Analyzing Minnesota Vikings' Best Options for No. 8 Pick in the NFL Draft
For a team with as many holes to fill as the Vikings, having options is a good thing. Minnesota is in dire need of help at several positions, including quarterback, defensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback.
A lot of Vikings fans were frustrated by the second half of the 2013 season. A 1-7 start doomed the team to missing the playoffs, but a 4-3-1 second half only worked to keep the team out of the Top 5 in the draft.
No matter, what's done is done, and the Vikings sit in the eight spot next May.
The good news for the Vikings is that it's certainly not a top-heavy draft; the bad news might be that up to four quarterbacks might be off the board by the time the No. 8 pick rolls around.
It's still only January, and with both the free-agency season looming and the draft combine and pro days still to come, a lot will change on where prospective draftees might fall in the next four months.
That doesn't mean we can't dive in and take a look at the Vikings' best options for the No. 8 pick.
Stay Put at No. 8 and Draft QB Derek Carr
Here's a slide that will fill up the comments section pretty quickly.
The biggest knock on Fresno State's Derek Carr seems to be that his big brother, David, never became a successful NFL starter after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft. Fair enough, but the list of successful NFL quarterbacks who've had older brothers do the same before them is remarkably short.
The better knock on Carr is that he piled up big numbers in the Mountain West Conference playing at Fresno State, a pass-happy offense that doesn't translate to football at the highest level.
While seemingly not as polished a product as the three quarterbacks expected to be taken before him (Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles), Carr has the biggest arm of the bunch and has enough tape to prove that he can make all the throws required of an NFL signal-caller.
The biggest reason this pick will happen: New Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner is a quarterback guru, and a prospect like Carr is too tantalizing not to take a chance on.
The biggest reason this pick won't happen: Vikings general manager Rick Spielman is gun-shy to the idea of taking a quarterback in the first round who might be considered a reach.
New head coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive specialist and Spielman might like the idea of plugging a defensive hole in the first round and taking a quarterback later. The truth is a second- or third-round quarterback not working out wouldn't look quite as disastrous for Spielman as another first-round bust.
Trade Up and Take a Top-Ranked Quarterback
Is there a franchise quarterback in the 2014 draft?
We won't be able to answer that question for a couple of years, but there's certainly nobody who is a slam-dunk pick the way Andrew Luck was two years ago.
The Vikings will spend the next few months doing their due diligence in evaluating Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles. It's widely assumed the trio will be off the board by the time the Vikings pick at No. 8.
All three are intriguing prospects. As of now, Bridgewater is regarded as the best passer of the three, Manziel might have the highest ceiling, and Bortles is the biggest and strongest of the group.
The biggest reason this scenario will happen: The Vikings become convinced in the evaluation process that somebody is worth trading major assets for.
If Rick Spielman and the new coaches are convinced one of the three can become a franchise quarterback that can lead a quick turnaround, then they would pull the trigger on trading their No. 8 pick and a future first-rounder to move up to get that guy. It would be a huge risk, but the huge reward could make it worth it.
The biggest reason this scenario won't happen: There is a big chance that none of the three can become tantalizing enough in the next four months that Minnesota would feel comfortable trading away a No. 1 pick for. If you make that trade for a guy who doesn't become a star immediately, you'll be looking for work real fast.
Trade Down and Pick Up an Extra Pick
If the Vikings don't trade up in the draft to select a quarterback, what would be the best way to assuage concerns that they're pinning their hopes on an educated guess at quarterback?
Well, picking up another second-round pick just might do the trick.
The NFL draft is always a fluid proposition. Teams pick and poke and prod at players and almost always end up on the side of over-analyzing prospects. Vontaze Burfict anyone?
The point being that throughout the draft, teams are always looking to move either up or down depending on how the board breaks.
If teams have a player in their sights and are convinced the only way they can get that player is to move a few spots up, they can be persuaded to pull the trigger pretty easily.
The biggest reason this scenario will happen: If the Vikings decide to draft for defense in the first round and wait until the second round or later to draft a quarterback.
The truth is there are a lot of really good defensive prospects with first-round grades in this draft. Another truth is that if you think you or anybody else can properly rank them 1-10, you're crazy. Adding another second-round pick to drop a few spots in the first round could be pretty enticing.
The biggest reason this scenario won't happen: There's not a huge market for the eighth overall pick. Take a look at any five mock drafts, and you'll probably see five different scenarios for what happens between picks No. 6 and 15. There's a reason for that.
Most teams will be loathe to give up an extra pick unless they're convinced they're trading up for a superstar. It's hard to know you're getting one in this draft.
Stay Put at No. 8 and Draft LB Khalil Mack
As bad as the Minnesota Vikings offense was in 2013, the defense was worse.
Yes, you can make the argument that the woeful defensive statistics were part of a mushroom effect that stems from poor quarterback play, but you can't deny that the defense needs help.
Where to start? The Vikings need a large run-stopper in the middle of their line. They need a speedy linebacker who can get to the quarterback. They need more defensive backs who can cover people.
The simple answer would be to take the best available player on the board when it's their turn to pick.
The Vikings probably aren't going to re-sign Jared Allen, so they are going to need to find some people who can get to the quarterback. The best rusher in this draft, at any position, is University of Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack.
At 6'3", 250 pounds, Mack is an ideal combination of size and speed.
He's an explosive pass-rusher, but he's also very disruptive against the run. Mack is a fantastic athlete who uses his speed and power to disrupt anything happening in the offensive backfield. He's a quarterback's nightmare, but he's also aware enough to disrupt the best-designed running plays.
The biggest reason this pick will happen: Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer convince Norv Turner that they can find a quarterback in the second round.
The biggest reason this pick won't happen: Either Mack is already off the board, or the desire for a top-flight quarterback is too tempting.
Stay Put at No. 8 and Draft LB Anthony Barr
At 6'4", 240 pounds, the coaching staff at UCLA decided that Anthony Barr was just too big to be a running back. After his sophomore season, they turned him into a linebacker, and he's become one of the top prospects in the 2014 draft.
Barr, perhaps more than any player in the 2014 draft, is the type of prospect who can make NFL teams pull their hair out in trying to evaluate him. On paper, he seems to be the prototypical rush-linebacker who has the athletic ability to cover as well. He has a ton of speed and length, ideal traits for an edge-rusher.
What Barr lacks is polish. Having only played linebacker for two years, his technique and instincts are pretty raw. Combined with that, his athleticism helped cover some flaws that will be exposed early on at the next level.
While Barr currently ranks sixth on Todd McShay's prospect list, (ESPN Insider account needed), further evaluation might see him slip further down the list. While Barr has all the tools and is a tireless worker, is a guy who was only sixth on his college team in tackles worth this high of a pick?
The biggest reason this pick will happen: The Vikings talent evaluators think that Barr is the best player left on the board. Mike Zimmer has a stellar track record with linebackers, and Barr definitely has star potential.
The biggest reason this pick won't happen: Barr is probably not going to step in to the NFL and be a star right away. He's potential that needs to be molded, and the Vikings want to find a player with the No. 8 pick that can make an impact right away.
Stay Put at NO. 8 and Draft LB C.J. Mosley
Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley is the type of player who shouldn't even have to go through the combine process; he's proved his worth for four years at Alabama.
At 6'2", 240 pounds, Mosley is the complete package, he plays both the run and the pass very well, and he's a smart and instinctual player to boot. Universally loved in the scouting community, Mosley is universally respected and thought of as another coach on the field.
Every team in the NFL is looking to emulate what the San Francisco 49ers have done at linebacker, and Mosley is a great place to start. The only red flag on his resume is an injury history, so he will indeed be at the combine so teams can thoroughly examine his health.
The biggest reason this pick will happen: The Vikings need a difference maker at linebacker. Mosley is a tackling machine who is also very good against the pass. He could step into the Vikings starting lineup from day one and be a huge contributor.
The biggest reason this pick won't happen: While Mosley might be the best overall linebacker on the board, the Vikings might opt to go for Mack or Barr, who have higher ceilings than Mosley when it comes to rushing the passer.
Stay Put at No. 8 and Draft DT Louis Nix
Louis Nix III is a 6'3", 330-pound behemoth who's drawn comparisons to Vince Wilfork.
The middle of the Vikings defensive line hasn't been the same since Pat Williams wasn't brought back in 2011. Things aren't going to get any better if the team decides not to re-sign free agent Kevin Williams either.
Minnesota used its first pick in the 2013 draft on defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd.
Floyd is the heir apparent to Williams at the under-tackle position, where he can use his athletic ability to both rush the passer and stop the run. But Floyd will need his version of Pat Williams.
Nix might be better than Williams ever was in the middle of a defensive line. He's a massive, athletic man who can be an absolute beast against the run. Nix is great at stuffing the middle of the line of scrimmage and causing all kinds of chaos.
A knee-injury shortened Nix's 2013 season and will be of concern heading into the draft process.
The biggest reason this pick will happen: New head coach Mike Zimmer is a defensive guy. Did we mention the comparison to Vince Wilfork?
The biggest reason this pick won't happen: Nix's knee-injury from last season may drop his stock in the first round. The Vikings are looking for a huge impact from a player they select at No. 8, so they may opt for a quarterback or a linebacker with their first pick.
Stay Put at No. 8 and Draft CB Justin Gilbert
The Vikings secondary was brutal in 2013.
They gave up the most touchdown passes in the NFL and the second most passing yards. Their starting cornerbacks didn't have an interception all season.
In the last three seasons, the Vikings starting corners have made just four interceptions.
Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State would change that in a big hurry. Pairing the 6'0", 200-pound Gilbert across from Xavier Rhodes would give the Vikings one of the best, young cornerback tandems in the NFL.
Gilbert is a great athlete and his combination of size, speed and ball skills rank him at the top of this year's cornerback class with Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard.
The biggest reason this pick will happen: The Vikings decide that their problems against the pass are paramount. The Vikings secondary has long been in need of playmakers against the pass, and Gilbert would be a solution to that.
The biggest reason this pick won't happen: The Vikings decide they have bigger fish to fry than at cornerback in the first round.
The Vikings Stay Put at No. 8 and Take QB Johnny Manziel
Well what fun would a draft story be without a slide on Johnny Football?
The most talked about player in the 2014 draft just so happens to be a quarterback who fits the mold of the Vikings best quarterback of all-time, Fran Tarkenton.
You can argue all day long about the pros and cons of Johnny Manziel's game, but there's no denying he was the best player in college football over the last two seasons.
How will Manziel's sandlot style translate to the NFL? The guess here is that his off-the-charts football IQ will override his penchant for the dramatic and he'll be just fine. Better than just fine.
The concerns with Manziel tend to be about his arm strength, but the truth is, the current passing game in the NFL isn't about gunning the long ball. It's more about making smart decisions, being able to extend plays and making accurate throws in the 10-25 yard range. Manziel will be a very good NFL quarterback.
The biggest reason this pick will happen: Well, Manziel would probably have to get arrested the night before the draft for him to fall all the way to the Vikings.
The biggest reason this pick won't happen: Even if he did get arrested the night before, he'd still probably be off the board by No. 8.