EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Well, Johnny Football has announced he's going pro. The top of the quarterback class for the 2014 NFL draft is effectively set. And among the many pivotal decisions Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman has to make this offseason, one of them could be this: Should the Vikings trade up from the No. 8 overall pick to give themselves a better chance at one of the top quarterbacks in the draft?
I'm inclined to think the answer there is no, even if that puts the Vikings at great risk of not getting one of the top prospects (Johnny Manziel, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Central Florida's Blake Bortles and Fresno State's Derek Carr). The Vikings have an extra third-round pick, courtesy of the trade that sent Percy Harvin to Seattle last year, but that pick could effectively be a fourth-rounder, if the Seahawks reach the NFC Championship Game or the Super Bowl. And with as many needs as the Vikings have, the price might be too steep to move up to say, No. 5 or No. 6 and put themselves in line to get one of the top QB prospects.
Now, that's not to say a franchise quarterback isn't the Vikings' biggest need. It is. They know it is. Spielman said as much earlier this month when he said, "it's maybe the most difficult position to fill, but we're going to do everything and use every resource we can to try to get that corrected." As we've discussed in the past, one of the great benefits to having a franchise quarterback is how many other holes he can cover up.
But these decisions all come with a price. And with as much star power as there is at the top of this quarterback class, the general opinion from talent evaluators is that there's no Andrew Luck here, no sure thing that would almost guarantee a sizable return on a major investment. What if the Vikings forked over three or four picks to move up, missed on chances to fill other holes on their roster and wound up with another first-round bust? As Spielman admitted last week, he hasn't gotten the quarterback decision right yet, and another failed first-round QB would likely cost him his job. He might be better off finding a linebacker or a cornerback in the first round and coming back later to take a look at someone like Alabama's AJ McCarron or Georgia's Aaron Murray. That route would put less pressure on a rookie QB to succeed right away, and it would put less pressure on Spielman to nail the draft pick. And if Matt Cassel decides not to opt out of his contract, the Vikings would be able to cover themselves for at least a couple months while a new QB develops.
Now, there is enough uncertainty with this group of QBs that it's possible one could fall to the Vikings at No. 8, and at that spot, it'd be tough for Spielman not to take one. If it came to trading up, though, and adding even more of a cost to a decision where the stakes are already so high, the Vikings would have to think very carefully before making a move like that.
Finding a great QB is unquestionably their biggest need, and it's entirely possible they could get one in this draft. I'm drawn more to college players who have won on the field more than I am to players who impress scouts in workouts, and Manziel fits that description wonderfully. His confidence and playmaking ability, in the same backfield as Adrian Peterson, could be a blast to watch and a chance for big-time success. But there are many other teams that probably have similar visions for Manziel, or Bridgewater or Bortles or Carr, and if the Vikings have to mortgage a big chunk of their draft to secure their own plans, they'd better be sure of what they're going to get out of it.