The 2014 NFL Draft starts on Thursday, May 8, and every team will look to infuse youth and talent into their rosters. This is the latest primer in our NFL Draft two-a-days that looks at each team and which potential first-round picks would be a good fit.
PICK NO. 8: MINNESOTA VIKINGS
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2013 record: 5-10-1
Key offseason acquisitions: DT Linval Joseph, CB Captain Munnerlyn, CB Derek Cox, DE Corey Wootton, head coach Mike Zimmer.
Key offseason departures: DE Jared Allen, CB Chris Cook, RB Toby Gerhart, LB Erin Henderson, DT Kevin Williams.
Biggest holes: Quarterback, linebacker, guard
Three years, 6,436 yards, 38 touchdowns and 34 interceptions later, the Christian Ponder experiment is over in Minnesota.
The Vikings appear ready to move on from their 12th overall pick in 2009, re-signing veteran Matt Cassel to take over the immediate starting duties. Cassel played in nine games in 2013 (starting six) and threw for 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Still, the Vikings are going to have to start over in finding their quarterback of the future. Of the teams in the top 10, it appears at first glance that this would be the floor for any of the big-name QBs. However, that group appears to be in flux - they could all be gone by the time the Vikings pick, or they could all be on the board.
If the Vikings want an immediate starter (or as close to one as there is in this class), Teddy Bridgewater would be the pick. The Louisville product has a very accurate arm with good power and underrated mobility. Bridgewater makes good pre-snap reads and good decisions. However, there have been some concerns about his size (6-2, 214 pounds) and whether or not he's a "franchise QB."
Blake Bortles would be the choice if the Vikings were looking for a high-upside guy. Bortles has the physical qualities scouts look for in a pro signal-caller - 6-5, 232 pounds, good athleticism both in and out of the pocket, adequate arm strength. He's far from a finished product - his throwing mechanics and footwork are inconsistent and could use some refining - but he has what coaches can't teach. The Vikings could start him immediately amid a supporting cast of Adrian Peterson, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, or they could let him learn behind Cassel for a while.
Of course, there's also Johnny Manziel. He's a dynamic dual-threat quarterback who excels when the intended play breaks down and improvisation is necessary. He improved his mechanics in his sophomore season and became more comfortable in the pocket, though at times he'll still run when it's not necessary. He has a powerful arm that would do well in Norv Turner's vertical offense. His lack of ideal size (5-11 3/4, 207 pounds), tendency to take off in a clean pocket and documented off-field lifestyle have been cause for some concern, but there's no doubting his ability to step in and reinvigorate a franchise and its fanbase.
This pick would also appear to be the ceiling for Fresno State QB Derek Carr. The brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr has a very powerful arm yet shows great accuracy on most of his passes. He's also surprisingly fast - his 4.69-second 40 was fifth-best among QBs at the Combine. However, Carr sometimes struggles when going up against a tough pass rush and came out of a spread offense that called for a lot of bubble screens against below-average Mountain West defenses.
All four of those quarterbacks have reportedly slid down draft boards in recent weeks, meaning the Vikings could follow suit and look elsewhere with the hopes of nabbing one later in the draft. If they wanted to do this, UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr could be the pick. The converted running back makes his presence felt out on the edge, where he gets after opposing quarterbacks with excellent speed (4.66 40), acceleration (6.82-second three-cone drill) and overall explosion. He only played two seasons at linebacker, so he's still incredibly raw. But he would be an interesting project for new head coach Mike Zimmer, a former defensive coordinator in Cincinnati who likes to use aggressive schemes.
It could be a little early at No. 8, but Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley could hear his name come off the board here. Mosley is a very instinctive player who can drop back into coverage, stop the run or rush the passer. He's a solid tackler who amassed 319 tackles in his four-year Crimson Tide career. His balanced style draws a lot of comparisons to Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee.
Some second- and third-day options for the Vikings include LSU QB Zach Mettenberger, Pitt QB Tom Savage and UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo.