NFL Draft preview: Quarterbacks
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Each coach that drafted a first-round quarterback not named Cam Newton in 2011 has been fired.
That's what's at stake when a muddled quarterback class combines with itchy general managers and owners that reach for the next franchise cadence caller.
So it's understandable when local consensus around the Twin Cities says Rick Spielman and the Minnesota Vikings won't reach again with the No. 8 overall pick on Thursday and instead opt to trade back, if possible, or pick a front seven impact player.
After all, Spielman is the next pin set up to fall after his major draft snafu - Christian Ponder at 12th overall - knocked Leslie Frazier out of the head coaching seat. Now, Spielman has his own hand-picked coach in Mike Zimmer and will get his second swing at the future quarterback.
But will it be in Thursday's first round?
I jotted some notes on where the Vikings are likely expecting to find each prospect and why I think he would/wouldn't work for Minnesota. Also, ICYMI, here's projected depth chart/draft needs on offense and defense.
Day 1 (round 1)
Johnny Manziel - Manziel will be the first or second quarterback picked out of this draft, but not to Minnesota at No. 8. Not to say it can't change, but Turner's offenses have excelled with pocket-passing quarterbacks in the likes of Troy Aikman and Phillip Rivers. Manziel doesn't fit that role by playing style or physical attributes. Though it likely won't matter as he could be gone before the eighth pick.
Blake Bortles - The physical tools alone, 6'5", 230lbs, will get Bortles drafted in the first round. However, I'd pump the brakes before comparing him to a two-time Super Bowl champion in Ben Roethlisberger. All anyone has to go off of now is his potential based on measurable traits and game tape. It's just as easy to compare him to Jay Cutler. If Spielman and the Vikings were to pull the trigger for a QB at No. 8, this is the likely option for style fitting the scheme. Bortles looks downfield, averaging 9.4 yards per attempt last season, which fits Turner's system and the Vikings pieces with Kyle Rudolph, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Teddy Bridgewater - Though his lackluster Pro Day has been widely publicized, I still don't believe Bridgewater will fall out of the first round. Turner wasn't as down on Bridgewater as most, telling NFL.com's Gil Brandt that he "thought it was pretty good." If he's available at No. 8, it will depend how good Turner thought he did. If Wonderlic scores mean anything to you, Bridgewater recorded a relatively low 20, compared to a 32 for Manziel. However, it's the same Bridgewater that clinched a BCS berth at Rutgers with a broken wrist and sprained ankle.
Derek Carr - Carr is in the first in/first out category depending on a fourth team taking a first-round quarterback. There are a few scenarios where that's plausible, if a team trades back into the first round or perhaps as Minnesota may try to do - trade back from No. 8 and get a guy later in the first. Carr could be one of those options available unless a team at the top has already fallen for him. It'll be interesting to see how Carr pans out after his brother, David Carr, was a flop at the No. 1 overall pick in 2002. As one scout told the MJS's Bob McGinn: "OK in the interview, but not the type of guy you'd have a beer with. Good kid, but little bit of a forced leader. Can he fit in? The brother is a big part of this kid. That may hurt him."
Day 2 (rounds 2-3)
Jimmy Garoppolo - On Friday in rounds two and three is where the Vikings could be most active in the search for a quarterback. After top prospects are off the board, some natural worry will creep as the pool thins. After a stellar senior season at Eastern Illinois, Garoppolo has seemed to turn heads this offseason as another strong candidate in this second-tier of passers. At 6'3", 222lbs, Garoppolo appears to be an experienced passer for a west-coast style offense. Think more of an Alex Smith to Nick Foles type of spectrum, though arm strength can be improved. Garoppolo did lift his yards-per-attempt to a career-best 8.9 last season, but the NFL is a big step up from the Ohio Valley Conference. I think the Vikings would lean toward other options, if available, in the second or third rounds.
Zach Mettenberger - Mettenberger has the Bortles size at 6'5" and 224lbs, but has been overlooked due to a January surgery to repair a torn ACL and MCL he suffered in the season finale against Arkansas. The Vikings had a few meetings with Mettenberger this offseason, including at and after his Pro Day and a dinner with team officials, per ESPN. If Mettenberger passed all the Vikings' due diligence, he could be a sizable prospect to work behind Cassel if picked up in the second or third round.
A.J. McCarron - McCarron is likely gone to a team in the second round on Friday after a two-time BCS National Championship career at Alabama - where he also had plenty of help. In talent mills such as Tuscaloosa, excellent NFL quarterbacks can be hard to come by. It's relatively easy to look good when you have the star running back or receiver or at least a host of above-average talent at each position. I don't remember guys like Brodie Croyle or Greg McElroy panning out. Sure, Alabama produced great quarterbacks at one point, but that was in the days of Bart Starr, Kenny Stabler and Joe Namath. I think the Vikings would be wise to avoid McCarron and I also think he could be gone before they have the chance to decide.
Aaron Murray - Murray is another quarterback that has had another recent ACL injury. He's a three-time bowl MVP and the SEC's career leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Murray started four years at Georgia, but his future is clouded in his recovery from surgery six months ago. Murray or any other player coming off an injury is a bigger risk for the Vikings, meaning they may not want to take that chance on a quarterback.
Day 3 (rounds 4-7)
Tom Savage - Savage could very well be drafted on Friday, but the three-year player from Pittsburgh took 43 sacks last season and showed plenty of room for improvement. Savage has climbed up most mock draft boards, but just ask Bridgewater, that's the consequence of pushing an already-embellished process another two weeks (Draft fatigue isn't just for readers). Regardless, Savage did enough to warrant an invite to Radio City Music Hall for the draft in New York later this week and should be drafted in round four or before.
Logan Thomas - Thomas may be drafted as early as the third round, but it might be at a different position. Thomas, 6'6", 250lbs, is the biggest quarterback prospect - one that seems to struggle with accuracy and efficiency in his throwing motion. Thomas could be a prime candidate for a switch to tight end, like former Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray.
Connor Shaw - Shaw would be a draft-and-wait prospect. He completed 22 of 25 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns in South Carolina's bowl win over Wisconsin in January. But at 6'1, 207lbs, Shaw is also reportedly unpolished and would need a year or two behind an established starter. Cassel could provide that recommended situation, but many quarterbacks left at this stage could fit that mold. Shaw passed an efficient 2013 with 24 touchdowns to one interception in his final college season.
David Fales - Fales joins Derek Carr as the only two FBS quarterbacks to top 4,000 passing yards in both 2012 and 2013. Though he's from the little-known Mountain West conference, Fales has come up big on relatively large stages, including 439 yards in a loss at Minnesota last season and a 547-yard and seven-touchdown outing in his college finale win over Carr's Fresno State. Fales, along with Shaw, falls just above the rest in terms of third and fourth-round picks.
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