Whether or not new head coach Leslie Fraser and staff can find "The next Joe Flacco or Matt Ryan" is the big question going into this year's draft for the Vikings. While there are a number of talented quarterbacks available in this year's draft, I'm not completely convinced that any of them are capable of stepping in next year as rookies and leading this team.
The most likely scenario is for Minnesota to go after a free agent veteran such as Donovan McNabb, or trade for an established QB such as a Carson Palmer or Kyle Orton, and let them mentor Joe Webb, Rhett Bomar and whomever the Vikings select.
In addition, the quarterback position is not the only area of concern that needs to be addressed this off-season either in this draft or via free agency/trade. The Vikings will have serious holes to fill on their offensive and defensive lines due to aging/injury prone players, departing free agents and the most recent character issues arising from Everson Griffon being tasered in California. Linebacker and defensive back are also areas the Vikings will be looking to fill as well.
I've seen a lot of mock drafts recently showing the Vikings taking anyone of four different quarterbacks with the No. 12 selection. Names like Blaine Gabbert, Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett and Jake Locker have all been mentioned as possible selections. As talented as they are, Newton and Mallett both have some past character issues that may push them both down further in the draft, maybe even to rounds two or three.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around Blaine Gabbert seeming to be the consensus No. 1 QB this draft. There's no denying he is very mobile and has a good arm, but he played in a gimmick offense and his accuracy was spotty.
Locker has been just plain bad this year. Some of this is due to the fact his team was horrible, but his confidence in his abilities is shot and his performance at this year's Senior Bowl has probably pushed him to the second Round. This year's Senior Bowl MVP Christian Ponder could be a possibility, but not until the second round. Even then there are still some questions regarding his arm strength after shoulder surgery.
So who do I see the Vikings selecting in the 2011 NFL Draft?
Round 1: 12th Pick Overall
Mike Pouncey - C/G Florida - 6'5" 320lbs
The Vikings need help at center or guard if they want to run the ball more effectively in 2011. Sullivan was awful last year and both Hutchinson and Herrera have age/injury issues. With Pouncey's addition to the OL, and maybe some free agent signings, Adrian Peterson should be able to have a great year. Also by getting AP back on track, it will take a whole lot of pressure off whomever the Vikings have at QB.
I know a lot of you are going to dump on my choice of Pouncey here. I've seen a number of Mock Drafts with the Vikings taking Cam Newton at No. 12. Newton is talented, but he played mostly in an Option oriented offense and he's still very raw as a quarterback. The safer bet here is to grab possibly the best overall offensive lineman in this draft.
Round 2: 43rd Pick Overall
Colin Kaepernick - Quarterback Nevada - 6'6" 225lbs
Kaepernick is an intriguing player and if the Vikings can get him here it would be a steal. He possesses a huge arm and is surprisingly mobile for a quarterback 6’6”.
In 2010 Kaepernick became only the second quarterback in FBS history to throw for 20 TD's while rushing for 20 in the same season. Colin was consistently the most impressive of all the quarterbacks at this year's Senior Bowl.
Even though he played in the Pistol at Nevada, he looked comfortable taking snaps under center in a pro-style offense. Very similar to Josh Freeman both in physical size and how he plays the game. If the Vikings think someone could grab him ahead of this pick they could swing a trade to move up.
Round 3: 74th Pick Overall
No Selection - traded to New England Patriots for Randy Moss
Round 4: 105th Pick Overall
Ryan Winterswyk - DE Boise State - 6'4" 263lbs
With Ray Edwards possibly leaving via free agency, the Vikings need to shore up the Defensive End position. Winterswyk is one of those guys whose motor doesn’t quit when he steps on the field. Every coach loves to have someone on his team who maybe doesn’t have the natural born physical gifts other players at his position have, but this guy doesn’t take plays off or quit.
This guy was a walk on at one of the toughest non-BCS football programs in the country and proceeded to work his way into the starting lineup by his sophomore year. Had a huge year as a junior, with 17 TFL an nine sacks, and although his senior year wasn’t quite as dominating, it was due to being double teamed.
Round 5: 136th Pick Overall
Jason Pinkston – OT Pittsburgh 6’3” 313lbs
Pinkston was an All-Big East First Team member, and would probably be a second rounder if teams weren't concerned by a previous knee injury. He's good value at this point in the draft.
Round 5 – From NY Giants – 147th Pick Overall
Eric Hagg – CB/FS Nebraska 6'2" 205 lbs
Hagg played cornerback in college, but is probably best suited as a free saftey. A very good cover player and has the weight to come up in run support. Returned two picks for touchdowns his senior year in Nebraska.
Round 6: 176th Pick Overall
DeAndre Brown – WR Southern Mississippi – 6'6" 228lbs
The Vikings need to get some depth at receiver in order to shore things up in case Sidney Rice leaves as a free agent.. Percy Harvin is the only real receiving threat the Vikings have other than Sidney Rice. Berrian has been inconsistant, and the cast of supporting characters leaves much to be desired.
DeAndre Brown is a huge target for any quarterback and is surprisingly fast for his size, under 4.6 seconds in the 40. The only reason the Vikings might be able to grab him here is that he's coming off a pretty bad leg injury and that might scare off some teams.
Good depth choice, especially with the recent signing of Emmanuel Arceneaux from the CFL's BC Lions. If he could add 30-40lbs without sacrificing too much speed, he could be converted to a Tight End.
Round 7: 220th Pick Overall
Eric McBride – OLB Richmond 6'2" 231lbs.
This selection is to address the depth chart at linebacker. With Ben Leber turning 32, the Vikings will probably target one of the many free agent OLB's this off season, along with signing Chad Greenway to a huge contract extension. Leber can still start at weakside linebacker, but his best days are behind him.