Now that the Vikings have their head coach in place, the next step is to hit the ground running evaluating the talent on the team and using free agency to stock the shelves before the draft. While talent is available at practically every available position, the one that is rarely available in the free agent or trade market is a franchise quarterback. The Vikings got lucky when the Jets drafted Mark Sanchez and Brett Favre was released – classic Jets!
It would seem that the formula for building a franchise is to draft a quarterback and develop him. Of the NFL’s 32 teams, 21 of them drafted their projected 2014 starter – New England, Miami, Buffalo, New York Jets, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Tennessee, San Diego, Washington, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Green Bay, Detroit, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis. Of the remaining 11, Denver, Chicago, New Orleans, Kansas City and Arizona either traded or signed their starters as free agents and Dallas’ Tony Romo was undrafted.
All that leaves is five teams – Houston, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Oakland and the Vikings.
Do you see the problem here? What do those four other teams have in common? They all have draft picks in front of the Vikings and they’re all in the market for a franchise quarterback.
The first 2014 mock drafts are starting to come out and Viking Update will be no exception. In a couple of weeks, we will start the annual process of throwing darts on greatness and positional fits with existing NFL franchises. But the most obvious initial question is what quarterback will be available when the Vikings pick at No. 8 and will staying at No. 8 suffice to land a franchise QB?
This will be the burning question of the next several months. The good news is that there is enough game-changing talent in this year’s draft that the Vikings are going to get an elite talent at No. 8 – if they stay at No. 8. As things currently stand, depending on how things fall, not staying at No. 8 may be the best option for the Vikings.
For fans who follow the college game, the names of South Carolina DE Jadaveon Clowney, Clemson WR Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews and UCLA LB Anthony Barr are familiar. To those unfamiliar with them, they are the most likely four players who don’t play quarterback to get drafted in May with one of the first seven picks.
Minnesota math says that, if those four players go in the top seven picks, there are only three picks remaining before the Vikings make their first selection of the draft.
Good news, right? Not so fast, my friends.
The conventional mock draft wisdom has three quarterbacks worthy of top-10 selection – Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and Central Florida’s Blake Bortles. Manziel earned his chops playing against SEC defenses, which carries a lot of weight in the NFL these days. Bridgewater has the most explosive intangibles. Bortles has the most prototype intangibles.
The problem the Vikings will be facing is that, if history tells us anything, one of those seven players will fall to the Vikings. Rick Spielman may already be on his 40th mock draft. He has likely encountered this scenario. He’s been through it before.
The immaculately coiffed Mel Kiper has Manziel as the No. 1 pick to Houston. Many, many others have Bridgewater going to the Texans. Most concede that Bortles may have the best NFL career. A case can be made that all three will be gone by the time the Vikings are slated to pick at No. 8.
There are only five teams that aren’t otherwise predisposed to a starting quarterback heading into the 2014 season. The Vikings are one of them. The other four? They all are scheduled to pick in the top five. Not only will the Vikings have to sit and wait, but they will have to concern themselves in the event a quarterback makes it out of the top five, Atlanta and Tampa Bay may trade. Neither of them are going to take a QB, but a team in need of a franchise QB for one that is aging may jump and make a deal with the devil like the Redskins did, which ended up giving St. Louis the No. 2 overall pick.
The Vikings took a swing at selecting a quarterback in the first round of the 2011 draft and nothing good came of it. Christian Ponder may compete for the starting job in Mankato and, if they things fall badly, the Vikings would have to reach again with their first-round pick for a quarterback with upside.
Been there, done that.
As Spielman begins his arduous process of imagining and reimagining the draft, he has to ask himself what he does if the four best non-QBs and the three best quarterbacks are all off the board when the clock turns to Minnesota?
It won’t be a worst-case scenario, but it’s something to consider.
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.