The questions surrounding the quarterback crop of 2014 is getting stranger by the day as the countdown clocks start spinning faster in the final two weeks before the first pick comes off the board.
There are some, including the resident go-to guy for mock draft chatter – ESPN's Rockin' Mel Kiper – who have Teddy Bridgewater going to Houston with the first pick … of the second round.
Depending on whose opinion you choose to believe, Bridgewater will be the first QB coming off the board. Or he could be the fourth. Johnny Manziel has been linked to Cleveland, but some have him going with the fourth overall pick and others have him going with the 26th – obtained from the Colts when Jim Irsay traded a first-round pick for a plow horse like Trent Richardson.
Some draft analysts see Blake Bortles as the first QB off the board, a few even sending him No. 1 overall to the Texans. The only consensus is that there isn't a consensus.
But when it comes to the teams that are picking in the top eight, it can be argued that seven of them could use a quarterback – Atlanta is pretty locked and loaded with Matt Ryan. The real number is probably six, because the Rams seem content to let Sam Bradford continue to attract money from them in a pre-CBA contract that is obscene. But, for the other six teams, QB is an option by the reality of their situation at quarterback.
The need for a quarterback is not just to upgrade the position, but to energize a fan base. Thousands of people bought Christian Ponder jerseys when he was drafted. He didn't create the ripples in the water that Brett Favre did – a million Favre purple jerseys were sold, with tens of thousands of those serving as gag gifts for the Packers fan on your Christmas gift list.
One of the reasons a franchise wants to light a fire under the fan base is simple economics. A quarterback brings the hope of greatness to a franchise. When you don't have an elite quarterback, the disparity is stark in contrast. Vikings fans got a taste of that in 2009, when Brett Favre blew into town and started a wildfire that couldn't be put out for five months. He spoiled Vikings fans, who hadn't seen a quarterback capable of making the big play that could win a game since Daunte Culpepper tore up his knee.
From the time Culpepper was sent packing by Brad Childress, the quarterbacks the Vikings have had as their starters other than Favre have been a motley crew at best – Brad Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson, Brooks Bollinger, Kelly Holcomb, Gus Frerotte, Joe Webb, Donovan McNabb, Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman.
Why are the Vikings in the market for a young stud QB? Re-read that list.
The team that seems the most likely to draft a first-round quarterback is Cleveland. Their QBs have been dismal. Comparisons to Bernie Kosar, acknowledged as the franchise's best QB in the last 30 years, don't really equate. The Browns left Cleveland for Baltimore and the fan base was abandoned. When they got an expansion franchise, the fans tried to start over with a new group. It can be argued that the Browns haven't had a top-20 quarterback in the 15-year history of Cleveland 2.0.
Since rejoining the NFL in 1999, the guys who have played QB for Cleveland have been of a "Who Dat?" more than a "Who's Who." Chronologically, the list involves Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Ken Dorsey, Bruce Gradkowski, Jake Delhomme, Colt McCoy, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thad Lewis, Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer.
The Raiders haven't been much better. Since Rich Gannon led them to a Super Bowl, their starting QBs have included Rick Mirer, Marques Tuiasosopo, Kerry Collins, Aaron Brooks, Andrew Walter, JaMarcus Russell, Daunte Culpepper, Josh McCown, Gradkowski, Charlie Frye, Jason Campbell, Carson Palmer, Kyle Boller, Terrelle Pryor, Matt Leinart, Matt McGloyn and Matt Flynn.
Jacksonville hasn't had a legitimate QB since Mark Brunell, wasting years on Byron Leftwich, David Garrard and Blaine Gabbert, and finding themselves once again looking for the "next Brunell." Even that isn't raising the bar too high, because the only way Brunell gets into the Hall of Fame in Canton will be with a visitor's pass. You can bet the limited Jags fan base is ready for a quarterback to surpass a bar that, from an NFL franchise perspective, is pretty low.
As we near the draft, if you believe the prognosticators – many of whom couldn't pick Khalil Mack out of a three-man lineup yet profess to know why he's a Hall of Famer in waiting – the role of the quarterback is up for grabs.
Reality says that there are better athletes at other positions who, by draft standards, are worthy of being taken ahead of the quarterbacks at the top of the draft. But when you consider the drought that at least three of the teams in the top eight have experienced (Cleveland, Oakland and Minnesota) and the relative drought teams like Jacksonville, Tampa Bay and Houston have also experienced, regardless of what the "experts" tell you, pumping up a fan base is done best by drafting a franchise QB.
Is there a franchise QB in the 2014 draft? Yup. When will he get drafted? Stay tuned.
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.
QB droughts may force needs for three teams
Viking Update Top Stories
Harrison Smith: No reason for changeThe Minnesota Vikings’ perfect season hit a brick wall Sunday at Philadelphia, but safety Harrison Smith said the panic on the outside of Winter Park isn't being shared on the…
Viking Update2:44 PM
Munnerlyn likes Cutler’s risk-taking waysCaptain Munnerlyn likened Jay Cutler to Brett Favre, calling him a “gunslinger,” but Cutler was at his best when he conformed last year.
Viking Update7:32 AM
Did Vikings have bounty system?In a new book released recently, the claim is made that the Minnesota Vikings had a bounty system in place at the same time the Saints were eventually swept up in the Bountygate…
Viking Update7:25 AM
Fusco: O-line problems correctableAs players and coaches watched film of Sunday's loss to Philadelphia, more than a few them got an uneasy feeling. Not because the Eagles dominated them as much as it appeared, but…
Viking Update4:15 AM
Vikings sign 3 to practice squad, release 3The Minnesota Vikings shook up their practice squad on Tuesday, signing three – including an offensive lineman – and releasing three.
Viking UpdateYesterday at 1:34 PM