"Boy that 2014 NFL Draft really snuck up on us this year!" --Nobody Ever
Merry Draftmas morning everyone! It's finally here! No more excruciating days, weeks, and months spent philosophizing about which players your favorite team may or may not pick. No more reading contradicting reports on your Twitter timeline of which front offices think which players' stock is rising and falling. No more of the following phrases that sound incredibly important but actually mean nothing in the end:
- "I'm hearing that..."
- "There are people in the league that believe..."
- "[Player X]'s stock is really rising the past few days. He has great [draft buzzword about athleticism, size, or football IQ]. Don't be surprised if he goes in the top [arbitrary number less than 32]."
- "[Team Y] could surprise some people and [trade up/trade down/take a certain unexpected player], which could really throw the rest of the first round off."
- "GMs around the league have told me [some bullshit anecdote about the draft that sounds like helpful inside information but obviously shouldn't be trusted because nearly everything that General Managers utter in the days leading up to the draft is a complete lie]."
It might seem odd that I'm diving into draft coverage when I've been rather scarce in these parts lately. To be honest, I haven't written much because everything has already been covered from every possible angle. The two extra weeks before the draft has beaten the dead horse into oblivion at this point. I can assure you I have been keeping an eye on all the rumors and news swirling around the Vikings in the run-up to the three-day extravaganza that's finally upon us. But instead of trying to conjure up more wild scenarios or giving you detailed diatribes about every player that could possibly put on the purple over the next three days, I'll treat the NFL draft like I treated tests in college.
I mastered the art of cramming during my college days. If a test wasn't happening within 24 hours, there was a very small chance I'd be studying for it. I learned that it was more efficient for me to study for the questions that would most likely be on the test rather than blindly canvassing all of the material. Sure, it's basically a nice way of saying that I was and still am a lazy-ass procrastinator. But it worked most of the time back then, so that's how I'm going to treat the draft now.
In other words I'm going to cram everything in one nice "cheat sheet" based on how likely I think certain events are going to occur tonight for the Vikings. If something is little more than a pipe dream (like landing Khalil Mack or Jadeveon Clowney), I'm not going to spend much time on it. But if I think there's a solid chance of another thing happening I'll spend more time on it. And remember, since the rest of the draft is still more than 24 hours away I'm only going to cover Day 1 scenarios here. I'll do a "Cramming for Day 2" post after the dust has settled on the first round tonight. Got it? Let's go.
I'll start with the position that has caused the most differing opinions and the most virtual ink to be spilled over the past few months. I've seen people say that three quarterbacks will go before the Vikings pick. I've seen others say that none will be chosen until the middle of the first round. I've seen nearly every top-tier QB slotted to at least 20 different teams depending on which page I clicked. Every QB-related draft tweet I send out is met with equal parts agreement and disdain. Nobody knows what the hell to make of any of them. I'm no exception, but here's the order of who I'd like to see the Vikings go after if they do grab a signal caller tonight:
- Johnny Manziel. I'm probably picking with my heart a little more than my head on this one. Johnny Football is by no means a surefire NFL superstar, but I'm fairly certain he'll be a blast to have on the team no matter what happens. He might not be an ideal fit for Norv Turner and he might get hit a lot, but riding the JohnnyCoaster would be a bigger Minnesota thrill ride than anything Valleyfair has to offer. Plus drafting a player that popular certainly wouldn't hurt a team that's busy trying to sell seat licenses for their new stadium, right? I'd be all in on Manziel, riding shotgun in the bandwagon Ted's driving.
- Teddy Bridgewater. I understand that his draft stock seems like Jordan Belfort should be selling it to unassuming blue collar workers in the beginning of Wolf of Wall Street. But I still don't understand how someone can go from a top-5 lock to possibly out of the first round altogether after doing literally nothing. His pro day wasn't good--big whoop. The games he played still tell me he's the most complete quarterback in a draft full of uncertain quarterbacks. So pick on his skinny knees and lack of "it factor" all you want--I'm A-OK with the Vikings taking Bridgewater at 8. (Or even later if they can pull it off.)
- Blake Bortles. He seems to be the most popular pick when it comes to pundits putting a QB in Minnesota. I'm still not sold on the guy, especially this early in the first round. Bortles definitely has all the tools--I defy you to read a Bortles scouting report that doesn't include the word "prototype"--but I think he needs more seasoning before he's ready to start in the NFL. Norv is a veritable quarterback whisperer so perhaps he could mold Bortles into a bona fide stud with a year or two of coaching. Problem is, I don't see the Vikings getting that kind of time with any quarterback drafted in the first round. You just know that half of Vikings Nation would be calling for the new guy the first time Matt Cassel throws an incompletion. If someone like Bortles is thrust into the starting role too early, we could have a Christian Ponder situation all over again.
- Derek Carr. Fairly interchangeable with Bortles in both ranking and why I hope the Vikings don't choose him early. He has a lot of promise and put up video game stats at Fresno State but needs to learn how to handle pressure and set his feet better. Again, I'd feel a lot better about Carr if the Vikings took him late first/early second and I knew he'd be given a season or two to learn the ropes.
- Anyone else. The Vikings better not go after anyone else on Day 1. We'll get into more detail tomorrow with the other quarterbacks depending on how Thursday plays out.
Likelihood of drafting a quarterback in the first round: 4/10
This is one of the most intriguing possibilities for the Vikings on Thursday. Signing Captain Munnerlyn in free agency will help the secondary but it's still a position of need for Minnesota. There are a handful of excellent corners to choose from in the first round and they should all be available at #8. I just don't know if the Vikings would be comfortable with taking someone from this class of corners that early. Ideally I would be very pleased with the Vikings selecting Justin Gilbert, Darqueze Dennard, or Kyle Fuller (that's my personal order of preference) anywhere in the middle of the first round. I'd even be OK with Bradley Roby or even Jason Verrett late in the round. If Spielman can do his usual draft day wheeling and dealing, I think taking a corner is a very real possibility for the Vikings.
Likelihood of drafting a cornerback in the first round: 6/10
Likelihood of drafting a cornerback with the #8 pick: 2/10
There is a whole lot of first round talent at tackle and even on the interior line in this draft. However, I think the only way an O-lineman is getting taken with the #8 pick is if the Vikings traded out of it.
Likelihood of drafting an offensive lineman in the first round: 1/10
We aren't getting Clowney. Aaron Donald certainly seems to be the name du jour for the Vikings at 8, but I don't agree with it. Minnesota could certainly use a little depth along the D-line, but they seem pretty set there especially when compared to other positions on the field. The Vikings should look elsewhere in the first round regardless of how promising Donald looked at the Senior Bowl and Combine.
Although taking former Gopher Ra'Shede Hageman late in the first might be kind of cool...naaahhh.
Likelihood of drafting a defensive lineman in the first round: 3/10
This draft is absolutely stacked with wide receivers. Sammy Watkins will likely be gone by the time the Vikings are on the clock. After Watkins Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr, Brandin Cooks, and Marqise Lee all carry a consensus first round grade. Any of those players would be a fine addition to an NFL roster but the Vikings are already in pretty good shape at wideout. I could maybe see the Vikings grabbing Evans if they really liked him but with so much depth at the position and value you can get in later rounds I don't see it happening.
Likelihood of drafting a wide receiver in the first round: 3/10
The Vikings could definitely use a couple more bodies at linebacker via the draft. Chad Greenway fell off a cliff last year, Erin Henderson is mercifully off the team, and everyone else is either a retread (like Jasper Brinkley) or largely unproven (like Audie Cole and Michael Mauti). There just aren't a ton of options at linebacker in the first round. Mack would be a dream pick for the Vikings but he'll be long gone unless the Vikings trade up. Anthony Barr, Ryan Shazier, and C.J. Mosley shouldn't be top 10 picks but they could definitely be in the mix if Minnesota decides to trade down to later in the first round. None of those three really give me the wow factor that other positions do but it would be hard to argue against choosing someone that should be able to compete for a starting job right away.
Likelihood of drafting a linebacker in the first round: 4/10
In the first round? With Adrian Peterson on the team? Yeah right.
Likelihood of drafting a running back in the first round: 0/10
Likelihood of drafting a tight end in the first round: 0/10
If the Vikings front office really, really, really likes someone perhaps they could go this route. The Rams certainly seem to be open to trading their #2 pick--which along with the Buccaneers' pick at 7 are the real turning points that will define how the first round pans out in my opinion--but I just don't see the Vikings giving up a bounty to move up a handful of slots.
Likelihood of trading up: 1/10
This has been Rick Spielman's M.O. during his tenure with the Vikings: move down the board a bit with the team's first pick, acquire an extra pick or two, and then jump back in later on in the first round. I think this is the most likely scenario for the Vikings tonight. That said, I have no frickin' clue how trading down will actually work out. Does Minnesota trade to the middle of the first round to get one of the top cornerbacks? Does Spielman sneak back in to the last handful of picks and get an impact player like Cordarrelle Patterson or Harrison Smith for the third straight year? Does he sucker a team into giving him a Herschel Walker-esque trade that helps the Vikings build a dynasty? (Please God yes!) Your guess is as good as mine there.
Likelihood of trading down in the first round: 7/10
Likelihood of trading down, then trading back up late in the first round: 5/10
So there you have it--a not-so-brief rundown of all the possibilities available for the first round of the draft tonight. We crammed three months of draft preparation into a couple thousand words.
This is the most unpredictable draft in recent memory so don't be surprised if I'm way off and the Vikings surprise everyone with what they do on Thursday. No matter who Spielman & Co. choose on Thursday there will be plenty of people that love it and plenty that don't. Then again, that's the real fun of the draft--debating over the merits of your newest players until Training Camp starts up in a few months.
I just hope we can all agree that having tangible news back in our NFL lives is pretty mothermocking awesome. Merry Draftmas!
Be sure to check back early and often to Daily Norseman throughout the draft as Eric covers all three days of the 2014 NFL Draft live from Vikings headquarters at Winter Park.