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.


Dan .Fennell said...

Taking two defensive tackles in the 1st round??? We took one last year in Floyd.
We need linebackers and another corner.

vikes geek said...

Were the Vikings to take Nix and Hageman, the expectation would be that Hageman convert to an end. That's not a far-fetched notion, either, given Hageman's speed and other tangibles. Hageman, Nix, Floyd, and Robison would be a competitive front line. A good front line can mask a lesser linebacking corps. The same cannot be said of the converse.

The Vikings absolutely need corners and linebackers, but starters at both positions generally can be found in round three and the Vikings absolutely need experience at middle linebacker in the form of a veteran free-agent--regardless of what Spielman is claiming.

Childress of A Lesser God said...

The key question in any draft: Do you trust your scouting and personnel people to evaluate talent? If the Vikings do, then they should pick the best player on their board at #8 - whether it be Nix, Bortles, Carr, etc. This is especially true of a team - like the Vikings - that have so many needs.

You can't be "afraid" to draft a QB because of the potential downside. If that is the concern, then the Vikings need to hire new/better/braver talent evaluators.

Spielman has had good success in the draft, with one huge, ugly, eye-sore exception: Ponder. That was only a few years ago. They should use that as a learning tool. Look back at the evaluation process in 2011 to assess why they missed so badly. Did they overrate Ponder because they elevated "need" (the goal of finding young QB to build around) over "talent" (the best player available regardless of position) and/or "availability" (the likelihood that other QB options similar would be available later - Dalton, Kapernick for example).

VG's point seems to be: Don't gamble on a QB; take safer options instead. But you need a competent QB to win in the NFL. If you are afraid to draft a QB, then the problem is not the player's limitations; it's the inability of the evaluator to assess talent and then the balls to stand behind the evaluation.

vikes geek said...


I agree with everything but your assessment of my suggestion. I am flat out saying that I do not like any of the quarterbacks in this year's draft enough to commit to them with a first-round pick and that I like several players--I named two--at number eight. It is not a matter of playing it safe, but being smart. The smart money builds along the lines and works back. The smart money takes a chance on a quarterback when there appears to be a good fit. I'm not impressed with Carr or Bridgewater and I think Manziel is a head case. Everybody else worth considering will be available in the second round or later.

Peter said...

I like the idea of focusing on the defensive line and secondary for the draft and letting the linebacking benefit. It would give the team a chance to see Mauti and Hodges perform in starting roles - and I think there's plenty of good potential between those two.

I have heard that Bridgewater would be unpassable if he dropped to 8 and I understand the reasons given, but I'm getting a Leinart vibe from the guy, which scares me.

Carr is a good fit for Turner's offense if he drops to pick 40 (and the Vikings still have it). I wouldn't mind that pick or Garoppolo later.