Before the Vikings won the Kirk Cousins derby earlier this year, they won the lesser known 3rd String QB derby for Kyle Sloter’s services at the end of pre-season last year.
It was somewhat intriguing after John Elway and the Broncos cut Sloter, as there were a number of teams bidding for Sloter’s services - the Vikings being one of them. The Vikings had Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum and Taylor Heinike under contract to end training camp, but cut Heinike loose and entered the bidding for Sloter. Ultimately the Vikings and Rick Spielman prevailed, outbidding the other teams by paying Sloter nearly active roster pay for a practice squad quarterback. Shortly thereafter, the Vikings put Sloter on the roster to avoid his being poached off the practice squad - despite having three veteran quarterbacks under contract and either healthy or thought soon to be.
It was unusual to see so much NFL interest in a rookie quarterback with only one season playing quarterback at Northern Colorado who went undrafted just a few months earlier. But despite his relative lack of experience, the interest in Sloter was not unfounded. Here’s why.
SLOTER’S COLLEGE CAREER
Nicholas Martin from Behind The Steel Curtain did a great interview with Sloter prior to the 2017 draft, where he was picked up by the Broncos as an undrafted free agent 15 months ago. Here is another draft diamonds piece on him from Bleacher report - outlining his bad luck during his college career.
Kyle Sloter was recruited as a QB at Southern Miss, where he redshirted his first year and was told he would start the next year by his coach just before he was fired. He was later buried on the depth chart by the new coach, which led to his transfer the following year to Northern Colorado.
Sloter got off to a bad start there as not of his credits transferred there from Southern Miss, requiring him to do extra work and miss two out of every three practices in the spring, and then later requiring an internship that caused him to miss two months of practice time. That allowed another QB to start, but in his second game he broke his collar-bone and Sloter got his first starting opportunity.
He threw for 408 yards and 6 TDs coming in to replace the injured starter - and won the game 55-52.
He finished the season (2016) going 198/319 for 2,656 yards (8.3 avg), 29 TDs and 10 INTs. So, basically 1 out of 7 of his completions was for a TD. Huh.
But that was his only season starting in college. And 319 attempts isn’t much. At his pro-day there were 45 mph winds so they moved it inside, and he worked out on a basketball court with borrowed sneakers. Not surprisingly, his workout didn’t go well.
Anyway, it was enough for the Broncos to take a flyer on him as a UDFA, in part based on draft profiles like this from nfl.com:
Needs more weight on his frame, but has size needed to see over his offensive line. Has been working with former NFL offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild to improve his delivery and mechanics. Has experience under center and in a play-action offense from pistol set. Appears to be comfortable throwing on the move and has the arm talent to make throws from a variety of arm slots. Throws with plus drive velocity when it’s time to rip it into a window. Quick-footed athlete who is able to elude pocket pressure and hurt teams with his legs.
At 6’4”, 215 lbs. (now 221 lbs), he has near prototype size for an NFL quarterback, and while his pro-day led to some disappointing stats (lower due to worse conditions than Combine), his Wonderlic score was 38 - higher than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and every quarterback in the 2018 draft.
And during the 2017 pre-season with Denver, Sloter finished with a 125.4 passer rating - highest among rookie quarterbacks. Here is the video:
Add to that the highlights from the Vikings - Denver game:
Reading through the Behind the Steel Curtain interview with Sloter, it’s clear he has dealt with some adversity in his college career, battled through it, and didn’t waste the opportunity when it finally presented itself. It’s also clear that he has advanced knowledge of reading defenses for a young quarterback and is very smart. He’s also athletic with a great arm - as his deep out to Caleb Jones showed.
Last year with Denver, he was shocked when he was released after the performance he had in pre-season - and with Siemian, Lynch and Kelly as competition, I’m surprised too.
He looked better than all three Saturday night.
ON THE RISE ?
I suspect that Sloter is not content to remain a 3rd string quarterback, and is gunning for Siemian’s job as backup this pre-season.
It’s too early to say whether or not Sloter will win that challenge - I’m guessing the coaching staff will favor Siemian’s experience - but Sloter’s performance against Denver may have stepped up that competition.
Don’t be surprised if that continues throughout pre-season.
Who would you rather have as backup to Kirk Cousins?
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