With the renewed possibility that our Vikings are back in the hunt for the first pick in the draft, some are again enticed by Andrew Luck's charms. While it's unlikely that we will end up on top of the draft (doesn't that sounds so much more optimistic than "at the bottom of the league?"), l thought we should take a look at our options at #1. If nothing else, it's something people seem to like to talk about.
Join me after the jump for the details.
1. Just draft Luck.
2. Draft Luck and trade Christian Ponder (this offseason or in the future).
3. Just draft someone else.
4. Trade the #1 pick.
Luck's Potential: Just to give you a little preview, I don't think we should just pick Luck. So, with that in mind, I'm going to weight this as much as I can in his favor. So let's assume that he will be everything the most optimistic projections say he can be. He's the second coming of Peyton Manning. He's the modern Johnny Unitas. He's legitimately among the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game. I'm skeptical of that outcome, and think there is just as good a chance that he turns into David Carr or Carson Palmer, but let's go with it. A guy like this get's you to the Super Bowl with less help from his teammates.
Ponder's Potential: It's still really early in the young man's career, but at this point I don't think his upside projects to an all time great. But I think he's shown enough already to project as a good, long-term, solid starting quarterback in the league. I don't think it's a stretch to project him as a Matt Hasselbeck or Brad Johnson, and I think his upside is in the neighborhood of Drew Brees (that is as a smart player who uses his head as much as his arm to make plays). A guy like can help you win a Super Bowl, but he's not going to do it all on his own.
Goals: Every football person who has ever lived has had "win a championship" as their stated goal. But anyone who is being honest has to admit that it's unrealistic for most teams most of the time. I'm going to assume that the goal for next year to is be competitive within the division and compete for a playoff spot, with the legitimate hope of being able to contend for a championship in the next season.
Needs: With those goals in mind, the minimum needs, meaning pieces that have to be put in place to achieve our goals this off season include: 1) starting LT, 2) a starting cornerback, 3) two starting safeties, 4) a starting wide receiver, 5) a starting defensive tackle and 6) linebacker depth.
Note I said minimum people. We can fashion the right side of the offensive line out of Berger, Fusco, and Charlie Johnson at guard and Loadholt and Love at tackle. I'm also assuming that Chris Cook gets his legal trouble cleared up and will be back next year. Note that this also leaves LG, WR depth, TE depth (assuming Shanks and The Sauce are gone), dback depth, and defensive tackle depth to be added in the following off season.
Value of the #1 pick: This is really the key assumption. If you're trading the #1 pick, what can you expect to get for it? I think a realistic minimum is a swap of first round picks, a second round pick this year and second rounder next year. That means two starters this year and one next year.
Actually, I think we can probably get a lot more than that (another pick this year and another next year, or a player this year), but again, I'm weighting this in favor of Luck in an effort to appease the leprechauns out there.
At this point, I think it's a little silly to talk about individual players we could draft (especially after the first round), so I'm going to just talk about positions of needs and where they logically slot in. Obviously, who's available when we are making the pick is absolutely key, but it's to early to really know much about that.
Scenario #1: If we just pick Luck, that means we can get a starter at LT in the second round, and maybe a starter at corner in the third and if we're really lucky a safety who can contribute right away in the fourth round (although it's unlikely to be a starter). That leaves at least 3-4 guys to get via trade/free agency. I don't know about you, but I really don't like our chances of getting quality talent for those positions while staying under the cap, which I think means most of those needs are put off until next year. I just can't see a team with the high end projections for Luck at QB and so many holes left unfilled winning more than 5-6 games, and we'd still have a lot of rebuilding to do.
Scenario #2: I guess I need another assumption for this one. Let's say we trade Ponder now. My guess is we could get a third round pick, maybe a second. That means one more need met. Now we draft Luck, LT, WR, CB, S, in that order. That's certainly better than just drafting Luck, in terms of meeting all of our needs, but it ups the stakes of the bet on Luck. He sure better quickly live up the the projections. Let's say that nets one more win (6-7) next year, and one less piece needed for the year after. Obviously, if you decide to keep Ponder and trade him in the future, that's another need left unfilled.
Scenario #3: The virtue of this option is not spending consecutive first round picks on the same position, meaning putting a high first round pick out on the field instead of standing on the sidelines holding a clipboard. In the same vein, this also avoids putting in place redundant quality backups when we already have Joe Webb in that role. Compared to just drafting Luck, it also allows us to fill one more need right away. So we get our starting LT in the first round, a starting CB in the second, maybe a starting safety in the third, and if we're lucky a WR who can contribute (but likely not start) in the fourth. I'd say this is pretty comparable to Scenario #2, with 6-7 wins next year and a clear path to being a legit contender the following year.
Scenario #4: The outcome here is foretold by the value assumption above. If we can get even the minimum value I project for the pick, we should take it. It means getting at least one more guy who is ready to start next year than all of the other scenarios, and perhaps two. That leaves a much more manageable project for next year's off season, and gives us the best chance to meet our goal of competing for the playoffs next season. I really don't think the choice is even close, but I'm sure plenty of you disagree.
So, what do you think?