The Minnesota Vikings are pretty much guaranteed a top three selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, and while the debate rages on as to what they should do with that pick, a couple of things happened yesterday that will make that Vikings' selection more valuable, regardless of where in the top three it falls.
First off, the Indianapolis Colts got their second win of the season last night with a thrilling. . .yes, thrilling. . .19-16 win over the Houston Texans in their last home game of the year. That raises the Colts' record to 2-13, and if the Vikings and Rams lose this weekend to the Redskins and Steelers, respectively, then all three of those teams will have the same 2-13 record going into the last week of the season.
Now, a Colts' loss to the Jaguars next week will lock up the top overall pick for them, as their strength of schedule is significantly lower than that of the Vikings or Rams. However, even if the Vikings don't end up with the top pick, they could have a pretty significant bargaining chip. Why is that?
In the 2012 NFL Draft, it has been widely thought that there would be a "big three" at the quarterback position, with those three players being Stanford's Andrew Luck (the consensus top overall pick), Baylor's Robert Griffin III (the Heisman Trophy winner), and USC's Matt Barkley. Well, yesterday Barkley declared that he was returning to USC for his senior season, so that "big three" has suddenly become a "big two."
Now, with the top three picks being some permutation of the Rams, Colts, and Vikings, when you look at those three teams, there's no way the Rams are taking a quarterback, regardless of where they end up. Because they drafted Sam Bradford before the advent of the rookie wage scale, they have a metric assload of money tied up in that guy, and it simply isn't effective for them to take a quarterback with a high pick, even if the salaries are a little more controlled. So whether they're picking first, second, or third, they're not drafting another quarterback.
If the Colts end up with the top overall pick, they've made it pretty clear that they're going to draft Andrew Luck as Peyton Manning's replacement. However, if the Vikings get the top overall pick, the chance certainly exists that they could take Luck for themselves, but before anyone immediately jumps to that conclusion. . .well, here's something to chew on from Adam Schefter:
"If the Rams have the pick, it becomes literally an auction for that No. 1 pick, because the Dolphins, Redskins, Seahawks and other teams all will have an interest in trading up to that spot," ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter said on ESPN Radio on Wednesday morning.
"If somehow the Colts win a game and the Rams don't, then that pick, for the Rams franchise, would be worth, roughly worth, three (first-round picks) and two (second-rounders), maybe four first-round picks. And so there's a huge amount at stake if somehow the Colts -- who will continue to try to win games -- win another game, the Rams lose their two games and somehow come up with that pick."
Color me cynical, but I think that would probably apply to the Vikings as well.
People like to throw around the words "(he who shall never be named) trade" in reference to a team getting a huge haul of draft picks and/or players from a particular team. Well, in today's NFL, getting three firsts and two seconds or even four firsts for one draft pick is about as close to a "(he who shall never be named) trade" as you're going to get. I don't care who you're drafting or what's at stake. . .if you're a rebuilding team like the Vikings, and you have an opportunity to get as many as five or six high-round choices for the top overall pick in the draft, you need to think really long and really hard about taking that deal.
But even if the Vikings don't end up with the top overall pick, the second or third pick could be worth something substantial as well, particularly if the Colts follow what they've pretty much said they're going to do and take Luck with the top pick. As things stand now, that would make the RG3 market open up pretty significantly. As Schefter mentioned, you could potentially have a lot of teams lining up to get their hands on the chance to take one of the two big quarterback names in this year's draft.
Schefter specifically mentions the Redskins, the Dolphins, and the Seahawks in his quote up above there. Right now, according to the latest projection from the Great Blue North Draft Report, going into this week's games, the Redskins held the seventh overall pick, the Dolphins were sitting at ninth overall, and the Seahawks were perched in the fifteenth spot. The wild card in this is the Jacksonville Jaguars, who would draft fourth if the season ended today and could, potentially, be looking at another quarterback despite taking Blaine Gabbert in the first round in 2011.
And before anyone asks why it would be okay for the Jaguars to take a quarterback in the first round two years in a row when I've been so vehemently against the Vikings doing the same thing, the difference is that Blaine Gabbert has been absolutely awful this season, while Christian Ponder has most decidedly not been.
But anyway, one of those three teams (or any other team) would probably have to get ahead of Jacksonville if they wanted to draft RG3. So, you pit all the combatants against each other, Thunderdome-style, and take the best offer from whoever wants to cough up the most to move up. Sure, you're obviously not going to get as much as you might be able to get for the top overall pick, but you should still be able to get a pretty decent haul.
I guess if the Vikings were going to pick a year to just be completely awful, they've picked kind of a good one. If they play their cards right, they could really throw their rebuilding process into overdrive. Now they just have to not screw it up.