Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2011 NFL Draft: Minnesota Vikings Must Force Quarterback Issue

It's the worst kept secret leading up to the 2011 NFL Draft: the Minnesota Vikings want to draft a quarterback, and I believe they need to do it in the first round.

New Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier has made it clear, quarterback is a position they will target when the draft begins on April 28. But others in the organization, including V.P. of player personal Rick Spielman, are indicating the team will take different approach, at least publicly.

Spielman insists the Vikings will take the best player available in the first round - regardless of position - and is quoted saying, "I still think you can't force a quarterback. If you're not comfortable with it, you just can't because you're going to make a mistake. If we take a quarterback at some point in the draft, it's going to be something we definitely feel comfortable with."

Spielman's perspective may be right in theory, but the reality is if the Vikings don't force the quarterback issue early in the draft, they may leave this draft without their future signal caller.

Forcing the issue

By my count, there are 12 teams that are unsettled at the quarterback position -- some more desperate than others (I've divided teams into two categories based on their current QB needs -- desperate and for future planning):

Carolina Panthers (Draft picks: #1, no second round pick)
Cincinnati Bengals (#4, #35)
Arizona Cardinals (#5, #38)
San Francisco 49ers (#7, #45)
Tennessee Titans (#8, #39)
Washington Redskins (#10, #41)
Minnesota Vikings (#12, #43)
Seattle Seahawks (#25, #57)

For Future Planning:
Miami Dolphins (#15, no second round pick)
Buffalo Bills (#3, #34)
Oakland Raiders (No first round pick, #48)
Jacksonville Jaguars (#16, #49)

If those 12 teams, seven have picks before the Vikings at #12. Expectations are Auburn's Cam Newton and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert will be gone by the time the Vikings draft at #12. And there's real chatter that Washington's Jake Locker could be taken tenth by the Redskins.

If that scenario plays out, the Vikings could find themselves with a real dilemma. With those three players off the broad after ten picks, they will have to decide if Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, TCU's Andy Dalton, Florida State's Christian Ponder, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick or Iowa's Ricky Stanzi is worth the #12 pick.

If they decide to pass on a quarterback at #12, the Vikings next pick isn't until the second round (pick #43) and that may be too late.

Many draftniks are speculating several teams will target the second-tier quarterback prospects in the late first round and early second round. That is more bad news for the Vikings because from when they pick at #12 to when they pick again at #43, there are eight teams that fall into that window that need a quarterback. It's conceivable Mallett, Dalton, Ponder and Kaepernick could be gone by the Vikings are back on the clock at #43. That leaves Stanzi as the only other second-tier quarterback prospect left in the draft and he doesn't warrant the 43rd pick overall.

Best case scenario

If Washington passes on Locker, the Vikings should feel confident he'll be available to them at #12. Locker has tremendous upside, there are no red flags with him and he will be a good leader and face for the franchise.

There has been speculation that the Vikings will try and trade back -- pick up additional draft picks -- and then draft Locker later in the first round. If I were the Vikings, I would avoid trying to get too fancy and just select Locker at #12.

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