Now that free agency is pretty well over and done with and we’re just three weeks away from the 2017 NFL Draft, I want to take a look at the depth chart for the Minnesota Vikings and see what they need and where. We’ll start with the most important position on the field and what the Vikings are currently looking at in regards to the quarterback position.
The Starter - Sam Bradford
With as much as I like the optimism about Teddy Bridgewater’s prognosis from Vikings nation, I think we’re pretty well set with Sam Bradford starting at quarterback in 2017. Frankly, I’m surprised that people still have a problem with Bradford, other than those who are just butthurt over the fact that the team doesn’t have a first round pick as a result of Bradford’s acquisition. None of those folks have offered any solution or answer to what the Vikings would be doing at quarterback right now sans Bradford trade, and of all the potential options that are out there right now, there isn’t one of them that’s a better alternative to Bradford to this point.
Bradford did what he could last year behind Minnesota’s offensive line, which could best be described as a tire fire inside of a dumpster that was also on fire. He had to throw a lot of short passes because that’s what his “blocking” allowed for, and set an NFL single-season completion record as a result. He also threw for nearly 4,000 yards in 15 games and had a 20:5 TD-to-INT ratio for the season. He put his receivers in position to be successful more often than not. Most surprisingly, of all the injuries that the Vikings suffered in 2016, Bradford was not among them. He got dinged up a little bit toward the end of the year, but did not miss any starts.
The situation for Bradford is an interesting one going forward. He’s in the final year of his contact (unless the Vikings put together some sort of extension for him) and he knows that the Vikings are in wait-and-see mode with Bridgewater’s injury. He’s playing for his next deal, whether it’s in Minnesota or somewhere else. He had what might have been the best season of his career in 2016 despite all the adversity, and if he can avoid the injury bug. . .something the Vikings’ (hopefully) upgraded offensive line should be able to help him with. . .he could be even better in 2017.
The Placeholder - Case Keenum
Keenum started 2016 as the starter for the Los Angeles Rams, although everyone knew he was just keeping the seat warm until the Rams threw Jared Goff into the lineup. He didn’t exactly light the world on fire in his nine starts, but the Rams were pretty awful regardless of who was the quarterback.
For his career, Keenum has completed a little more than 58% of his passes, and has thrown more touchdowns (24) than interceptions (20). He seems to be the model of a backup quarterback. . .someone that you don’t want trying to carry your offense long-term, but a guy that could step in for a game or two and still give you a chance to win.
However, in the back of his mind, I’m assuming that Keenum knows that he’s just a placeholder again. His employment with the Vikings is contingent on Bridgewater’s health, because as soon as Teddy is able to go again, Keenum is likely out of a job (barring an injury to Bradford). But, for now, he’s entrenched as the Vikings’ backup quarterback.
The Unknown - Taylor Heinicke
We all know the story about what happened to Heinicke going into Training Camp last year. He was expected to at least challenge Shaun Hill for the right to be Teddy Bridgewater’s backup, but showed up with his leg in a cast and was inactive for the first half of the season. It was really a missed opportunity for Heinicke, as he still hasn’t taken a snap since the 2015 preseason finale.
At this point, we still have no idea what this team has in Heinicke. He came from a small school and doesn’t appear to have a huge amount of arm strength or anything. Still, the Vikings obviously see something in him that they like. At this point, I don’t know if this team is planning on bringing in anyone to challenge Heinicke for his right to hold a clipboard on the Vikings’ sidelines and possibly develop for the long-term, but there’s always that chance.
Heinicke just needs to make sure he has the phone number for a local locksmith programmed into his phone going forward. We don’t need a repeat of 2016 here.
The Question Mark - Teddy Bridgewater
Yes, we’ve been over this a lot. We all think that Teddy Bridgewater is going to be back eventually. Some think he’s going to be back sooner rather than later. At this point, nobody knows for sure. . .probably not even Teddy Bridgewater himself. We’ve seen him doing agility drills and throwing footballs and a few other things, but he still has a long way to go, from all accounts.
(Personal point: Apparently there are people that think that I’m happy that Teddy Bridgewater is hurt. I’ll be as polite as I need to be about this. Those people are absolute morons, and should probably go back and read some of the other stories on the site. . .or, as is more likely the case, have someone read those stories to them.)
Vikings’ announcer Paul Allen. . .and say what you will about PA, but dude has more inside information on this team than anybody I know. . .seems to be of the impression that the plan is to start Bridgewater on the Physically Unable to Perform list and then, by some point in the middle of the season, activate him (presumably giving Keenum a visit from the Turk). On one hand, I want to see #5 taking snaps and running this offense again as soon as possible. On the other hand, I want him to be absolutely 100% ready to go before the Vikings throw him out there again.
The team has to decide whether or not to pick up Bridgewater’s 5th year option. . .which will likely be somewhere in the $12 million range. . .shortly after the 2017 NFL Draft. The sentiment seems to be that the Vikings will pick up that option, but whether they do or not still probably hinges on how they feel about his progress. We’ll know more about how they feel at that date.
That’s a look at the quarterback depth chart for the Vikings as things stand right now. We’ll keep going around to the other positions as we get closer to draft time.