Could Teddy Bridgewater fall to the Vikings? Mel Kiper thinks so
Get the 1500 ESPN SportsWire delivered to your inbox daily, and keep up with all the news in Twin Cities Sports
The Minnesota Vikings have a coach, now they need a quarterback.
In his first mock draft of 2014, released Wednesday, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.'s initial prediction has one of the most highly-touted passers falling into general manager Rick Spielman's lap: Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater.
In the mock (behind Insider paywall), Kiper has the Houston Texans with the first-overall pick selecting Texas A&M phenom quarterback Johnny Manziel. Kiper likes a pair of Aggies to go in the first couple of selections.
The top 10:
1. QB Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Houston Texans
2. T Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), St. Louis Rams [from Washington]
3. DE Jadaveon Clowney (South Carolina), Jacksonville Jaguars
4. QB Blake Bortles (UCF), Cleveland Browns
5. WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson), Oakland Raiders
6. OLB Anthony Barr (UCLA), Atlanta Falcons
7. OLB Khalil Mack (Buffalo), Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville), Minnesota Vikings
9. T Greg Robinson (Auburn), Buffalo Bills
10. CB Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Detroit Lions
The offseason has officially began for 28 NFL teams, but remember it's early.
Kiper's list is written in sand and should only further the conversation as his first mock draft was posted 10 days before the Senior Bowl, 34 days before the NFL Combine, two months before free agency and nearly four months before the draft. One team that hypothetically selects a quarterback before the Vikings, the Cleveland Browns, doesn't even have a coach yet.
But, hey, the Vikings need a quarterback so let's talk about it.
Bridgewater, 21, is listed at 6-foot-3-inches and 196 pounds, which could contribute to Kiper's ranking with the Browns selecting Knights' cadence caller Blake Bortles (6'4", 230lbs) over Bridgewater. However, NFL quarterbacks like Drew Brees (6'0") and Russell Wilson (5'11") proved size doesn't always precede success.
The Vikings committed last offseasaon to bolstering their receiving corps, which included trading away their top receiving threat in Percy Harvin in return for a Seahawks' first and seventh-round picks last season (CB Xavier Rhodes, G Travis Bond), and a third-round pick in May. By signing Greg Jennings and drafting a gem in rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, the Vikings haven't missed Harvin and will set their sights on settling the quarterback position this offseason. Free agency opens March 11, but a loaded draft class and somewhat prime real estate in the draft order could set up the fourth first-round quarterback selection in franchise history following Tommy Kramer, Daunte Culpepper and Christian Ponder.
However, there are plenty of successful quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round. Would the Vikings be better suited at trading their No. 8 pick or using it to fill a hole in the defense?
A quick look illustrates that, across the last five years, first-round quarterbacks have more success than not of reaching either AFC or NFC Championship game.
Tom Brady (6th round, 2000), New England Patriots
Peyton Manning (1st round, 1998), Denver Broncos*
Russell Wilson (3rd round, 2012), Seattle Seahawks
Colin Kaepernick (2nd round, 2011), San Francisco 49ers
Joe Flacco (1st round, 2008), Baltimore Ravens
Tom Brady (6th), New England Patriots
Matt Ryan (1st round, 2008), Atlanta Falcons
Kaepernick (2nd), San Francisco 49ers
Flacco (1st), Baltimore Ravens
Brady (6th), New England Patriots
Alex Smith, (1st round, 2005), San Francisco 49ers
Eli Manning, (1st round, 2004), New York Giants*
Mark Sanchez, (1st round, 2009), New York Jets
Ben Roethlisberger, (1st round, 2004), Pittsburgh Steelers
Aaron Rodgers, (1st round, 2005), Green Bay Packers
Jay Cutler, (1st round, 2006), Chicago Bears
Sanchez (1st), New York Jets
Manning (1st), Indianapolis Colts
Brett Favre, (2nd round, 1991) Minnesota Vikings*
Drew Brees, (2nd round, 2001) New Orleans Saints*
*denotes playoff team, not draft team
Out of 10 games, first-round quarterbacks have represented their teams as 12 of the 20 starters in the past five years, including four appearances by a second-round quarterback and one by a third-round passer (Russell Wilson on Jan. 18). Tom Brady (6th round, 2000) is the only quarterback drafted after the third round to come within one game of a Super Bowl appearance in the last five years.
However, 2014 is the first year in that short span that features just one first-round quarterback and that's 37-year-old Peyton Manning.
Could Teddy Bridgewater fall to the Vikings at No. 8? If so, should the Vikings pick him? Or should they even look to take a first-round quarterback?
State your case in the comments.