Vikings see beyond poor pro day for QB

The Vikings spent a lot of time with many of the top quarterbacks, but they didn't let a bad pro day overcome what they saw on tape and what they saw in person. Teddy Bridgewater impressed them enough to move back into the first round.

The draft day free fall of Teddy Bridgewater, who at one point was projected as a blue-chip pick at or near the top of the draft to No. 32 was based on several factors.

But perhaps the most important factor for Bridgewater going at the end of the first round instead hanging around until the second day of the draft was that general manager Rick Spielman, head coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner all believed Bridgewater has all the ingredients to be an excellent NFL quarterback.

Spielman and Zimmer both raved about Bridgewater's natural leadership ability, on and off the field. He helped Louisville recruit players from his hometown of Miami and was instrumental in helping elevate the Cardinals program. While a lot of scouts talked about the attributes he has, Zimmer tends to go on what he sees on tape and in person more than he does Combine numbers, pro days and individual workouts.

Zimmer's assessment process is pretty straightforward.

"You know the thing I like the most about him?" Zimmer asked. "He wins. Everywhere he's ever been, he wins. Starts as a freshman in high school and wins. Starts as a freshman in college and wins. He's got something about him."

Spielman had more than his share of seeing Bridgewater in person. He attended three of his games and came away extremely impressed. And, when combined with the diagnostics that the Vikings war room put the quarterbacks in the Class of 2014 through, Bridgewater stood out in one critical category.

"He just seems have the knack that, when he's in pressure situations in a game, being able to come through it," Spielman said. "We did a very analytical study on all these quarterbacks. One of the things that really stuck out to us, of all the quarterbacks, he was the best against the blitz. He's very cool and calm under pressure and has mobility in the pocket."

While Bridgewater's stock took a significant hit with his erratic pro day performance, he responded very well to being coached up by offensive coordinator Norv Turner and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner when the Vikings gave him a private workout and put him through his paces, increasing the organizational confidence that was put in Bridgewater.
Another key factor was a facet of the new collective bargaining agreement, with the fifth-year contract option being a critical component of moving up. For players taken in the first round, teams essentially can sign them to five-year deals (with the team having an option to exercise the fifth year of the deal after three seasons) instead of the four-year maximum contracts for players selected later.

But Bridgewater's poor pro day performance may have been the best thing the Vikings could have hoped for because his stock took such a significant beating that he went from being a player the Vikings would have needed to give a king's ransom to acquire to one who could be had at a relatively affordable price – a second- and a fourth-round pick.

"It's amazing how sometimes that can influence things," Spielman said. "It can influence things from a media standpoint. But that's why you watch the players live and on tape. You have to go back, rely on what you see and trust your judgment on that."

The Vikings draft room was unanimous in their positive feelings about Bridgewater, and Zimmer was constantly being reminded by Turner that, if the opportunity presented itself, he was confident he could do big things with the rookie QB.

"Norv really, really liked Teddy," Zimmer said. "He's talked to me several times about him – about the potential he has to be a great quarterback in the NFL. We wouldn't have moved up just to get anybody. This was obviously a guy we wanted. That was why we moved up to get him. This was a guy we felt really, really strong about him."

There will be fan sentiment that Bridgewater should earn the starting job almost immediately, but both Spielman and Zimmer believe that there isn't a rush to get Bridgewater into the starting lineup. The team has the luxury of being patient and, when he's ready, everyone will know it.

"He's got time," Spielman said. "We're very comfortable with Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Teddy will come in and he has plenty of time to develop. One of the things we wanted to do if we got another quarterback was not force him before he's ready to play."

When that moment will come is up to debate. It may not be until 2015. It may be at some point during the season. He could win the job in training camp. The Vikings won't force the issue because Turner has liked what he has seen from veterans Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder, but the handwriting is on the wall. Bridgewater's time will come. The only question is when. Zimmer has his idea and it will be when Bridgewater rises to the in-house competition and makes the job his.

"When we feel like he's ready (it will be because) he's the best guy and we hope that he will (be)," Zimmer said. "We always want to have competition on our football team. The more good football players we can get, the better we are as a team.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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