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Will the Vikings Draft a Future Starting QB?

Things aren’t lining up very well for it to happen

Butler v North Dakota State Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

The Vikings scouting department and coaching staff have spent a lot of time scouting quarterbacks in advance of the draft, thinking that there could be some good choices for them at #14, and maybe later on as well. They didn’t extend Sean Mannion as the backup, and appear to want to go in a different direction with the backup quarterback position.

Most likely, the decision to pursue a backup quarterback in the draft was made a couple months ago, maybe earlier, but since that time there have been developments - most notably the 49ers moving up to #3 - that suggest the draft will unfold in such a way that will make it difficult for the Vikings to draft a potential future starting quarterback.

Here’s what I mean.

Robust Quarterback Market

Quarterback is the most important position in professional sports, so it’s no surprise that every year there are several teams in need of a top quarterback. Demand always exceeds supply, and even worse, nobody knows which quarterbacks are going to be the best. That leads to the rather sobering statistics when it comes to first-round quarterback bust rates:

The chart above provides the most recent bust rates for quarterbacks taken in the first round, broken down by draft position. At the Vikings pick #14, the bust rate is 50%. Overall, there have been more first-round busts at quarterback than not.

And, it gets worse in later rounds....

This year, after the 49ers traded up to #3 overall- coughing up 3 first-round picks and a 3rd rounder to do so- quarterbacks are very likely to be the first three draft picks chosen. Trevor Lawrence is a lock to go #1 overall, and Zach Wilson is pretty much a lock to go at #2 as well. Who the 49ers take at #3 is more of a question between Mac Jones and Justin Fields, but after refusing to believe the 49ers would trade three first-round picks (and a 3rd) for Mac Jones, I now think he’ll be their pick at #3. Either way, there are a few other teams in the top ten that could entertain taking a quarterback with their pick, including the Panthers and the Broncos. New Broncos GM George Paton has said that he will bring in competition at the quarterback position, which strongly suggests the Broncos will take a quarterback with their pick. Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, and Carolina could also be considering a quarterback with their pick. At least a few teams picking ahead of the Vikings may also be considering a trade back with a team looking to draft a quarterback as well.

All that suggests that at least four of the consensus top five QBs (Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Mac Jones, Trey Lance) in the draft will be taken well ahead of the Vikings at #14.

The one quarterback that most often falls out of at least the top ten is Trey Lance, largely because the consensus view is that while he’s got a high ceiling, he isn’t ready to start anytime soon. With only one season as a starter in FCS, and just over 300 attempts total in North Dakota, that makes sense. That also doesn’t make him worthy of a first round grade, as first round prospects are expected to be quality starters as rookies. There are some that say Justin Fields would be better off as an understudy for a year too.

I’m no expert on evaluating quarterbacks, and many who are have been high on future busts going into the draft. But one guy, Chris Simms, has developed a solid reputation for evaluating quarterbacks because he’s largely gotten it right in recent years. His QB rankings are as follows:

Trey Lance is #6 on his list. It’s not really because he played in the FCS, it’s more that he thinks Lance needs work on several aspects of his game before he can be effective as an NFL starting quarterback. He goes through his evaluations of all the top QBs in this year’s draft in the video below.

It’s also notable that Simms has Kellen Mond 4th on his list, above both Fields and Lance. Mond is grouped with the 2nd tier QBs in the consensus view, along with Davis Mills and Kyle Trask, the latter of whom he doesn’t think so highly of.

Enter the Vikings

The above situation puts the Vikings, picking at #14, in an awkward situation when it comes to drafting Lance, and a tenuous situation when it comes to drafting Mond. Trey Lance, if he’s not over-drafted in the top ten, could easily be over-drafted before the Vikings at #14, if a team like the Patriots or Bears or Raiders or WFT decide to trade up with the Cowboys or Giants to secure his services. The Vikings could trade up with the Cowboys for their #78 pick, but that leaves them with whatever is left at #90 to bolster their offensive line, or having to use one or more 4th round picks to move up, which leaves them with a whole lot of not so much to improve their roster this year.

That’s far from ideal. And if you consider that Cousins will likely be the Vikings starter for the next two years, given contract commitments, Lance would likely be a 2023 starter at the earliest, and if he’s like the vast majority of rookie QBs, would take a couple years before he becomes a top quarterback, if he does at all. In the meantime, the Vikings will have done nothing in the draft to give Cousins and their current roster a better chance to win now, preferring to wait until, realistically, 2025 to have a top quarterback to contend for a Super Bowl. And by that time Adam Thielen, Harrison Smith, and and likely at least a few others will be either done or well past their prime.

Even picking Lance, if he’s available at 14, doesn’t give the Vikings much to improve their roster this year- an offensive lineman and depth most likely.

A trade back with WFT could give the Vikings a 2nd round pick if they threw in #90 too, most likely, but that could open up more opportunities for other teams to draft Lance, if they felt he was worth it as a mid-first round pick. If not, and there is a view that Chris Simms and perhaps some GMs share that Lance isn’t a first round quarterback, and may not go in the first round. That’s not the consensus by any means, but it’s a defensible position. If that was the case, and like Jordan Love last year, Lance slides further down in the first round, the Vikings could possible trade down and still have the opportunity to draft Lance, while still having a little more draft capital to work with on Day Two.

Alternatively, the Vikings could go another direction after a trade down- perhaps a defensive end or offensive line- and use the added draft capital on Day Two to secure the services of Kellen Mond, if he’s available later in the 2nd round, or possibly Davis Mills if Mond is drafted ahead of the Vikings in the 2nd round. That’s a tenuous strategy if the Vikings are really intent on securing a potential successor to Kirk Cousins, for a couple reasons. One, it’s possible they get drafted ahead of the Vikings in the second round, with any number of QB-needy teams that may have passed on a QB in the first round as not a good value, may be willing to move up or take a chance on a Lance or Mills or Mond in the first half of the second round, risking less in the process. Secondly, if the Vikings end up drafting Mills or Mond or someone further down the list, is this really an upgrade at any point down the line to Cousins, or is it simply a salary cap saving measure. I’d say the latter, which really doesn’t move the needle much from a competitive standpoint. Perhaps they’d be a better backup than Sean Mannion, if called upon, for around the same price on a rookie contract, but is that what the Vikings really set out to do this off-season in scouting all the quarterbacks in this draft class?

I suspect the Vikings initial thoughts, like some others, were that one or more of the top five quarterbacks may go in the second round. There is a viewpoint from anonymous team coaches and executives interviewed by Tom Pelissero below, that provides some insight into how teams view the pros and cons of each QB a bit more, although I’m sure there’s plenty of disagreement too. But the thrust of their comments is a bit of anti-hype that makes you wonder how many teams have first round grades on five quarterbacks.

That could still be the case, but the feeling that teams will over-draft one or more of the top quarterbacks seems a lot more likely than a month or two ago. If that is the case, and a Trey Lance falls into the second-round, perhaps the Vikings will make a run for him, perhaps leveraging next year’s first-round pick in a move up to get him.

It was interesting, however, that the Vikings, after attending Trey Lance’s first pro day, chose not to attend his second one.

Bottom Line

All of the above leads me to believe that the Vikings will not trade up for a quarterback, or draft a quarterback at 14, even if Lance is available. If they trade back and he’s still available, then maybe. Otherwise, if they trade back and gain sufficient Day Two draft capital, they may spend that additional capital on a quarterback. Probably not a sure thing for QBOTF, but perhaps someone they can develop and give them more of an option, and maybe some leverage, if Kirk Cousins decides to push for top dollar in contract negotiations. Having a viable alternative could possibly help the Vikings to a better deal in a Cousins extension, and if that drafted quarterback looks like he could indeed be a QBOTF, could put the Vikings in a better position to trade Cousins down the road too.

Bit of an Update:

I think the smart money is on the 49ers taking Trey Lance at this point, they arranged his 2nd pro day, which may have been a tip on where they’re headed. Reports that Broncos GM George Paton did not attend Mac Jones’ pro days suggest he’s more interested in Justin Fields, as are the Panthers if they go for a QB. Lions and even the Falcons could be in the mix for Fields as well. That means Jones could be the one to fall the most, potentially.

Poll

When will the Vikings draft a quarterback?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    They’ll trade up to get one
    (30 votes)
  • 2%
    They’ll draft one at 14
    (40 votes)
  • 5%
    They’ll trade back and draft one later in the first round
    (82 votes)
  • 8%
    2nd round
    (129 votes)
  • 32%
    3rd round
    (486 votes)
  • 28%
    Day 3
    (434 votes)
  • 20%
    They’re not gonna draft a QB this year
    (308 votes)
1509 votes total Vote Now