NFC North: LuckWatch

As you might be aware, NFC West colleague Mike Sando has a periodic "LuckWatch" post previewing Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck's looming arrival in the NFL. Thursday, Sando hit an angle that has been rollicking through my brain for the past few weeks. (I'm at my limit for [Insertlastnamehere]Watch posts, however.)

Luck almost assuredly will be the No. 1 overall pick in the April 2012 draft. But what if the team holding that position -- say, the Minnesota Vikings, for example -- already has either an established quarterback or has recently invested in a new starter?

At 1-6, the Vikings would hold the No. 4 overall selection if the season ended today. But they are obviously only one victory ahead of the winless Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams and Miami Dolphins. And as Sando notes, four of the top five teams in the Luck Sweepstakes would at least have complicating factors to consider before drafting a quarterback No. 1 overall.

The Colts are expecting to have veteran Peyton Manning (neck) back by next season. The Rams drafted Sam Bradford No. 1 overall two years ago and paid him $50 million in guarantees. The Vikings, of course, selected Christian Ponder with the No. 12 overall pick in April. Only the Dolphins are without an obvious plan at the position. Meanwhile, the 1-5 Arizona Cardinals are only six games into the Kevin Kolb era.

It's way too early for handicapping the top of the draft, either from a player standpoint or based on which teams will have the first few picks. But there already are talent evaluators who consider Luck a once-in-generation player. If that's the case, should any team care about its current starter if it gets an opportunity to draft him?

That's a question the Vikings hope not to be in position to answer. And even if Ponder's final nine starts leave the Vikings with a record so poor that they have the No. 1 pick, it would be hard to consider him a failed draft pick. But the fact is they are 1-6 and the NFL's worst team is 0-7. At this point, at least, the math makes it a possibility. Stay tuned.

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