NFC North: Blake Bortles


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.
Thanks to all of you who submitted questions for our weekly Minnesota Vikings mailbag. You can send them to me on Twitter any time during the week at @GoesslingESPN, using the hashtag #VikingsMail.

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Analyzing McShay mock: Vikings 

April, 24, 2014
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In his latest mock draft, ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay made his picks as though he were the general manager for every team in the league. In other words, he's picking the player he thinks the team should take, not necessarily whom they will take.

That's an important distinction to make, because in this particular case, it illustrates how badly the Vikings need to address their quarterback position for the future.

Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Vikings 

April, 17, 2014
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Earlier this month, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., stood firmly by his belief that the Minnesota Vikings needed to address their quarterback situation before doing anything else in the draft. He said the team needed to chart its future at the position more than it needed to fill holes on its defense in the first round.

"You can't be the fourth team in the division at quarterback by a wide margin and have any chance of being any more than a borderline playoff team, at best, and probably in the cellar, more than likely, if things at other positions don't go your way," Kiper said.

In his fourth mock draft, Kiper still believes the Vikings will take a quarterback with the eighth overall pick, counting on the presence of Matt Cassel to help buy them time to develop their new signal-caller before putting him on the field.


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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings are continuing their search for a young quarterback at the end of the week, holding a private workout with Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo today, as ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported. The workout comes after the Vikings met with LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger following his pro day, and before the team plans to fly Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Twin Cities for a meeting next week.

General manager Rick Spielman said at the NFL scouting combine the Vikings would conduct private workouts with "eight or nine" quarterbacks, so it's no surprise to see them making the rounds with a month to go before the NFL draft. They'd already met with Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Central Florida's Blake Bortles, Fresno State's Derek Carr, Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, and reportedly had a private workout with San Jose State's David Fales. The Vikings also met with South Carolina's Connor Shaw at the NFL scouting combine, and had a scout at his pro day, though Shaw isn't projected to go as high in the draft as the other quarterbacks the Vikings have scouted.

The Vikings are believed to be high on Mettenberger, who threw more than 100 passes at his pro day in an attempt to show the progress he's made since tearing his ACL last fall. The quarterback had dinner with four Vikings officials on Wednesday night, according to a league source, and seemed to click well with offensive coordinator Norv Turner; by the end of Mettenberger's workout, the source said, Turner was calling out the routes he wanted to see Mettenberger throw. The quarterback could be raw in some areas of his game, but he might have one of the stronger arms in the draft, and could be a good fit for Turner's deep passing game.

As we get closer to the draft, though, the Vikings will have to consider plenty of different permutations for the quarterback position. They'll have to decide if they want to take one in the first round, or wait until later in the draft, and they'll have to sift through a deep quarterback class where sure things are thought to be in short supply. And if Spielman has been known for one thing in his career, it's his thoroughness. We're certainly seeing that play out here.

Analyzing McShay mock 4.0: Vikings 

April, 10, 2014
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ESPN NFL draft expert Todd McShay's latest mock draft spans two rounds, and like Mel Kiper Jr. did last week in his Grade A mock draft, McShay has the Vikings addressing perhaps their biggest need on each side of the ball with their first two picks.

The Vikings will have a number of different directions they could pursue at quarterback and cornerback with the eighth and 40th overall picks, and it's conceivable they could draft a quarterback and cornerback in either order in the first two rounds. If the draft falls the way McShay predicts it will, however, the Vikings will have an interesting choice on their hands at N0. 8.


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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings will bring Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Twin Cities for a visit on Monday and Tuesday, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson. We've heard the Vikings top-30 prospects event is scheduled for the middle of April, and it appears Bridgewater's visit could be part of it.

Bridgewater
Since the NFL draft went to a three-day format in 2010, the Vikings have conducted their top-30 prospects event 3 1/2 weeks before the draft each year. With the draft being bumped back to May 8-10 this year, the Vikings also pushed back their event from the first week of April. Each team in the NFL is allowed to bring 30 draft hopefuls to its facilities for meetings with coaches, and the Vikings have typically used most of their allotment to bring many prospects in at once.

The event doesn't necessarily identify the Vikings' top 30 prospects, however. It has allowed the team to spend more time with players it wants to learn more about, but the Vikings have also used high picks on players who weren't at the event, like safety Harrison Smith in 2012. From what we've heard, the Vikings don't plan to bring Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles, LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger or Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr to the event; they held individual meetings with all three, as well as Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron, after their respective pro days, and while they also met with Bridgewater after his pro day, their decision to opt for a second visit with him doesn't crystallize where he stands in their pecking order. They might have more they want to learn about him, and the closer we get to the draft, of course, the more teams use subterfuge to cloud their true intentions.

It is worth noting, though, that Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner didn't seem as distraught by Bridgewater's subpar pro day as some others; he told NFL.com last Month he thought Bridgewater was "pretty good" during his March 17 workout. Now, it appears, the Vikings will take one more chance to sit down with Bridgewater before the draft.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Since Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer made his much-discussed comments about the "sideshow" at Johnny Manziel's pro day and the "flags" that come up with the ballyhooed Texas A&M quarterback, there have been plenty of attempts (on this blog and others) to discern what it could mean for the chances of the Vikings taking Manziel with the eighth pick in the May draft.

Manziel
But Manziel's compatibility with offensive coordinator Norv Turner's scheme might be worth just as much of a look as whether he would click with Zimmer.

For our purposes, the nice thing about Turner is, he's got 23 seasons of experience as a head coach or offensive coordinator that can be used to evaluate his team's tendencies. And in Turner's time with the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers and Cleveland Browns, there simply isn't a template for a quarterback like Manziel.

In Turner's 23 seasons as a head coach or coordinator, he's never had a quarterback run for more than 192 yards in a season, and that came with the diminutive Doug Flutie in 2001. In the nine times Turner's had one of the top 10 scoring offenses in the league, his quarterbacks have run 41, 49, 28, 28, 40, 31, 35, 35 and 31 times, counting kneel-downs at the end of games. In two 13-game seasons at Texas A&M, Manziel ran 201 and 144 times, for 1,410 and 759 yards. There will be plenty of NFL teams who will ask him to curtail his scrambling somewhat, partially to reduce the number of unnecessary hits he'll absorb. But if you draft Manziel, you're doing so in part because of his ability to improvise and make plays with his feet, and you're doing so knowing he's probably going to take some extra sacks in the process. It's hard to see a coordinator as established as Turner playing his type that much, especially when quarterbacks like Blake Bortles, Derek Carr and Zach Mettenberger (with whom the Vikings will meet tomorrow) would seem like more logical fits.

This isn't to say the Vikings won't take Manziel a month from tonight if he's still available with the eighth overall pick. But like we discussed in regard to Zimmer's comments last week, Manziel might have to clear some pretty high thresholds for the Vikings to be convinced he's their guy. If he is wearing purple come May 8, it'll be because he answered whatever concerns Zimmer might have and proved he can fit in Turner's offense when there really isn't a precedent for a quarterback like him doing so.
MINNEAPOLIS -- As we get closer to next month's NFL draft, there is probably no Minnesota Vikings question we've discussed more than this one: If the Vikings find themselves with an opportunity to take a quarterback with the eighth overall pick on May 8, should they do it? Or should they address another need, return to the quarterback position later in the draft and take their chances on the players they find there?

That question has been complicated further by the fact that none of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft seems to have asserted himself as a sure thing. ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper said there is a "super seven" group of players at the top of the draft board -- in what many football people have called one of the best drafts in years -- and none of the quarterbacks are in it.

The group, Kiper said, consists of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans.

"That’s your super seven," Kiper said. "After that, I don’t see anybody that belongs in that group right now. I don’t think any of the quarterbacks do, and I don’t see any other players jumped up that far. So that’s your sensational seven, if you want to say that. Then you’re getting into the range where the eighth guy could be the 18th guy on some boards. To me, the seven are the consensus seven."

The problem for the Vikings with that group is that three members are offensive tackles. Minnesota is set at that position with Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt. Watkins or Evans could be an option, but with Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson already on the roster, the Vikings would probably take another receiver only if they thought stockpiling the position was worth passing on a chance to fill another need. Clowney and Mack seem likely to be gone by the time the Vikings pick.

But if one team above the Vikings takes a quarterback, or drafts another player, one of those seven players would be on the board at No. 8. Even if that group is gone, the Vikings could choose from a number of other players to help their defense. Is it worth passing on a quarterback to go that direction?

"It’s incredible. There are about a dozen quarterbacks that could be starters, and out of those dozen, there are some that argue that all 12 of them will never be a successful starter," Kiper said. "This is a crazy year for quarterbacks. There is a lot of quantity, but how much quality is debatable. But if [Central Florida's Blake] Bortles is there at 8, unless they just don’t like Bortles, it would be tough to pass him up.

"The bottom line with the Vikings -- and I’ve said this for three months -- is, I don’t care who they like or don’t like, they’ve got to get a quarterback. And however they do it, they’ve got to get a lot better at quarterback. You can’t be the fourth team in the division at quarterback by a wide margin and have any chance of being any more than a borderline playoff team at best, and probably in the cellar, more than likely, if things at other positions don’t go your way."

Of the top three quarterbacks in the draft, Kiper said Bortles was "more of a consensus" in the top eight picks than Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel or Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.

If the Vikings did pass on one in the first round, they could come back for someone like Fresno State's Derek Carr, Alabama's AJ McCarron, LSU's Zach Mettenberger, Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo or Georgia's Aaron Murray later in the draft. Kiper said some teams feel Carr is better than the top three quarterbacks and assuaged some concerns about Murray's arm strength, saying it's "more than good enough."

"Which quarterback do [the Vikings] like? We don’t know right now. Everybody’s trying to figure that out," Kiper said. "Everybody’s not going to like Bortles, everybody’s not going to like Manziel, Bridgewater, Carr, this whole group. There’s some that really like these guys. There’s some that really don’t like these guys."
In his Grade A mock draftInsider, ESPN NFL Draft Insider Mel Kiper Jr. has the Minnesota Vikings ticking through their list of needs with the same efficiency they've displayed this offseason. The Vikings spent most of the free-agency period filling holes on defense, signing former New York Giants defensive tackle Linval Joseph, adding Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to help solve their problem at slot cornerback and filling out their defensive line depth with New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Tom Johnson and Chicago Bears defensive end Corey Wootton.

Now, with the help of four picks in the first three rounds, the Vikings have an opportunity to improve their secondary depth and find a backup for Adrian Peterson. According to Kiper, though, they'd find a fit for what might be their biggest need with the eighth overall pick.


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MINNEAPOLIS -- Ever since Matt Cassel opted out of his contract with the Minnesota Vikings after the Super Bowl, bringing him back for the 2014 season and buying some time at the quarterback position was always the move that made the most sense. The Vikings approached it that way, too, talking with Cassel's agent at the NFL scouting combine and letting him know they'd like to have him back.

Put simply, while Cassel is far from a perfect option, the alternatives without him were too dicey for the Vikings to approach it any other way. That's why the Vikings re-signed Cassel to two years for $10 million.

Had they not brought Cassel back, they would have had to navigate the following currents to find a starting quarterback:

1. The rest of the free agent market is thin, with a soon-to-be 34-year-old Michael Vick possibly being the best option.

2. The eighth pick in the draft means the Vikings could be on the clock with Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel already off the board.

3. The Vikings' only other quarterback under contract before the start of free agency was Christian Ponder.

Now, the Vikings at least have their much-discussed bridge to the future, whatever that is. If they don't get a quarterback in the first round of the draft, they can at least take one in a later round and let him compete for the job with Cassel, knowing they can probably survive if he's not ready to play right away. And if they choose to look toward a 2015 quarterback class that could include Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley, they could have Cassel's hand at the helm for 2014.

Let's be clear about what Cassel is, and is not. He is the most reliable quarterback on the Vikings' roster at the moment, after turning in more solid performances than bad ones in a goofy year at quarterback in Minnesota. He is not the kind of QB the Vikings will build around, and his two-year deal reflects that. He's had two good full seasons as a starting quarterback -- in 2008 for the Patriots and 2010 for the Chiefs -- and has been mediocre in the full-time role otherwise. But the Vikings were never asking Cassel to be a long-term solution at the position. They were simply hoping he could drive them from here to their next quarterback without banging the car up too badly. He should be able to do that, and now, the Vikings don't have to head into the rest of the spring staring at a gaping hole at the NFL's most important position.

The Vikings shouldn't feel like they don't have a major need at quarterback. They should feel like they don't have an imminent crisis on their hands. They've bought themselves some assurance, and Cassel -- who was scheduled to make $3.7 million under the terms of his old deal -- has a better contract with a team that should give him a good chance to play. That sounds like a good, sensible deal for all parties involved.

Vikings: Short QBs get a longer look

February, 23, 2014
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The group of quarterbacks the Minnesota Vikings will assess during the lead-up to this year's NFL draft include Central Florida's Blake Bortles (6-foot-5), LSU's Zach Mettenberger (6-foot-4) and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas (6-foot-6). It will also include Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater (6-foot-2), Fresno State's Derek Carr (6-foot-2), San Jose State's David Fales (6-foot-1), South Carolina's Connor Shaw (6-foot-0) and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel (5-foot-11).

That there are so many shorter quarterbacks near the top of this year's draft class owes plenty to Seattle's Russell Wilson, who stands 5-foot-11 and led the Seahawks to a win over Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. It also owes something to New Orleans' Drew Brees, the record-setting quarterback and MVP of Super Bowl XLIV who stands just six feet tall. But it also is because of a changing game that's asking quarterbacks to move more and is setting them up to throw in places where being 6-foot-5 isn't as important as it used to be.

More teams are rolling their quarterbacks out and using moving pockets to neutralize pass rushes and keep defenses uncomfortable. Shotgun and pistol schemes have made it easier for short QBs to find throwing lanes. And players like Wilson have done enough to make general managers realize they might have discredited good QB prospects because of one trait.

"It was height, period," Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said. "But Ill tell you what: He's going to open the floodgates for people breaking through that stigma of, you need a really tall quarterback. You've got to pinpoint, are people batting down passes? He didn't have a lot of batted balls (in college) at Wisconsin. He's able to find those passing lanes that usually you'd think were solely based on height. But he's been effective."

Manziel's height was as big a topic at the NFL scouting combine as his off-field issues, but the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner said, "I feel like I play like I'm 10 feet tall," and turned heads with an unofficial time in the 40-yard dash of 4.56 seconds (his official time was 4.68). Manziel's hands are nearly 10 inches long, when measured from thumb to pinky, which should eliminate some of the concerns that would naturally come up with his size. The success of quarterbacks like Wilson and Colin Kaepernick should take care of others.

"For those guys, being able to evade a first wave of pass rush, really extend the play just a little bit, be able to move the pocket and do some things like that, it really opens the playbook up a little bit more," Manziel said. " The young guys who are doing that, the guys that I enjoy watching, I think they’re really doing a good job for some of the mobile quarterbacks in college right now."

Shaw, who officially ran a 4.66 40 on Sunday, said he met with the Vikings twice at the combine, and added the team told him "there would be good opportunities if I were to land at that place because they had a little quarterback battle going on." His arm strength has been a concern, and his scouting report on NFL.com says he "can be too jittery vs. pressure and quick to tuck and run" (remind you of anybody?)

But Shaw will be another quarterback who gets a look because of his speed. Thanks to QBs like Wilson, he won't immediately be discredited because of his size.

"There is not a specific mold you have to fit anymore to be an NFL quarterback," he said. "You see Russell Wilson and he’s kind of proved that. He’s got a shiny rock on his finger now and he’s 6-foot. I don’t think there is a prototypical quarterback size anymore."

Countdown to combine: Vikings QBs

February, 20, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- We're wrapping up our Countdown to combine series this morning, since, well, the NFL scouting combine is here. Things get started at Lucas Oil Stadium today, so we'll conclude our preview by looking at one last position of need for the Vikings.

Position of need: Quarterback

This is an obvious one, isn't it? The Vikings have had a hole at the position for years, and could be back in the market for a quarterback three years after their ill-fated selection of Christian Ponder in the first round of the 2011 draft. At the moment, Ponder is the only quarterback on their roster after Matt Cassel opted out of his deal, and the Vikings have said they'd like to bring in a young quarterback. They might not have a shot at the top quarterbacks in the draft with the No. 8 overall pick, but they could find options in the second or third round of the draft, as well.

Three players the Vikings might be targeting:

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: The odds of Johnny Football still being available at No. 8 are slim, and the price to trade up and get him would be steep, but you never know. Some teams could pass on Manziel because of his size (we''ll see at the combine if he checks in under 6 feet) and his reputation for enjoying the spoils of his position. But he was the first freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy, and it's tough to argue with his performance at Texas A&M. Russell Wilson and Drew Brees have proved short quarterbacks can succeed in the NFL, and the Vikings could use a dose of Manziel's swagger.

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: Another quarterback who could be gone by the time the Vikings pick, Bridgewater will nonetheless merit a long look from the Vikings. He might be the most polished quarterback in the draft, though his arm strength isn't on par with Manziel or Bortles, and his mobility will certainly attract plenty of attention. Though Adrian Peterson has said he'd like to play with Manziel, the possibility of Bridgewater and Peterson in the same backfield is enticing, too.

Blake Bortles, Central Florida: Some mock drafts have Bortles going ahead of Bridgewater or Manziel, which means there's a good chance he'll be gone by No. 8. He's probably the most traditional of the big quarterbacks in this draft -- he stands 6-foot-4, weighs 230 pounds and has an above-average arm -- so if the Vikings were to get a shot at him, they'd be acquiring a quarterback who could fit well in Norv Turner's offense.
ESPN NFL draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have each rolled out new mock drafts today on ESPN.com. And while Kiper's presents a scenario by which the Vikings could get one of the top quarterbacks available with the No. 8 overall pick (Central Florida's Blake Bortles), McShay's shows what the Vikings could do if the three QBs thought to be at the top of the class (Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Bortles) are all gone.

Kiper has the Vikings taking Bortles after two teams that need quarterbacks (the Jaguars and Raiders) draft South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins third and fifth overall, respectively. In McShay's version, Bridgewater, Bortles and Manziel go with the third, fourth and fifth picks, leaving the Vikings with Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers grab Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack with the No. 7 pick.

Either of those scenarios, I'd think, would be ones the Vikings would be willing to accept. Quarterback is such a glaring need for the franchise -- especially now that the Vikings would have to work to re-sign Matt Cassel as a temporary insurance policy -- that they'd welcome a chance to get a young passer with the physical tools of Bortles. But even if the Vikings have that chance, they saw three years ago what can happen when they reach for a quarterback and the decision doesn't pan out. General manager Rick Spielman can't afford to make that mistake again, and getting a dynamic linebacker like Mack or Mosley would also make sense. Mosley comes into the draft with injury concerns, but putting him at weakside linebacker would give the Vikings the kind of aggressive playmaker they've been missing for years.

Kiper mock 1.0 reaction: Vikings

January, 15, 2014
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In his first mock draft, ESPN NFL draft Insider Mel Kiper delivers a pick Insider for the Vikings that fans -- and the team -- would likely love: Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. The 21-year-old quarterback, who has been mentioned as a possible No. 1 pick, will go to the Vikings at No. 8, Kiper predicts. He has Bridgewater as the third quarterback taken in the draft, behind Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Central Florida's Blake Bortles.

If the Vikings are sitting with a chance to take Bridgewater at No. 8 in May, it'd be hard to see them passing that up. Bridgewater would give the Vikings a mobile, athletic and assertive quarterback whom they could develop if Matt Cassel comes back or look to start right away if he's good enough to do so. The question will be whether he slips far enough in the draft for the Vikings to have a shot at him, but as Kiper points out, some of the teams drafting in front of the Vikings who also need a quarterback -- such as Jacksonville and Tampa Bay -- also could opt for defensive players; Kiper has the Jaguars taking South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney at No. 3, and the Buccaneers grabbing Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 7.

Either of those players could make sense for the Vikings, and in a year with so many bad teams that have interchangeable needs -- the Vikings' five wins were just the eighth-fewest in the league -- the draft could break any number of ways. But if Bridgewater were available for the Vikings at No. 8, they could have an easy choice.

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