags at No. 16, Locker’s wait could be a long one. Until Seattle at No. 25, the next eight picks are teams that don’t look to have an interest in drafting a QB in the first round – New England, San Diego, the New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Philadelphia and New Orleans. If he makes it past the Seahawks, the wait could be even longer, since the rest of the teams in the first round are also set at QB – Baltimore, Atlanta, New England, Chicago, the New York Jets, Pittsburgh and Green Bay. With the exception of the Patriots, the other six teams have all used a first-round pick on their current quarterback (and the Bears using two of them to land Jay Cutler).
Locker could end up with the Vikings at No. 12. However, unless someone trades into a spot behind the Vikings, he could be on the board all of Thursday night and still be waiting Friday afternoon to find a home. That would be a drop. It likely won’t happen given the state of quarterbacking among the haves and have nots of the NFL, but there is reason to believe that if everyone stays with their own picks, Locker could end up being a hot commodity to start the second round of the draft.
In an interesting stadium development, authors of the bill – Rep. Morrie Lanning (IR-Moorhead) and Sen. Julie Rosen (IR-Fairmont) – said Monday that their formal bill will include an exemption for a local government to impose a sales tax to help pay for the stadium without bringing it to a referendum of local voters. The same exemption was allowed in 2006, when Hennepin County was able to implement a sales tax without bringing it to a vote of county residents. The plan was controversial, but, given the success of the Twins stadium, there hasn’t been an outcry of complaint. The bill will be formally introduced later this week.
The bill also is expected to call for a three-way split to pay for the project, with the Vikings, the state and a local sponsor all paying similar shares. As part of the state’s share of the bill, it would get its return on investment in the form of revenue from multiple sources, ranging from a player income tax surcharge to naming rights to the new stadium to memorabilia taxes for items like jerseys.
To the surprise of few, head coach Leslie Frazier officially cancelled the scheduled mandatory minicamp that was planned for the coming weekend. He can’t have contact with the players as long as the lockout continues.
Word is circulating in St. Paul that Sen. Linda Scheid (DFL-Brooklyn Park) is going to sign off on the stadium bill in order to provide some bipartisan support. While not viewed as a frontrunner, one of the potential stadium sites is in Brooklyn Park, but Scheid said she wasn’t motivated by that to support the stadium plan.
Pro Football Weekly is reporting that, once the NFL and the players reach an agreement, the St. Louis Rams may be one of the teams trying to make a jump at Sidney Rice. Obviously, that plan may change if either A.J. Green or Julio Jones are available when the Rams pick at No. 14 in the first round of this month’s draft.
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.
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