One of the primary reasons the Vikings are being constantly linked to taking a quarterback early in this month's draft is that there is no more glaring need on the team. With Brett Favre on his way to retirement and Tarvaris Jackson sounding more and more like he's out the door, it is clearly a position that needs to be addressed.
But, there may be a bigger impetus for the Vikings to select a quarterback eearly – the division they play in. There is no question that the NFL is a copycat league and that quarterback is the most important position on any team. Yet, there is a growing trend of the haves and have-nots in the league, and QB is as big a barometer of success. What makes the situation more exacerbating is that not only do the Vikings need a quarterback, but they are the only team in the division that hasn't addressed that need.
They are far from alone in that regard. Considering the State of the Quarterback, it could be what pushes some teams to jump on a QB – even if it means taking one sooner than their talent warrants.
NFC NORTH – The Packers, Bears and Lions have all invested first-round picks on QB – Green Bay drafting Aaron Rodgers, Detroit using the first overall pick in 2009 on Matthew Stafford and the Bears using their last two first-round drafts to secure Jay Cutler in a trade with the Broncos. How important was that move? Chicago finished 2010 with the second-best record in the NFC. Denver ended up with the second pick in the 2011 draft.
NFC EAST – Again, three teams are set at QB and one is in need. The Giants and Eagles both have former No. 1 overall picks in Eli Manning and Michael Vick, and the Cowboys, after filling their own QB spot with former No. 1 overall picks Vinny Testaverde and Drew Bledsoe, have a player who learned under both of them in Tony Romo. The Redskins have tried and failed at QB, but not without using a first-round pick on Jason Campbell and trading for former No. 2 overall pick Donovan McNabb.
NFC SOUTH – Matt Ryan is as big a reason why the young QB crop is being viewed as so critical. He has helped transform the Falcons from a team able to take him in the top three picks to a team with a 14-2 record last year. The Saints are set with Drew Brees and the Bucs invested a first-round pick in Josh Freeman. The only team that hasn't committed to drafting a QB in the first round is Carolina, which may go to explain why the Panthers have the first overall pick in the draft.
NFC WEST – The Rams are the only team that seem set here with 2010 first overall pick Sam Bradford. The 49ers used the first overall pick to take Alex Smith with mixed results. Arizona fell hard from grace last year after not adequately replacing Kurt Warner and Seattle is in danger of joining them if they don't replace an aging Matt Hasselbeck soon. Wonder why the NFC West is the worst division in the league? Look no further.
AFC EAST – The Patriots got lucky with Tom Brady, who is on his way to the Hall of Fame, and the Jets have advanced to the AFC Championship Game the last two seasons thanks to investing in Mark Sanchez. Both teams are legitimate Super Bowl contenders, while Miami and Buffalo, who are being led by Chad Henne and Ryan Fitzpatrick, are both on the outside looking in.
AFC NORTH – Three teams have won this division in recent years, thanks in no small part to veteran first-round quarterbacks – Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco and Carson Palmer. The team that has struggled the most in that time period? Cleveland is the one AFC North team that hasn't found success in a first-round quarterback investment (Brady Quinn never did grab the opportunity) in recent years and why the Browns are being mentioned as a candidate to take a QB in either the first or second round.
AFC SOUTH – The Colts have dominated this division because they have the only cemented first-round QB in their division – former first overall pick Peyton Manning. The only team to take away the division title from them was Tennessee, who did so in part because of first-round QB Vince Young and former first overall pick Kerry Collins. Jacksonville invested in a first-round QB in Byron Leftwich, but injuries opened the door for David Garrard, who has helped lead the team to the playoffs, but no farther. The only team that hasn't advanced to the postseason or won double-digit games in a season is Houston. They've done their part by trading picks to land Matt Schaub, but he hasn't got the job done like Manning or, to a lesser extent, Young and Collins.
AFC WEST – If there is an argument for the league's worst division, it is here. San Diego invested in Philip Rivers and has no regrets. Denver had a franchise QB in Cutler, but traded him away. The result was pretty obvious, collapsing after a 6-0 start in 2009 and sucking up the joint in 2010 – so badly they have the second pick in the 2011 draft. The Raiders, as they always do, have tried and failed. They used the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 to take JaMarcus Russell, whose enjoyment of "purple drank" has not only put him out of the league but facing federal drug charges. When they gave up on Russell, they traded for Jason Campbell, another former first-rounder. They've given it their best effort. Kansas City hasn't invested a first-round draft pick in a QB, but gave up multiple draft picks to land former Patriot Matt Cassel, who is their QB of the future.
While it isn't an automatic that having a top-rated quarterback will get you the Lombardi Trophy, it's hard to fight the logic behind the theory. Those who have made the investment have been, by and large, rewarded. Those who haven't are the teams that will be picking early in this month's draft. Coincidence? We don't think so.
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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