Combine QBs to watch

The Vikings would seem unlikely to look to the early rounds of the draft again to solve their QB issue, but they might be able to secure one of the top three quarterbacks without trading up. We look at the players and the teams that could join forces before the Vikings draft at No. 22.

Much of the talk concerning the Vikings quarterback position has centered around veterans that would be available in trade or on the free agent market. Names like Matt Cassel, Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia and Derek Anderson have been thrown around, but what about the rookie class?

Barring a "Wow" type of performance by a QB at the Combine this week, it would seem that there are only three quarterbacks with the potential of being drafted that may be given an immediate opportunity to compete for a starting job right out of the gate. Could one of them potentially factor into the Vikings' decision process?
This isn't an especially deep quarterback class, with only three QBs expected to be taken before the third round. All three could end up being first-round picks, but we've seen a lot of highly touted quarterbacks take a big plunge on draft day when teams are asked to stop talking rhetoric and put their money where their mouth is by pulling the trigger on a selection.

Some may scoff at the notion that the Vikings would use a first-round pick on a quarterback, since that would mean the team had selected a third QB in the four drafts overseen by Brad Childress, but the Vikings are one of the teams in the NFL that makes the claim to taking the highest rated player on their board regardless of position. It has worked to this point in the first round, so it isn't out of the realm of possibility. Here is a brief look at the three options.

Matthew Stafford, GeorgiaIt is unlikely Stafford makes it past Kansas City at pick No. 3 and many draft analysts are convinced Stafford will come off the board with the first overall pick to the Lions. If Detroit passes on Stafford and Chiefs new general manager Scott Pioli work out a trade for Cassel, the QB class of '09 could see something of a free-fall. Stafford has the type of résumé that teams like. His significant numbers all improved in each of his three seasons at Georgia – attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, completion percentage, interception percentage and passer rating. He can make all the throws required in the NFL and has shown excellent leadership skills. We're convinced he won't be on the board after the third pick of the draft so, unless the Vikings are willing to trade way up to get him (an unlikely scenario, to say the least), he probably isn't on the team's radar.

Mark Sanchez, USCSanchez is the college football version of a one-hit wonder that frighten off a lot of teams. Prior to last season, his only experience was as a replacement for injured Trojans QB John David Booty, who spent last year as the Vikings' third-string quarterback. He has almost prototype NFL dimensions (6-foot-3, 227 pounds) for a QB and, in his only full season as the USC starter, he had phenomenal numbers – completing 66 percent of his 366 passes for 3,207 yards with 34 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Once again, it would seem as though the Vikings would potentially have to trade up to get him. Not only would the Chiefs be in play if Stafford lands in Detroit, but a potential minefield stands between the Vikings and Sanchez if they actually covet him. It's no secret that the 49ers, Jets, Bears and Buccaneers – all teams picking in front of the Vikings – are interested in upgrading at quarterback and they all fall in between picks Nos. 10-19. While one or two of them may be willing to pass on Sanchez because of his lack of game experience, it's hard imagine all four would say "no thanks" – again forcing the unlikely scenario of the Vikings trading up to grab a second USC quarterback.

Josh Freeman, Kansas StateA big quarterback at 6-5, 245 and blessed with a strong arm, he could be one of the sneaky types of players who rises quickly up draft boards, especially if he has a strong performance at the combine, his pro day or at individual workouts. Having undergone a coaching change between his sophomore and junior season, his learning curve regressed a little bit, but his TD-to-interception ratio showed dramatic improvement in each of his three seasons as the K-State starter. If the Vikings look to stand pat, he could be the only one of the Big Three QBs from the 2009 class that is still on the board when the Vikings make their pick at No. 22. Freeman has some excellent intangibles, including as a runner – he ran 107 times for 538 yards and 14 TDs last year. Like Sanchez, his name will likely start getting mentioned in the middle of the round and, if the Vikings are to have the chance to draft him, he will have to pass a three-team gauntlet from picks Nos. 17-19 (the Jets, Bears and Buccaneers).

Whether the Vikings have an interest at all in quarterback in the draft will likely be known prior to the draft beginning. Any movement in free agency or the trade market will send a clear message as to whether there would be any interest on draft day to take the risk on a top-end quarterback. The Vikings have made a QB a first-round pick only twice in franchise history – Tommy Kramer in 1977 and Daunte Culpepper in 1999. It remains a longshot, but with guys like Cassel, Warner and Donovan McNabb – all players the Vikings had been rumored to be interested in – now seemingly off the table, the draft may be the route teams will have to go to try to fill their own quarterback void.


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