Analyzing Minnesota Vikings' Options at Quarterback in Later Rounds of NFL Draft

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Analyzing Minnesota Vikings' Options at Quarterback in Later Rounds of NFL Draft
Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports
Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns for Eastern Illinois in 2013.

With the 2014 NFL draft just two short months away, the Minnesota Vikings are in full swing in the evaluation process of top prospects across the country.

The NFL Scouting Combine provided the opportunity to gain a deeper outlook of 335 players who were invited to the four-day affair. From pure athletic assessments to interviews with coaches, each college player had the chance to improve or hinder their stock in the eyes of team executives.

For the Vikings, no position stands out in more glaring fashion than quarterback. That says something for a club when the defense finished 31st in total yards and dead last in points allowed the previous season.

Currently, only Christian Ponder is under contract for Minnesota with Matt Cassel testing the free-agent market and the failed project of Josh Freeman proving to be an utter disaster.

By finishing 5-10-1, the Vikings sit at No. 8 in their draft slotting, which presents somewhat of a predicament for Rick Spielman and the front office.

If the team decides to stay put in their positioning, they may very well watch the top tier of quarterback talent quickly fall off the draft board. Players like Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater could hear their names called early among the bevy of quarterback-needy teams.

In that scenario, the Vikings would face a similar situation as 2011 when the team decided to stay firm with their first-round focus on quarterback and selected Ponder at No. 12, a pick that was considered a reach at the time and certainly is now in hindsight.

Instead, the best option for Minnesota may be to draft defense in the first round—either outside linebacker Khalil Mack or Anthony Barr as possibilities—and target a signal-caller in later rounds.

If that strategy takes shape, here's a look at some of the best options for the Vikings.

 

Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Jimmy Garoppolo

Jimmy Garoppolo may not be a household name around the country, but he's becoming more of a well-known prospect in Minnesota. At 6'2" and 226 pounds, the product out of Eastern Illinois has an exceptionally quick release and scans the field well to find open targets.

The comparison to Tony Romo is an easy one since both players came from the same school, not to mention that Garoppolo broke every one of Romo's passing records, finishing his college career with 13,156 yards and 118 touchdowns.

For the Vikings, Garoppolo has enough arm strength to succeed in Norv Turner's offense, although he still needs to improve on accuracy down the field and footwork in the pocket. His intelligence and work ethic are also strong attributes in this quarterback's favor.

If Minnesota chooses to focus on defense early in the draft, they could still be rewarded with a talent like Garoppolo.

 

AJ McCarron

One of the more decorated quarterbacks in the 2014 class, AJ McCarron helped lead Alabama to two national championships during his career. He was also the recipient of the Maxwell Award for 2013, given to the top college football player of the year.

McCarron has excelled as a pocket passer, posting a passer completion rate of 66.9 percent. His touchdown-to-interception ratio is also impressive at 77 scores and just 15 picks.

At 6'3" and 220 pounds, one of the main criticisms of McCarron is his lack of athleticism and big arm down the field. This may concern the Vikings, but his leadership skills and other intangibles are attractive for a mid-round selection. 

 

Zach Mettenberger 

Of the quarterbacks already discussed, Zach Mettenberger stands out as having the strongest arm of the bunch. His size under center is also very appealing as a prospect, coming in at 6'5" and 224 pounds.

During his time at LSU, Mettenberger impressed onlookers with high-velocity passes to either side of the field, yet delivered enough touch on the deep ball for his receivers.

He had a strong senior season, completing 64.9 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. However, it was cut short after tearing his left ACL in the final game of the regular season. This has caused his stock to drop a bit due to medical concerns, but Mettenberger has all of the physical tools to be successful in the NFL.

Given the type of offense Turner plans to run in Minnesota, which historically has included high passing yards per attempt, Mettenberger could be the type of project who flourishes with the Vikings.

And if the team can address other needs on defense before landing such a player, Spielman may be able to rebound from his previous failed attempt at selecting a quarterback.

 

Statistics courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted. All combine measurements and details courtesy of NFL.com.

Matthew Stensrud is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+

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