When we started our head-to-head series of draft pick comparisons, we knew that one of the first ones would be potentially be a head-to-head-to-head comparison.
That's what the Vikings are facing when it comes to drafting a quarterback.
The problem is that this year there isn't a clear-cut No. 1 QB in the draft. In 2012, there was Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. It was obvious they were going 1-2 and, by this time two years ago, it was clear Luck was going No. 1 and Griffin was going No. 2 – effectively giving the Vikings the No. 1 unknown pick of the draft.
Even in the sketchy class of 2011, Cam Newton was the unquestioned No. 1 pick. This time around? Not so much.
This is going to be a recurring theme because this is a two-part head-to-head within a head-to-head breakdown as we take a look at the quarterback crop of 2014.
If the Vikings have one of the top three quarterbacks fall to them at No. 8, their decision in this scenario would be easy. The second scenario is putting the fate of the draft in the hands of others – trading down and potentially "settling" for a quarterback. One thing is certain. After vouching for Christian Ponder, Rick Spielman is under the microscope when it comes to what happens in the 2014 draft. If you go back to his stint with the Miami Dolphins, six times bitten, seven times shy.
The dynamic of staying at No. 8 and letting the first seven dominoes fall is a calculated risk. To move up would mean surrendering picks. Anyone who knows Spielman knows that he isn't likely to trade up.
The Spielman draft model takes in every potential eventuality. When you're at No. 8, it's actually pretty easy. Only seven players can be off the board. There could be three quarterbacks taken. There could be three offensive linemen gone. He has all scenarios covered. The Vikes may end up with Sammy Watkins if the draft falls in a specific way.
When it comes to the Big Three – Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater – the jury is out as to which ones (if any) will be available .
Mel Kiper, the commitment-to-a-coiffe maven of ESPN, has Bridgewater ranked as his top quarterback. Yet, he has Bridgewater going to Houston – with the first pick in the second round. That's how crazy the stacking of the draft board at QB is going this season. Each of the top three QBs has a set of attributes that could be of value to the Vikings, even though it seems clear that the current plan is to start the season with Matt Cassel as the starter.
Each of the Big Three QBs brings something to the table that could help the Vikings moving forward, but all three are unique in their own skill set, which will make the decisions difficult to interpret.
The case for Blake Bortles: If you were to create a quarterback in a laboratory, he would look like Bortles. At 6-5, 232, Bortles has prototype size and is a pure pocket passer, In two seasons as a starter for Central Florida, he completed more than 65 percent of his passes, throwing for 6,640 yards with 50 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions. He has very strong technique and if someone is looking for a quarterback who has the mental makeup and on-field decision making of an Andrew Luck, he is the closest you will find. If the Vikings plan is to develop a quarterback for Norv Turner's offense, Bortles has all the intangibles to be the lump of clay that can be molded into a star.
The case for Johnny Manziel: Few of the things that are strengths of Bortles are similar strengths of Manziel. There is very little that is conventional about Johnny Football. A scrambler who reminds many of Fran Tarkenton and a gunslinger in the mold of Brett Favre, Manziel is a risk-taker who isn't shy about throwing passes up for grabs. Against SEC competition, in two seasons as a starter, Manziel completed 69 percent of his passes, throwing for 7,820 yards with 63 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, as well as rushing for 30 more TDs. A master of improvisation, Manziel defies the logic of what a quarterback should be. He consistently throws passes off balance, but he has such incredible touch he can get away with it. At less than 6 feet tall, he breaks the prototype mold that has become the standard of NFL quarterbacks. He is a dynamic, charismatic leader who has been battle-tested. Whoever drafts Manziel will have to be patient and learn to deal with the circus that will follow him. He brings the most upside, but he also brings the highest likelihood to implode at the next level. He's a risk, but the reward could be enormous.
The case for Teddy Bridgewater: Bridgewater is a different dynamic than either Bortles or Manziel. A three-year starter at Louisville, Bridgewater is as accurate a passer as there is in the 2014 draft class. He has shown marked improvement in each of his three seasons, seeing his attempts, completions, completion percentage, yards, yards per pass and touchdowns rise each year, while dropping his interceptions. In 2013, he completed 71 percent of his passes for 3,970 yards with 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Coming out of a pro style offense, Bridgewater is viewed as the most "NFL ready" to start immediately, and with his accuracy, many view him as the most likely to have success at the NFL level – both in the short-term and long-term.
The biggest question facing the Vikings if they are going to take a quarterback might be which of the top three prospects will be gone by the time the draft gets to No. 8. Any of the three, while all uniquely different, could have a big impact on the offense for years to come.
But, there is legitimate reason to believe the Vikings might trade down or go in a different direction. What happens then? We will lay out those scenarios tomorrow.
Head-to-head-to-head: The big 3 QBs
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