Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for Minnesota Vikings' Top-3 Picks
No offseason in recent memory has been as significant to the future of the Minnesota Vikings as this one.
From the arrival of head coach Mike Zimmer to the demolition of the Metrodome, the Vikings are a team in search of a new identity as they get ready for the 2014 NFL Draft.
Though general manager Rick Spielman's excursion into free agency was a sign of things to come, the draft will ultimately provide answers to some of the franchise's most pressing questions.
Highlighting some of the biggest areas of need on this roster, it's time to start the slideshow below and check out the best- and worst-case scenarios when it comes to the Vikings' top-three draft picks.
Round 1, Pick No. 8: Best-Case Scenario
Spielman and Coach Zimmer have a chance to make history with the eighth overall pick in the 2014 draft.
All of that could change on May 8 when commissioner Roger Goodell steps up to the podium and announces the team's first-round pick.
If you're of the belief that the Vikings shouldn't wait to pull the trigger on a franchise quarterback, then the best-case scenario would be to draft a signal-caller with the No. 8 pick.
Looking at the crop of quarterbacks in the upcoming draft, guys like Blake Bortles out of UCF, Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel and Fresno State's Derek Carr are three viable candidates who could end up rocking a purple and gold uniform.
However, it's Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater who would be the most intriguing choice for the Vikings.
In the months leading up to the draft, Bridgewater has gone from being the top-ranked QB in the entire class to seeing his stock tumble.
Fueled by a difficult pro day, ESPN's Chris Mortensen said the 21-year-old QB has continued to look "shaky" during his private workouts with various NFL teams, per Rotoworld—a claim that Bridgewater's agent Kennard McGuire refuted, via Pro Football Talk.
Opinions on Bridgewater have been mixed.
From attending various pro days to ESPN's Josina Anderson tweeting that Bridgewater will meet with the Vikings' brass later this week, the front office is clearly doing their homework when it comes to this year's quarterback class.
Carving out a perfect scenario in Round 1 isn't an easy task. With such a stacked draft class, the Vikings' brain trust will have to figure out what the best course of action is.
But if this team wants to put themselves in a great position to compete going forward, drafting a franchise quarterback will certainly help that cause.
Round 1, Pick No. 8: Worst-Case Scenario
Coming off a 5-10-1 campaign, the Vikings clearly have an excess of needs to fill during the upcoming draft.
From landing a perennial franchise quarterback to shoring up a secondary that gave up an astounding 287.2 passing yards per game last season, Spielman will have his work cut out for him in building an efficient draft board.
The first round should be reserved for addressing those various areas of concern.
That being said, the worst-case scenario would be straying away those needs and adding another body to the defensive line.
NFL.com's Bucky Brooks has the Vikings taking defensive tackle Aaron Donald out of Pittsburgh in Round 1.
While Donald is a dynamic player on tape who can eviscerate a pocket, the addition of Linval Joseph in free agency has negated the need for another interior defensive linemen early in the draft.
Going after a defensive back, quarterback or linebacker works.
Going after a player who makes a living putting his hand in the dirt is a tough sell for a team attempting to crawl out of the NFC North's cellar.
Round 2, Pick No. 40: Best-Case Scenario
If the Vikings end up selecting a quarterback in the first round of the draft, Day 2 provides plenty of opportunity for Spielman and Zimmer to add another quality starter to the defensive side of the ball.
Whether it's a pass-rusher, linebacker or defensive back, there will be a ton of quality football players left to choose from.
B/R's Matt Miller has projected that the Vikings will draft Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton with the 40th overall pick.
Figuring out what we can expect from Crichton at the next level, Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) compared him to current Vikings defensive end Brian Robison:
Like Robison, Crichton isn't an elite athlete but he takes full advantage of the traits he does possess and plays with a terrific motor. At worst, he should emerge as a quality member of the rotation early in his career and could develop into a quite effective complementary pass-rusher.
There's no doubt that because of the depth of talent in this year's class, the options at pick No. 40 are going to be plentiful.
But the best-case scenario for the Vikings would be finding a way to land Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier in the second round.
Shazier is the definition of an impact player.
Turn on the tape, and what you'll see is a dominant athlete who possesses enough speed and instincts to come in and provide this defense with a spark.
What makes Shazier such a great fit in Minnesota is how versatile he is.
Talking about his game, Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) said:
Team leader and uplifting teammate with strong personal and football character. Versatile skill-set to drop in coverage, blitz and cover both sidelines. Very productive career with back-to-back seasons with 115-plus tackles, including a conference-best 143 stops in 2013.
If he somehow slips into the second round, Spielman has to find a way to attain his services.
Round 2, Pick No. 40: Worst-Case Scenario
The worst-case scenario for the Vikings in Round 2 would be to fall in love with a running back prospect and decide that it was the right time to go after them.
While the hope is that a guy like Matt Asiata can step in during training camp and take over that role, the draft is always a good place to snag a talented halfback.
Even though adding an offensive player into the mix would surely energize this fanbase, finding a way to overhaul the NFL's 31st-ranked defense takes precedence.
Simply put, there are far too many holes to fill for Spielman to go out and pursue an offensive weapon early on—especially if they decide to draft a quarterback in Round 1.
Round 3, Pick No. 72/Pick No. 96: Best-Case Scenario
With a quarterback and linebacker now on the roster, the next logical decision would be to go after a player who can help the Vikings secondary grow into a formidable unit.
Last season the Vikings struggled to stop anyone through the air. Finishing with the 31st-ranked pass defense in the NFL, using one of their two third-round picks on a cornerback makes sense.
If you look at the names of cornerbacks projected to still be there in Round 3, some of the bigger, more physical guys stand out.
Utah's Keith McGill and Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste are both 6'3" defensive backs who can use their long frames to jam wide receivers at the line of scrimmage.
Although watching the Seattle Seahawks dismantle teams makes it easy to fall in love with one of the bigger cornerback prospects, that isn't the only direction Spielman and Zimmer can go in.
Experienced SEC guys like Florida's Jaylen Watkins and Loucheiz Purifoy are also slated to be third-round picks.
The point is, the field is wide open when it comes to cornerbacks, and that's something the Vikings should take full advantage of.
Round 3, Pick No. 72/Pick No. 96: Worst-Case Scenario
If the draft shakes out as planned, it's difficult to come up with a worst-case scenario for the Vikings in the third round.
By shoring up the secondary, Spielman will get a chance to go after the best player available, regardless of position.
Though there are still needs that have to be addressed, an extra pick in Round 3 means that the team could land an offensive lineman, pass-rusher or even another linebacker if they wanted to go in that direction.
"We want to build this thing as a long-term commitment," Coach Zimmer told Mike Wobschall of Vikings.com
The best way to do that is to infuse as many talented pieces into this roster as possible, coach them up the right way and then sit back and watch as they blossom into full-time contributors.
As we inch closer toward the 2014 NFL draft, you can bet that Spielman, Zimmer and the rest of the Vikings staff will be spending plenty of late nights perfecting their big board.
All NFL free-agency information and stats courtesy of NFL.com, unless noted otherwise.
All 2014 draft projections provided by NFLDraftScout.com (via CBSSports.com) unless noted otherwise.