Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Quarterback Not the Vikings' Best Option at Eight

The Minnesota Vikings have resolved their head coaching vacancy.  They have, we believe, resolved their offensive coordinator opening.  They also presumably have resolved their defensive coordinator opening.  Assuming the announcements of these latter two resolutions are forthcoming, the Vikings still have a considerable amount to do this off-season.  And, if they do all that they need to do, they can become factors in 2014.

Notwithstanding a resolution of Mike Priefer's role with the team in 2014, the Vikings' most pressing issue is how to use the number eight pick in this year's draft.  Most Vikings' fans have assumed that the Vikings will use the pick to select a quarterback.  Rick Spielman has also hinted that that option still appeals to the Vikings, at least on some level.  Using the number eight pick on a quarterback in this year's draft almost certainly would be a mistake, however.

Of the quarterbacks in this year's draft, only one, Johnny Manziel, stands out as worthy of a first-round gamble.  But Manziel is everything that the Vikings fear right now.  He is head strong.  He is volatile off the field.  He has a relatively diminutive stature and plays a style that may or may not translate against stronger, bigger, faster NFL competition.  Manziel, who is likely to be off the board at eight, also appears to be the most certain bet, from an overall talent perspective, to make it in the NFL as a long-term starting quarterback.

That says a mouthful about this year's quarterback crop, often referred to as "abundant" by draft analysts.  What this year's quarterback draft crop is abundant in is not high-end talent, however, but several players who might become NFL starters and numerous players who have enough talent to be considered somewhere in the draft.  Unlike years past in which Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III, and Andrew Luck were clear top-of-the-draft choices, this year's crop of draft-eligible quarterbacks has no such highly regarded quarterback.  For the Vikings, that should be determinative.

Rather than taking a first-round gamble on a rookie quarterback that will take at least two years to mold into an NFL starter, the Vikings ought to focus their attention on far more certain commodities and players who will be able to make an immediate impact.  Given the team's needs, that means selecting a defensive lineman.

In this regard, the Vikings have two options--both of which are right in Spielman's wheelhouse.  The first is to use the number eight pick on the defensive lineman of their choice.  The best option would be another likely Spielman target, Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix.  Spielman loves Notre Dame players and recognizes obvious value when it smacks him in the face.  Nix would be a no-brainer at eight, immediately moving into the starter's role at nose tackle and immediately, therefore, paying dividends--the type of dividend that is required from a number eight pick.

The second option would be to trade down a few spots and pick up a mid second-round pick.  Trading down six or seven spots probably would still allow the Vikings to select Nix and would give the team the opportunity to package two seconds to trade back into the middle of the first and draft a linebacker or another defensive player of substance, a player like RaShede Hageman.

Getting both Nix and Hageman would be a coup for the Vikings and further solidify Spielman's claim to making solid, non-quarterback moves in round one.  And its effect would be diametrically opposite, both on and off the field, to that which drafting David Carr at number eight would be.

Up Next:  Trade Partners.  Plus, free agency.