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Updated: April 17th, 2014 7:08pm
Zulgad: Vikings shouldn't gamble on a QB; leave that for other teams

Zulgad: Vikings shouldn't gamble on a QB; leave that for other teams

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by Judd Zulgad
1500ESPN.com

The opinion from this corner has been that the Vikings should continue their offseason trend of addressing defense and use the eighth-overall pick in next month's draft on that side of the ball.

The obvious comeback is that the Vikings need a QB of the future and that Matt Cassel isn't that guy. This is true but it also doesn't justify using a pick on a passer just for the sake of it.

General manager Rick Spielman, and the rest of us, learned just how painful it can be to panic and cave to pressure by grabbing a quarterback in 2011, when Christian Ponder was selected 12th overall.

With the draft now three weeks away, the feeling that the Vikings would be best off staying away from taking one of the "marquee" quarterbacks has not changed.

It has only grown stronger.

The basis for this feeling growing stronger is simple: Nobody knows exactly how to rank this quarterback class. This was reinforced on Thursday when ESPN's Mel Kiper published his fourth mock draft.

Kiper had the Vikings taking Central Florida's Blake Bortles at No. 8. Kiper previously had Minnesota selecting Johnny Manziel, but now has the former Texas A&M star going to Cleveland with the fourth pick. Bortles and Manziel have exchanged spots.

Manziel shot up some draft boards after his Pro Day, and ESPN's Ron Jaworski, a former NFL quarterback, has elevated Manziel to his third-rated quarterback after initially being lukewarm on him.

Jaworski's top three passers are Bortles, LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Manziel.

Kiper, meanwhile, is projecting that Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater will fall out of the first round and go 33rd to Houston.  There was a time not long ago when Bridgewater was being projected to go to the Texans -- with the first pick in the draft.

In Kiper's world, Bridgewater has fallen behind Derek Carr, whom Kiper has going 20th overall to Arizona.

Depending on which mock draft you look at, and when you check it, the Vikings are or were going to take Bridgewater, Manziel or Bortles.

The folks that produce these drafts, or rankings, do not have the inside knowledge of a team but they do have connections in the industry and attempt to get some guidance.

These connections clearly are changing their mind on a weekly basis and that's a huge red flag. The message: There is no clear-cut, top-of-the-line quarterback in this draft.

Spielman can't afford another miss on a first-round quarterback, especially at No. 8. A second Ponder-like mistake will cost him his job.

Spielman would be better off trading back if, for instance, Manziel is available than he would be figuring the gamble might be worth it.

This is not suggesting the Vikings let all seven rounds of the draft go by without considering a quarterback. Taking one in the second round or later might enable someone to come in and learn behind Cassel. It might be a perfect situation.

But guys like Bridgewater, Bortles, Manziel and Carr are almost certain to be gone by then. If that's the case, the Vikings should be comfortable knowing that it's another team that has decided to roll the dice.

Judd Zulgad is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays and "Saturday Morning SportsTalk" from 10 a.m. to noon on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Judd | @1500ESPNJudd | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder
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