It seems to be a foregone conclusion that the Vikings are going to take a quarterback at some point during the 2014 draft and the prevailing wisdom is that they're going to take one of the top-three-ranked quarterbacks – Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater – with the eighth pick. Given the steep price that comes with moving up into the top five picks, it's unlikely general manager Rick Spielman will sign off on trading up.
But, trading down is a definite option. Spielman has expressed a desire to have 10 draft picks on draft weekend – two more than the Vikings currently have. In the event all three of the top quarterbacks are gone, the Vikings could trade back in order to put themselves into a position to take a QB in the middle or late portion of the first round or wait until the eighth pick of the second round.
Putting their fate in the hands of others – sitting and waiting while other teams select players – is always a risky proposition. There would appear to only be one quarterback outside of the Big Three that the Vikings would likely have to trade up from their second round pick to land – Fresno State's Derek Carr. His stock has been on the rise over the last month and, once thought as a player who would be a premium pick on Day 2 of the draft, he is now being viewed as a player who will likely be taken after the first third of the first round – anywhere from Arizona at No. 20 on down.
Would the Vikings be willing to drop down 10 spots or so to draft Carr and stockpile extra draft picks? If they like what they see in Carr, and there is plenty to like.
The case for Derek Carr: The brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr – who was taken by the Houston Texans in 2002 to become the face of the franchise – the younger Carr put up some eye-popping numbers in the high-octane Fresno State offense. In three seasons as a starter, he completed 1,077 of 1,616 passes for 12,731 yards with 113 touchdowns and just 24 interceptions. His yardage and touchdowns went up every year, as did his TD-to-interception ratio (26/9, 37/7, 50/8). He has a rocket for an arm and excellent touch on deep passes. He stands tall in the pocket and reads defenses well to find where pressure is coming from and moving to square his shoulders and deliver the ball, although he didn't face many elite college teams during his career. As with many shotgun quarterbacks, scouts will question his ability to make the transition to a pro-style offense, but when you have a gun like Carr possesses, teams fall in love with upside – which is why he has gone from a second-round prospect to one who likely will go in the final dozen or so picks of the first round.
If the Vikings don't make a move on Carr, then they will be dealing with the second tier of quarterbacks, namely Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois, Zach Mettenberger of LSU and A.J. McCarron of Alabama. All three are different style quarterbacks, but all that will likely be available when the second round of the draft begins.
The case for Jimmy Garoppolo: The 2013 Walter Payton Award winner, the Heisman Trophy for FCS players, after throwing for more than 5,000 yards and 53 touchdowns, he has drawn a lot of comparisons to EIU alum Tony Romo. Neither is a physical specimen but have good football smarts and a strong arm to throw balls into a tight window. Garoppolo has a natural feel in the pocket and has a quick release to help avoid sacks. His learning curve will be big, but, as has been discussed here before, the Vikings are likely to start the season with Matt Cassel as their starter – you don't pay a guy $5 million a year to sit and watch or be a sideline tutor. Garoppolo is a gun-slinger who will throw the risky pass, but his upside is pronounced and the buzz surrounding him is getting stronger all the time.
The case for Zach Mettenberger: Originally, he was supposed to compete with Aaron Murray for the starting job at Georgia but was dismissed from the team for lying to head coach Mark Richt after being arrested on charges of sexual battery and underage drinking. He went to Butler (Kan.) Community College before ending up at LSU. A two-year starter at LSU, he is a pocket passer who threw for 5,700 yards with 34 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. However, his college career ended in November against Arkansas when he suffered a torn left ACL that kept him from working out at the NFL Scouting Combine or being able to perform fully in individual workouts. He has a gun for an arm and is a natural pocket passer whose strengths translate well to the NFL. He has prototypical size and stands tall in the pocket to deliver passes knowing he's going to take a big hit. He has a learning curve due to his relative inexperience and his history (both injury and off-the-field) will need to be monitored and factored in. But he is gaining momentum based on his NFL-ready skill set and could be a sleeper to be a high second-round pick.
The case for AJ McCarron: A three-year starter for perennial powerhouse Alabama, he consistently faced the best defenses college football had to offer and posted a 36-4 career record. He finished his career completing 67 percent of his passes for more than 9,000 yards with 77 touchdowns and just 15 interceptions. He is a precision passer who throws darts and protects the ball well. He is very intelligent and reads defenses well. Considering that every Alabama opponent circled the date they played the Crimson Tide, few quarterbacks have had more pressure on them than McCarron did. He stood up to the pressure and became a true leader, winning 90 percent of his career starts. The biggest question mark is his arm strength. He doesn't have an elite arm or throw with outstanding velocity, which is the primary reason many believe he will be on the board in the middle to end of the second round unless somebody falls in love with him. He is the dark horse pick here because he has a lot of similarities in his skill set to Christian Ponder and that hasn't worked out for the Vikings.
Everyone seems to be of the impression that the Vikings are going to select a quarterback at No. 8. But, if they're gone or the Vikings go in a different direction at No. 8 or they trade down to acquire more picks, the Plan B at quarterback could include four players that, if given the chance, could be the QB of the future for the Vikings.
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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