Minnesota Vikings: 2014 NFL draft

MINNEAPOLIS -- It appears the Minnesota Vikings are now only one draft pick away from having their entire class signed.

Third-round pick Scott Crichton tweeted a picture of himself signing his contract with the Vikings on Wednesday night, writing, "It's all done. Ready for the next chapter in my life." The Oregon State defensive end would get a signing bonus of $656,324 and a total of $2,997,224 over the next four years, according to his draft slot.

That would mean only running back Jerick McKinnon, the 96th overall pick in the draft, still has to sign with the Vikings. Once that happens, the team would have its 10-member draft class under contract. Last year, the Vikings didn't get all their draft picks signed until the day before their first practice of training camp. This year, they're well ahead of that pace, and they could be the second team in the NFC North to finish signing its draft class, behind only the Chicago Bears.

The 6-foot-3 Crichton had 7 1/2 sacks as a junior at Oregon State, giving him 22 1/2 in three years with the Beavers. He turned pro a year early, he said, in part because his father, Lucky, lost one of his legs for what Scott Crichton called "medical reasons." His father is still working in a warehouse, and his mother is still working a pair of jobs. Crichton said after the draft he's hoping to get his parents to retire now that he's made it to the NFL. Once he's done with school in June (Oregon State is on the quarter system), he'll return to the Twin Cities to get to work. Until then, Crichton said, he'll talk on Skype with defensive line coaches Andre Patterson and Robb Akey.

"He has to set that up," Crichton said, "because I’m open anytime."
MINNEAPOLIS -- For the third straight year, the Minnesota Vikings' draft was marked by a bold first round, as the team traded back into the first round to take Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater after selecting Anthony Barr ninth overall. The rest of the Vikings' draft, however, was all about projection, which means immediate draft grades -- like the one ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Vikings on Sunday -- could be underwhelming.

Kiper gave the Vikings a B-minusInsider for their efforts over the past three days, wondering why they didn't do more to address their middle linebacker situation or add depth at receiver. I'll admit I was a tad surprised not to see the Vikings add a wideout, given how many solid receivers were available in this draft, and there are still going to be questions about the Vikings' linebacker group despite the addition of Barr. But cornerback was the Vikings' biggest defensive need on the final two days of the draft, and Kiper thought sixth-rounder Kendall James could be a good value pick. The Vikings have two young middle linebacker candidates in Audie Cole and Michael Mauti, in addition to Jasper Brinkley, and I'm not sure how much more another late-round linebacker would change the situation there. Gerald Hodges, a fourth-round pick a year ago, could also help at outside linebacker, and I liked the seventh-round pick of Georgia Tech's Brandon Watts, who seems like the kind of speedy linebacker that might fit well in Mike Zimmer's defense.

As we discussed yesterday, the Vikings bet on upside with their approach to this draft, and the return on their 10 picks will probably take several years to realize (especially since their top pick, Barr, has only played linebacker for two years). But as Kiper wrote, the grade on the Vikings' draft could look much higher in a year or two, and the ability of this group to improve the Vikings' defense will matter much more than the immediate reaction to what the team did this weekend.
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- A wrap-up of the Minnesota Vikings' draft. Click here for a full list of Vikings draftees.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesQuarterback Teddy Bridgewater should have an opportunity to develop behind Matt Cassel in Minnesota's system.
Best move: Getting Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the first round could turn out to be a coup for the Vikings. Minnesota gets a player who was projected as the No. 1 overall pick at one point, and they'll have extra time to work with him, thanks to the fifth-year option automatically added to his contract. Bridgewater will get a chance to develop, with Matt Cassel likely to start, and there won't be the same pressure to put him on the field as if he'd been a top-10 pick. The move could turn out to be a steal for the Vikings.

Riskiest move: The Vikings' Day 2 selection of Georgia Southern running back Jerick McKinnon represents something of a gamble. McKinnon was a triple-option quarterback in college after starting his career as a cornerback and will need to learn the techniques of the running back position in the NFL. He drew comparisons to Brian Mitchell and Darren Sproles -- two diminutive weapons from offensive coordinator Norv Turner's past -- and his impressive athletic ability could make the Vikings' use of a third-round pick worthwhile.

Most surprising move: The Vikings were still in need of more help at the cornerback position but didn't address it until the third day of the draft, on which they took three players -- Virginia Tech safety Antone Exum, Maine cornerback Kendall James and North Carolina cornerback Jabari Price -- in the sixth and seventh rounds. Those players will get a chance to compete for playing time, but the Vikings are still short on proven cornerbacks behind Captain Munnerlyn and promising second-year corner Xavier Rhodes.

File it away: Stanford guard David Yankey was projected to go in the first three rounds of the draft but was still there for the Vikings in the fifth round. He'd been on the radar of Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson for years after playing in college with Davidson's son, Nick, and could push Charlie Johnson for playing time at left guard. The Vikings' scouting report on Yankey describes him as a "classic mauler-type, typically taking big arm swipes to wear down and batter his opponent." He could eventually give the Vikings another good run-blocker to play next to John Sullivan and Brandon Fusco.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings made four picks on the first two days of the NFL draft. Their first one was a running back who posted 13.5 sacks in just his second year as a defensive end, and their last one was a cornerback-turned-triple-option-quarterback who will try his hand at running back in the NFL. Their third pick of the draft added a versatile, energetic pass rusher to a defensive line that already has several of those, and their second pick staked the future of their franchise on a 22-year-old quarterback who slid from the top of the first round to the bottom of it.

If the Vikings had entered the 2014 draft merely with the idea of patching holes on their roster after a 5-10-1 season, this wouldn't necessarily have been the way to go about it. But what has been clear in the first two days of the draft is that the Vikings are after something else: a group full of young, athletically-gifted players who only need a coaching staff to unlock the potential. This draft has been a bet on the ability of Mike Zimmer's coaching staff to develop talent, as much as defensive end Everson Griffen's contract represented a $20 million wager on the same idea, and the Vikings seem plenty confident in what their new coaches will be able to get out of the group.

"That kind of really excites me anyway," Zimmer said. "I love taking guys with talent and coaching that, because those kind of guys you can take them a lot further. The guys who don’t have as much talent and are good you can make them better players. But these kind of guys [like first-round pick Anthony Barr], you know, he played two years at running back and then moved over to linebacker and had a really good year the year before and then a good year again this year. He is still learning a lot of different things and we will be able to teach him a lot."

The shift has been particularly evident on defense, where Zimmer has had the biggest impact and where the Vikings plan to shift to a more aggressive style of play. But it hasn't been confined to that side of the ball. Third-round pick Jerick McKinnon, the Georgia Southern quarterback, wowed teams at the NFL scouting combine with a 4.41 40-yard dash, a 40 1/2-inch vertical and 32 bench press repetitions at 225 pounds (or more than twice as many as Barr did). Then he performed what Spielman called one of the longest and most interesting workouts he'd ever seen, working as a running back, a punt returner and a cornerback at Georgia Southern. Spielman said offensive coordinator Norv Turner compared the 5-foot-9 McKinnon to dynamos like Brian Mitchell and Darren Sproles, and while the Vikings certainly aren't looking for someone to supplant Adrian Peterson, McKinnon could give them something they haven't had in a long time.

The Vikings' draft strategy so far has been full of gambles -- and as impressive as Teddy Bridgewater's college resume is, taking a quarterback in the first round always carries considerable risk. But on the first two days of the draft, the Vikings haven't been confined by position or convention, and the payoff could be a roster full of unique players.

"I get really intrigued if they are great kids and hard workers, but if they have athletic ability and if they're great athletes, that just intrigues me," Spielman said. "And I know it intrigues the coaches, because they love to work with guys like that."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The pick: Jerick McKinnon, running back, Georgia Southern

My take: With their final pick (96th overall) in the third round, the Minnesota Vikings took a backup for Adrian Peterson. They needed one after Toby Gerhart signed with Jacksonville in the offseason. McKinnon will give them something different than they've had in the past. He began his college career as a cornerback, shifting to quarterback in Georgia Southern's triple-option offense. He's only 5-foot-9, but had quite the set of numbers at the NFL scouting combine (a 4.41 40, a 40 1/2-inch vertical and 32 repetitions at 225 pounds in the bench press). The Vikings' scouting report lists him as a "tailback/quarterback/strong safety," but if he stays at running back, he'd be an interesting change of pace from Peterson.

Plenty of versatility: McKinnon will have plenty to learn about playing running back at the NFL level, but he could be the kind of player the Vikings can use all over their offense. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner helped put jack-of-all-trades running back Darren Sproles on the map in San Diego, and though McKinnon was throwing more passes than catching them in college, he could be the kind of versatile, elusive back that Sproles has been. The Vikings aren't in need of a kick returner, but McKinnon could give them another option there if anything were to happen to Cordarrelle Patterson.

What's next: The Vikings don't have a fourth-round pick, but are scheduled to make four selections on the final day of the draft -- two in the fifth round, one in the sixth and one in the seventh.
videoEDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The pick: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State

My take: The Vikings went back to addressing their defense with their first pick on the second day of the draft, selecting Crichton with the 72nd overall pick. The Vikings still need depth at cornerback, but new coach Mike Zimmer loves a strong rotation on the defensive line, and Crichton will give the team another disruptive rusher on the edge of their line. He had 22.5 sacks in his past three seasons at Oregon State, and posted another 51 tackles for loss. He was rated as the seventh-best defensive end by Scouts, Inc., earning praise for his speed and constant hustle. He's got a quick first step, like free-agent acquisition Corey Wootton, and he'll help keep the Vikings' energy level up on the defensive line throughout games.

Playing for his family: Playing in the NFL, Crichton said in February, is an opportunity to take care of them. "My mom works two jobs, and my dad is disabled and still works a job, too. I want them to retire and just stop working. I just did this for my family. I was going to come back to college [for my senior season] but just to see my family struggle -- we didn't have much growing up, and to see my family struggle, I wasn't OK with that."

What's next: The Vikings have the final pick of the third round -- the 96th overall selection, which they received from Seattle to complete last year's Percy Harvin trade.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- One of the biggest melodramas of the NFL draft season -- Teddy Bridgewater's decision not to throw with a glove during his pro day after using one during most of his college career -- is apparently over.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsAfter a shaky tryout without them, Teddy Bridgewater is bringing his gloves with him to Minnesota.
Bridgewater put his gloves back on for his private workout with the Minnesota Vikings in April and fared much better than he did during his pro day. He learned something, coach Mike Zimmer said, about staying true to what worked for him. And now that he's preparing to play his first two seasons outside at the University of Minnesota's TCF Bank Stadium, Bridgewater said the gloves are staying on.

"You can best believe I'll continue to wear my gloves," he said during his introductory press conference at the Vikings' team facility Friday.

The quarterback said the gloves help him grip the ball better, and he'll use them as he adjusts to the Vikings' temporary move outdoors, as well as yearly road games in Green Bay and Chicago. Bridgewater has never started a game in freezing temperatures, and one point of concern in the pre-draft process was his small hand size; his hand span is only 9 1/4 inches, and no quarterback with hands that small has made the Pro Bowl since 2008, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"I think it won't be a big adjustment at all," Bridgewater said of the cold weather. "I think we'll be able to use that to our advantage here in Minnesota. It's a mental thing and I'll just block it out and continue to play."

Bridgewater started wearing gloves as a freshman at Louisville, he said, and his former coach Charlie Strong recalled Bridgewater keeping them on through a driving rainstorm in a win over Southern Miss during his sophomore season.

"I said, 'Can you grip the ball?,' and he said, 'Yeah, coach,'" Strong said Friday. "It's a thunderstorm, there's water on the field and he made a couple of big-time throws in the rain with the glove on. It was something he had grown accustomed to, and he just wore it all the time."

He'll continue to do so in the NFL, after the decision not to use them during his pro day led to an untold amount of scrutiny over a seemingly small detail.

"I was listening to him [Thursday] doing an interview and he said one thing it taught him was to stay true to yourself," Zimmer said. "He plays all of these times wearing a glove and he comes out on his pro day, supposedly the biggest day, which really isn’t. The 44 games he played in college are the biggest days, this is just one day to show off in front of the NFL Network and everything. He said,'You just learn to stay true to yourself' And then he came out with us with the glove and threw it all over the place."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Three years ago, the Minnesota Vikings took Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick in the draft, setting in motion a chain of events that ended -- or at least crossed the start/finish line for a second lap -- on Thursday night, when they spent the 32nd overall pick on Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, hoping to give new coach Mike Zimmer a better solution at quarterback than they gave former coach Leslie Frazier.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesWith QB Christian Ponder mostly ineffective in his three seasons in Minnesota, the team will be looking to quickly develop Teddy Bridgewater.
It was no surprise at all the Vikings would take a quarterback high in the 2014 draft, after emerging from the rubble of what turned out to be a disappointing 2011 quarterback class. What was interesting, though, was how much company they had in making a quick pivot at the position.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns became just the fourth, fifth and sixth teams in the common draft era to take a quarterback in the first round for the second time in three years. Before Thursday night, it had never happened twice in the same draft, and it hadn't happened at all since 2005, when the Washington Redskins took Jason Campbell three years after drafting Patrick Ramsey.

There are multiple reasons why it's easier to move on from quarterbacks after the 2011 collective bargaining agreement than it used to be, but the structure of the current CBA -- and the profound changes it's enacted on rookie contracts -- might also be driving teams to be less patient. Gone are the days of contracts like the six-year, $78 million deal the St. Louis Rams had to give No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford in 2010.

It's much less cost-prohibitive to replace a quarterback, with both salaries and contract guarantees down significantly for young players, and there's also an incentive to get players on the field sooner. Four of the final six teams playing last season -- the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts -- all had quarterbacks playing in their rookie deals, and all four got high-level quarterback play at a price that allowed them to spend money on other players. Those teams all have bills coming due for Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck, respectively, but they've combined to get seven playoff appearances out of those players while ranking in the bottom half of the league in quarterback spending.

With quarterbacks directing more complex offenses in college and high school, it's easier to expect more out of them at a young age, and while the Vikings have talked about wanting Bridgewater to sit this season, it wouldn't be surprising if they want to have him on the field by 2015. They've got a little extra time, thanks to the fifth-year option that will automatically be added to his contract after they took him in the first round, but one of the best tools in roster construction these days is to have good quarterback play at below-market cost.

If the Vikings can capitalize on those years from Bridgewater, they'll be in great shape to put a playoff team around him. If they can't? Well, as Ponder can attest, it isn't expensive to be impatient in today's NFL.
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The pick: For the third year in a row, the Vikings traded back into the first round. This time they got the quarterback who had not long ago been projected to go at the top of the draft: Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.

My take: It seemed likely that the Vikings would move back into the first round to get a quarterback, in light of all the success general manager Rick Spielman had with similar moves for safety Harrison Smith and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson the past two years and the fifth-year option that would automatically come with a first-round pick. It's tough to argue with Bridgewater's college credentials, and in many ways, his much-disputed pro day performance played out perfectly for the Vikings. Bridgewater's arm strength isn't the best among quarterback prospects, but he's polished and mature, and he doesn't shy away from the spotlight.

Handling pressure: Bridgewater's efficiency against the blitz was one of the major factors that led the Vikings in his direction, Spielman said. When he was under pressure, Bridgewater hit 53.5 percent of his throws, passing for seven touchdowns against one interception. His completion percentage, passing yards and touchdown-to-interception ratio under pressure were the best of any prominent quarterback in the draft.

What's next: The Vikings sent their second- and fourth-round picks to Seattle for the right to take Bridgewater, so they won't pick until the third round on Friday. They'll have two picks there -- Nos. 72 and 96 overall.
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Since he became the Minnesota Vikings' head coach in January, Mike Zimmer has been working to remake the team's defense in his image. He needed a run-stuffing nose tackle; the Vikings signed one in Linval Joseph. Zimmer needed an upgrade at slot cornerback; the Vikings paid Captain Munnerlyn to fill that role.

Barr
But as much as the Vikings had done for the first and last layers of Zimmer's defense, they were still missing a key ingredient in the middle of the sandwich: a speedy, disruptive linebacker who could blitz from the strongside position and hunt down running backs. Zimmer wanted one badly enough in his final year in Cincinnati that the Bengals signed former 3-4 linebacker James Harrison at age 35, put him on the strong side of their 4-3 defense and asked him to perform many of the same functions he did in Pittsburgh's 3-4 defense.

In Minnesota, Zimmer now has a younger and bigger linebacker to do that job. His name is Anthony Barr, and after the Vikings took him with the ninth pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, Barr became the clearest sign that a major shift is coming to Minnesota's defense.

He is 6-foot-4, 255 pounds -- essentially the same size as defensive ends Everson Griffen and Brian Robison -- and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds. Barr has spent two years at linebacker, after he asked UCLA coach Jim Mora about switching from running back to linebacker two years ago, and he had 13 1/2 sacks in the Bruins' 3-4 defense last year. Many had projected Barr would fit best with a 3-4 team, but in Minnesota he'll be one of the keys to a defense predicated on active linebackers.

"Typically, our 'Sam' linebacker blitzes a lot more than our 'Will' linebacker, for instance," Zimmer said. "We're thinking of ways to continually try to pressure the quarterback as many times as we can, and the position he plays is a pressure position. That's why we felt good about him."

Think about how different that sounds from the way the Vikings have operated in the past. In Leslie Frazier's Cover 2 scheme, the responsibility for rushing the passer rested largely with the defensive ends, while linebackers were asked to drop into coverage and take away zones in the middle of the field. It asked linebackers to be reliable defenders, not agents of chaos. In Zimmer's defense, those expectations will change.

That's why the coach pushed for Barr, whom general manager Rick Spielman said was the second-best pass-rusher in the draft behind Jadeveon Clowney, and that's why it shouldn't come as a surprise the Vikings want to feature him. Putting Barr at strongside linebacker also doesn't mean the Vikings are phasing out Chad Greenway; Zimmer pointed out that Greenway's position would actually be weakside linebacker in his defense, and added he envisions both players on the field at the same time. Spielman talked in March about how Zimmer had some different ideas for Greenway, and while the coach didn't elaborate on those ideas Thursday, he said, "Chad can play anywhere."

For the strongside linebacker position in his defense, though, Zimmer needed a specific kind of player. He got his man in Barr, and his remodel of the Vikings' defense took a significant step forward.
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The pick: After trading down one spot with the Cleveland Browns for the second time in three years, the Minnesota Vikings filled one of their biggest holes on defense by selecting UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr with the ninth overall pick.

My take: The Vikings needed an impact linebacker, and Barr certainly has the potential to fill that role. He's certainly raw (he played only 27 games at linebacker in college) and will need work to turn into the kind of disruptive force the Vikings are hoping to get at the position. But it's tough to argue with his physique -- he's 6-foot-4 and ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. His 15 repetitions in the bench press at the combine were the worst among linebackers, but he'll get stronger as he enters the league. It was important for the Vikings to get speed and athleticism in their linebacking group, and they've got it now.

Trading with Browns again: The Vikings acquired the 145th overall pick in the draft to move back one spot, trading with the Browns two years after they slipped back from No. 3 to No. 4 and took Matt Kalil. This time, the Browns moved up to get Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert after trading from No. 4 to No. 9. The Vikings now have nine picks in the draft; Spielman usually likes to have 10, but he's got extra flexibility now if he wants to make a move back up.

What's next: The Vikings have three picks on the second day of the draft -- Nos. 40, 72 and 96. They've traded back into the first round the past two years, though, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Rick Spielman make a deal later on Thursday night.

MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Minnesota Vikings finally get on the clock with the No. 8 overall pick, sometime around 9:30 ET/8:30 CT on Thursday night, they'll be in possession of a pick that has seemingly vexed the draft experts for a while now. At No. 8, the Vikings could be too late to take the standout defensive players in the draft (South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney and Buffalo's Khalil Mack), in little need of the offensive tackles at the top of the board (Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, Auburn's Greg Robinson and Michigan's Taylor Lewan) and unsure about the reliability of the quarterbacks they might find there (Central Florida's Blake Bortles, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater).

It's part of the reason there's a wide range of opinions in today's final round of mock drafts -- ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. Insider and Todd McShay Insider have the Vikings taking Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert, respectively, and the rest of the mocks have a wide range of names, from Bortles to Bridgewater to Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and linebacker C.J. Mosley to Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans. The Vikings have enough needs, and the draft is deep enough, that they're not likely to have any shortage of options at No. 8, but in an important draft for Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and the first one for new coach Mike Zimmer, the pick is an important one to get right.

So which direction will the Vikings take? Here's our best guess, in order from most to least likely, about the way they'll approach the eighth pick on Thursday night:

1. Draft a defensive player

The most compelling decision the Vikings could face on Thursday night might happen if the top quarterbacks, such as Bortles and Manziel, are still on the board and the team has to decide whether to pass on one of them to take a defensive player. If presented with that decision, the Vikings will indeed opt for defense, I believe. I had them selecting Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard in our ESPN NFL Nation mock (albeit after trading down one spot), but I could have taken Bortles with the eighth pick and didn't. The Vikings will have enough quarterback options later in this draft, and they were in bad enough need of a talent upgrade on defense, that I think they'll ultimately address that side of the ball if they stay at No. 8. It could be by taking one of the cornerbacks, such as Dennard or Gilbert. It could be by taking Donald (and sorting out where he'll fit with Sharrif Floyd later), or it could be by drafting a linebacker such as Mosley or UCLA's Anthony Barr. Ultimately, though, I believe the Vikings will help their defense first and come back for a QB later.

2. Trade down

My approach in our NFL Nation mock draft was ultimately a hybrid of No. 1 and 2, but I would have moved back further if there had been a market to do so. The Vikings might be able to find that market -- Spielman said on Tuesday he'd already heard from suitors for several of his picks, and moving out of the No. 8 spot would help him reach the sum of 10 picks the general manager likes to have. The Vikings might still be able to get a defensive player that makes sense after moving back several picks, and they'd also have the flexibility to deal back into the first round, like they've done each of the past two years. I had them doing that in our mock draft, moving up to No. 31 to select Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr. Even if the Vikings move back into the first round, they could benefit from extra picks on the first two days of a deep draft.

3. Select a quarterback

If I had to place a percentage on the likelihood of this happening, I'd put it somewhere around 30 or so; as we've discussed, the Vikings could find enough other options later that they'd have to be completely enamored with one of the top QBs to take him at No. 8. Of the top quarterbacks, Bortles seems like the best fit for Norv Turner's offense, though there's been some steam around Bridgewater in the last few days. One Vikings coach told ESPN's Bob Holtzman, though, that it's "highly unlikely we take a quarterback."

4. Find another weapon for the offense

After Spielman mentioned on Tuesday that the mock drafts were missing some names the Vikings could consider at No. 8, we discussed Evans as a possible option. The threshold would have to be high for the Vikings to take a player like Evans (or, if he slides far enough, Clemson's Sammy Watkins) when they still need help on defense, but as we discussed, there's a school of thought that the Vikings could keep adding weapons to their offense, in order to keep up with the three high-powered passing games in their division and make things easier for their quarterback, whether that's Matt Cassel or a young player they eventually draft.

5. Trade up

I just don't see this one happening, unless Mack slides far enough that the Vikings can get him without giving away the better part of their draft; Spielman said on Tuesday that mid-round picks are more valuable this year, because of the quality of the draft, and it seems more likely the Vikings will take advantage of that, rather than dealing away several picks to move up. According to the trade value chart many teams use as a rule of thumb on trades, it would probably cost the Vikings their second-round pick, and both of their third-rounders, to jump from No. 8 to No. 3, where they might need to land to get Mack. A move from No. 8 to No. 5, according to the trade chart, would only require the Vikings to give up their second- and fourth-round picks, but I can't see the Vikings moving any higher than that, and any first-round trade up seems like a remote possibility.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Well, we've reached draft day at last, which means our series looking at the Vikings' quarterback possibilities comes to a conclusion today. This post will be a quick-hit look at some of the other options in the class. Several of them, like Alabama's AJ McCarron, could be viable possibilities for the Vikings in this draft, so we'll spend more time on some quarterbacks than others in this post, but this is meant to wrap up the series with some final words from our resident experts: ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick (a former pro personnel director for the Philadelphia Eagles) and ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson (who used to be a college and pro scout for the Cleveland Browns):

AJ McCarron, Alabama

2013 stats: 67.3 completion percentage, 3,063 yards, 28 touchdowns, seven interceptions

NFL combine measurements: 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, 31 1/2-inch arm length, 10-inch hand span

Williamson's take: "I don't like McCarron at all, especially not for them. I think he's vastly overrated as a player, and certainly as a passer."

Riddick's take: "I'm not someone who dings players for playing with other good players. AJ has shown more than enough, as far as executing the things you need to see a college quarterback execute, regardless of who he's playing with, to say he projects as being a good pro in the right context. Knowing his background, he's another guy that, despite playing in that pro style, can really benefit from going to a place where footwork, mechanics, progression reading, essentially staying within the structure of the offense and not being given any slack will benefit him greatly. A place like Kansas City -- and I say Kansas City because of Andy Reid -- is the kind of place he really needs to go. I like him a lot."

Aaron Murray, Georgia

2013 stats: 64.8 completion percentage, 3,075 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions

NFL combine measurements: 6-foot-1, 207 pounds, 30 5/8-inch arm length, 9 1/8-inch hand span

Riddick's take: "I've talked to people who say, 'Slow down (on his return from a torn ACL).' If you're going to draft him high, understand that it's probably best for him to sit a year, whether that be starting off on the PUP (physically unable to perform list). If it weren't for the knee, and how much it would benefit him to have a quote-unquote 'redshirt' year, and not have to be rushed into action, the only thing you would be noticing about Aaron Murray is the same thing you were noticing about Russell Wilson when he came out. It was just, 'But he's not 6-5.' That's the only thing you would be able to say, because the kid ran an offense that was as multiple as any in college football, and probably as multiple as many in the National Football League. He executed from the pocket, from the shotgun, he executed situational football brilliantly. He made big plays with his feet, he threw on the run. He did every single thing. This past year, he lost his top three receivers, his top two running backs, and was still balling. If it wasn't for the knee, there would be no other reason besides our preconceived notions (to keep him from) being a top-level pick. What else are you going to say? I like Aaron Murray a whole, whole lot."

Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois

2013 stats: 66.0 completion percentage, 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns, nine interceptions

NFL combine measurements: 6-foot-2, 226 pounds, 31-inch arm length, 9 1/4-inch hand span

Riddick's take: "Of all these guys, he has the longest road to travel before he's ready. His offense was nothing like what he's going to be asked to do in the NFL, unless they're going to take his offense there. He has so much to learn, just from a footwork perspective. He had a lot of yards last year, a lot of short passes, a lot of bubble screens, didn't look very comfortable in the pocket, didn't look comfortable at all under pressure. He seems to be the most green, and has the biggest road to travel as far as development. He's a great kid, very smart and he has a quick release. He doesn't have a great arm. He's never demonstrated pro-style footwork and/or mechanics, and he played at a lower level of competition, although he dominated that level of competition. To me, it's a very vague projection. It's almost more of a guess. When I start thinking in those terms, I'm not going very high for that player."

Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

2013 stats: 56.6 completion percentage, 2,909 yards, 16 touchdowns, 13 interceptions

NFL combine measurements: 6-foot-6, 248 pounds, 34 1/4-inch arm length, 10 7/8-inch hand span

Williamson's take: "He might be a real good fit for Minnesota's offense. He's got a rocket launcher for a right arm, and he's got unbelievable physical characteristics, but he needs time. He's the type of guy that, if you draft him in the second or third round -- the second's probably a little rich -- you'd hope he doesn't see the field at all in 2014. You groom him, you let Norv (Turner) and (Matt) Cassel take him under their wing. To me, he's got more upside than (Zach) Mettenberger, (Tom) Savage, maybe more than anyone in the draft, to be honest with you. I think he's as gifted, and probably more so, in terms of arm strength, athletic ability, size, he's more gifted than anyone else in the draft."

Experts' take: Tom Savage

May, 7, 2014
May 7
1:05
PM ET
[+] EnlargeTom Savage
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsAs the NFL draft nears, it appears that quarterback Tom Savage's stock is rising.
MINNEAPOLIS -- We're (finally) less than 36 hours from the start of the NFL draft, which means we're bringing our look at the Minnesota Vikings' quarterback draft options in for a landing. We'll wrap things up with a final post tomorrow on a couple other options, but we'll give our final solo spotlight today to a quarterback who has been attracting plenty of attention in the past few weeks.

Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage didn't show up as a top name in many early mock drafts, after putting up forgettable numbers behind the Panthers' shoddy offensive line, but his size and arm strength have earned him mention as a sleeper quarterback. The Vikings brought him in for their top-30 prospects event last month, and Savage has said he's met with 24 of the 32 teams in the league. Longtime NFL scout Gil Brandt, who drafted Troy Aikman with the Dallas Cowboys in 1989, compared Savage to him last fall, and according to NFL draft wonk Tony Pauline, the New England Patriots are referring to Savage as "Tom #2," for the comparisons he evokes to Tom Brady.

So what gives? Is Savage really worth the late-developing buzz he's attracting before the draft? Once again, we'll consult our in-house experts: ESPN NFL scout Matt Williamson, who used to be a college and pro scout for the Cleveland Browns, and ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick (the former pro personnel director for the Philadelphia Eagles).

2013 stats: 61.2 completion percentage, 2,958 yards, 21 touchdowns, nine interceptions.

NFL combine measurements: 6-foot-4, 228 pounds, 31 5/8-inch arm length, 9 5/8-inch hand span.

Pros: Savage has plenty of arm strength to make the tough throws required of a NFL quarterback, and of the quarterbacks who might be available on the second day of the draft, Riddick sees Savage as being a possible match for the Vikings. The Brady comparisons come from Savage's release, which looks similar to the Patriots quarterback's setup and allows Savage to make quick, clean throws with velocity. "The top of the second round is very reasonable," Riddick said. "If you're somewhere between (picks) 32 and 38, I would take him and keep on trucking."

Cons: Williamson wasn't as high on Savage, saying he didn't think the quarterback was worth a second-round pick and would need more seasoning after starting just one year at Pitt. "The old (Bill) Parcells rule is where you want a three- or four-year starter with X number of reps under your belt," Williamson said. "He also had some really good receivers. That kid (Tyler) Boyd here at Pitt, nobody knows about him, but he's going to be a first-round pick someday. His line in front of him was very bad. He made a statement there; he's very tough. But he'll miss some open guys, too." According to ESPN Stats & Information, Savage was off-target with 24.7 percent of his passes, which was the worst among the 10 quarterbacks ESPN NFL Nation reporter Kevin Seifert analyzed here.

Bottom line: There's quite a bit of projection required with Savage, and he'd have to go to a team that could afford him time to sit and learn. That might explain some of the Patriots' interest in him, but the Vikings could have a favorable setup, where Savage can bide his time behind Matt Cassel, learn from Norv Turner and step into an offense with plenty of talent around him once he's ready. "It's important he continues to get the level of coaching in order for him to reach what really is tremendous potential," Riddick said. "Development programs across the NFL are not uniform. The thing about Minnesota is, Norv's one of the best. It's almost like a perfect match if he holds the prospect in the same regard." If the Vikings are still looking for a quarterback on the second day of the draft, and they're willing to let Savage grow before putting him on the field, the Pitt quarterback's name could be one to remember.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Sometime around 8:30 Central time Thursday night, the Minnesota Vikings will finally be on the clock with the No. 8 overall pick, finally rendering insignificant the months of mock drafts and speculation about who they'll take.

When they do make their pick, general manager Rick Spielman said Tuesday, they could take a player that none of the mock drafts have pegged.

Evans
"Everybody reads the mocks, because we're tired of yelling at each other," Spielman said. "At night, I read the mocks and kind of get caught up on things. You guys are missing some names on our spot at 8, I can tell you that."

Spielman said no one in the building knows who the Vikings will take with the eighth pick, even though the general manager has had plenty of discussions about the options at that pick. Many of the media mock drafts (including plenty at ESPN) have the Vikings taking a quarterback, in large part because that's what many pundits feel the team should do, not necessarily what it will do. In light of Spielman's comment, though, here's one name that could be worth a longer look for the Vikings than he's received so far: Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans.

The 6-foot-5 receiver has been listed in the top seven picks of many mock drafts, and is seen as the second-best wideout in the draft behind Clemson's Sammy Watkins. The Vikings don't have a big, physical presence at the position, and they only have two receivers who look like sure-fire starters: Greg Jennings, who will be 31 in September, and Cordarrelle Patterson, who is still learning the finer points of playing receiver in the NFL before his second season. Jerome Simpson is on a one-year deal (and was arrested for a second time last November), and third-year man Jarius Wright might not be more than a complementary receiver.

Would it be a bit frivolous to take Evans when the Vikings have so many other needs on defense? Perhaps. But if the Vikings are going to take a young quarterback at some point -- or if they're going to try to win with Matt Cassel for now -- one theory is that they could try to load the offense up with as many weapons as possible. Adrian Peterson, Jennings, Patterson, Kyle Rudolph and Evans would put the Vikings on par with the rest of the high-powered offenses in the division and potentially make things more comfortable for whomever the Vikings' quarterback is, this year or in the future.

And then there's this: The Vikings had at least three wideouts on the field for just 447 snaps last season, the fourth-fewest in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Under offensive coordinator Norv Turner, the Cleveland Browns used at least three receivers on an extra 112 snaps. If three-receiver looks are going to be at least a slightly more prominent part of the offense, and the Vikings have depth concerns about the position, is taking a player like Evans the craziest idea in the world?

"You can look at spots on offense, besides quarterback," Spielman said. "There's no way that's not a need. While that may be a need, that guy can't come in and help this year, but he sure as heck is going to be an impact player for us down the road as well, whether that's receiver or whatever."

It might not be the most sensible, in terms of filling an obvious need, but that scenario would test the Vikings' commitment to Spielman's stated practice of taking the best player available, regardless of position. If Evans meets that description when the Vikings were on the clock Thursday night, it isn't beyond the realm of possibility to think they'd take him.

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