Hi gang. Sorry I have been remiss in my writing duties the last few, uh, weeks. Been a crazy time here in my neck of the woods, and this last week was spent getting addicted to my newest toy, an iPhone. It's like technology crack, is it not? I even contemplated writing this story and posting it completely from my phone, but I refrained. Fat fingers and auto correct is a lethal combination at this point in time.
Anyway, Chris has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting on current players and the franchise tag, and I thought it might be a good idea to look at some of the players the Vikings might select during the draft. The consensus among most of us fans is that the Vikings should/need to select either a quarterback, an offensive tackle, or a safety.
What I'm going to do over the next few days is a "Meet the Player" kind of deal, and I'll break it down by position. We'll look at the top two or three players at each position, and at the end, if there's any other position you want me to look at, email me. Today, we look at quarterback, arguably the most important position of need for the Vikings entering 2011. One caveat: I'm not looking at every player, as I will try, using a few mock drafts, to develop a consensus on players that will be available. For example, before Andrew Luck said he was coming back to Stanford, it was assumed that he would have been long gone by pick #12. If there's a guy that most everyone assumes will be gone, I won't profile him. Cool? Good.
First off, kudos to NM Vike and our fearless leader Chris for some stellar QB info in previous stories here and here. Honestly, I'm leery about picking a QB this high. If you pick the wrong guy, your franchise is in turmoil for half a decade, unless you luck out and get a good free agent to replace him. Right now, there really isn't a consensus on who will be available and who won't, so I'm going to profile who are generally considered to be the top quarterbacks.
Cam Newton, Auburn. Between you and me, I think Newton is the best athlete in the draft, but has some of the most troubling questions of anyone available. Now, so I don't get sued, let me make the following disclaimer: Everything from here on out is my personal opinion. There's something very Eddie Haskell'ish about this guy. He comes off as this "aw shucks, I'm just an instrument of the Lord" guy, but I bet there's something just below the surface that seems as crooked as the Mississippi. I'm sorry, but if you're as close to your Dad as Newton says he is with his father, and doesn't know Daddy (who's a preacher) is shopping your college services to the highest bidder, six figures minimum, then you're an idiot or a liar. Allegedly. Call me a hater, that's fine, but for all the talent that Newton has, I think he's a guy that will be a walking distraction that will make Randy Moss look like a choirboy. In the culture of accountability that Zygi Wilf and Leslie Frazier have been fostering, is this a guy that passes that test? I don't think so.
Okay, that said, I hope I'm wrong. Because this guy can flat out play. I want to cheer for him, and I want him to be good, especially if he gets picked by the Vikings. He deals with adversity well, whether he brings it on himself or not, is an accurate passer, and can run like a gazelle. There's always a question about guys that are more natural athletes making the transition to the NFL, but I think Newton will make that transition well, because he is already a pretty good passer. He needs work, like all guys do, but I think he's got better mechanics than Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert, who have been raved about, at least off and on.
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas. I did a write up on Mallet here, and so far, he really hasn't done anything to change my opinion of him. The positives for this kid are impressive. He has a tremendous arm and accuracy, and he makes some throws that leave you shaking your head in amazement. But I don't like how he handles adversity, and he seems to get flustered at the drop of a hat. I think he'll be a very streaky quarterback in the NFL. When things are going his way, he's money. But when you pressure him, or his receivers drop a couple of passes, he gets flustered and his body language makes me think of Jeff George of Jay Cutler. And if you can put consistent pressure on him, he will make a back breaking mistake that leaves you wanting to commit football seppuku.
Blaine Gabbert, Missouri. The big knock on Gabbert is that he played in a spread offense in Missouri, but when a guy has the prototypical skillset to be an NFL QB, I think that's an over rated critique. Gabbert is tall, has a strong arm, and can make all the throws required of an NFL QB. So he has all the tools to be a big time QB.
However...(C'mon, there's gotta be a however, or he wouldn't be available at #12, right?)
However, sometimes his decision making leaves a lot to be desired. While his body language and on-field demeanor doesn't approach Mallett's, his back breaking mistakes do. See the most recent Insight Bowl for a prime example of that. Gabbert has feasted on inferior competition, but has struggled at times against very good defenses. Coincidentally, SB Nation's post Senior Bowl Mock Draft has Gabbert going to the Vikings.
Jake Locker, Washington. I'm going to be up front when I tell you I've never been a big Jake Locker fan. I don't think he has a tremendous arm, he's not as accurate as a guy with as much hype as he has should be, isn't as mobile as he's made out to be, and has a mediocre college record. Someone, please tell me why this guy was such a hot prospect coming into 2010, or is rated as a first round pick, much less first overall. Anyone? Bueller? The big red flag for me is accuracy. His mechanics are supposed to be pretty good, but his accuracy, quite frankly, stinks. I'm sorry, but if you have good mechanics your accuracy shouldn't be as bad as Locker's is, so please, quit telling me he is fundamentally sound. He's not. If you're not an accurate passer at D-I ball, you're not going to be an accurate passer in the NFL.
So if you force me to rank these guys, I'm going Newton, Gabbert, Mallett, Locker in that order. But there are a lot of ‘yeah buts' for all of these guys.
Quarterback is one the most over-analyzed positions in the draft, but because of the importance a QB plays, it has to be. If all four of these guys are available come draft time, I could live with any pick save for Locker, and because he'll be a Viking, I'll get behind Locker and support him 100%.
A lot of mock drafts are showing that most, if not all of these guys will be available. I'm not sure I buy that, and once the NFL Combine comes and goes, I think a couple of these guys will separate themselves from the pack and won't be around. But as it stands right now, any or all will be there at #12.
Finally, at this time of year, the negatives really overshadow the positives, as teams look for reasons not to take someone. And as important as it is for the Vikings to find an answer at QB, if they look to the draft for an answer, they can't afford to be wrong.
You would think there would be an App for that.