The Minnesota Vikings need a quarterback. That much is not a secret.
Matt Cassel is a serviceable, short-term answer, but cannot be counted on to lead the Vikings beyond next season. He played in all five Vikings wins last season and will enter the 2014 season as the starter.
The only other quarterback on the roster is Christian Ponder. He has been given two and a half years to prove he can be the Vikings starter. It never happened and he is on the verge of being cut. It is hard to imagine the Vikings being able to keep him and Cassel after last season’s debacle.
The Vikings could start the season with Cassel and two rookies on the roster. Here are the top five as well as an underrated, overrated and sleeper prospect.
No. 1 - Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
Bridgewater finished the college football season as the projected first quarterback taken. He reportedly struggled at his pro day, but quarterbacks are not successful based on pro day workouts.
He is smart, athletic, mature and accurate, qualities that have drawn comparisons to Seahawks starter Russell Wilson. Bridgewater played in a college system that translates better to the NFL than most college systems.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 214-pound former Cardinal finished his junior season with 3,523 passing yards, 28 passing touchdowns and four interceptions in 12 games. He also had 54 rushing yards on 57 carries.
No. 2 - Blake Bortles, UCF
Bortles shot up the draft boards last season. He has overtaken Bridgewater as the top quarterback on some draft boards. The biggest question surrounding Bortles is whether or not he is NFL-ready. If not, how long will it take for him to be ready?
He has the arm strength to make every throw, but needs to improve his accuracy and touch. He has drawn comparisons as a combination of Colts starter Andrew Luck (arm strength and throwing delivery) and Titans starter Jake Locker (mobility and inconsistency).
The 6-foot-5-inch, 232-pound former Knight finished his redshirt junior season with 3,280 yards, 22 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions in 12 games. He also had 179 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns on 79 carries.
No. 3 - Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Manziel may be the most polarizing figure in the draft. He has been a winner on the field, including a Heisman Trophy, but has also drawn the paparazzi. Does “Johnny Football” play football to play football or for the celebrity? That is the question NFL execs will have to figure out.
Manziel has drawn comparisons to former NFL starter Jeff Garcia. Like Garcia, Manziel has very good mobility and underrated passing skills.
The 6-foot, 205-pound former Aggie finished his redshirt sophomore season with 3,732 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 12 games. He also had 686 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns on 133 carries.
No. 4 - Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Mettenberger has gained steam of late. He has the frame, arm strength and accuracy to be a starting quarterback. Arm strength is his best asset. He can make any NFL throw and throwing to the opposite hash marks is easy for him. Mobility and durability concerns along with a penchant for predetermining throws will likely keep him from being selected in the first round. He also had character issues in March 2010 while at his first college, the University of Georgia. He was arrested, lied about it to the head coach and failed to reconcile before being dismissed. He competed in LSU’s pro day in early April less than four months after having reconstructive surgery on his left knee.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 224-pound former Tiger finished his senior season with 3,082 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns and eight interceptions in 12 games. He also finished with a 171.4 rating.
No. 5 - Derek Carr, Fresno State
Carr’s draft stock has been a roller coaster. At the completion of last season, he was considered a top 10 pick. Then he wasn’t even considered a first round pick. Now he has found his way back into the middle-to-late portion of the first round.
The skill set looks good with NFL-caliber arm strength and accuracy. Fresno State’s pass happy offense inflated his statistics and allowed him to garner Mountain West Conference Player of the Year honors in 2012. There are concerns over the system he played in college. He was primarily in shotgun formation and did not need to read defenses while dropping back. There are also concerns over the level of competition he competed.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 214-pound former Bulldog finished his senior season with 4,866 passing yards, 48 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions in 12 games. He also had 117 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on 40 carries.
Underrated - Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
Savage may be one of the hardest prospects to figure out on game film. A lot has to do with a porous offensive line as well as two transfers (from Rutgers to Arizona to Pittsburgh). He is a big quarterback with a rocket arm. Along with having the arm strength, he does a good job of leading receivers and throwing them open. He has good balance that allows him to break tackles and avoid sacks.
He needs to learn how to read defenses - due to limited game reps, improve his touch on short throws and look off defenders. He also does not have the mobility to scramble away from pressure. He cannot step in and lead an NFL offense right away, but a couple seasons of learning could turn him into a very good starter.
The 6-foot-4-inch, 228-pound former Panther finished his senior season with 2,958 passing yards, 21 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions in 13 games. He also had a 424 yard passing effort during the season.
Overrated - David Fales, San Jose State
Fales made a big impression against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in his third game of the season in Minneapolis. He was nearly perfect in the first half and drew rave reviews at the time as possibly an early first round pick. However, while dropping a couple passes in perfectly to receiver, most of his throws were high and behind the receivers. Several receivers made very good catches to save his stat line. He has good throwing accuracy and adequate mobility, which may translate over time into success, but he needs to improve his overall game, ability to read a defense and arm strength to stick in the NFL as a backup.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 212-pound former Spartan finished his senior season with 4,189 passing yards, 33 passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 12 games. He also finished with a 153.3 rating.
Sleeper - Brett Smith, Wyoming
Smith played in the wrong conference to make a name for himself. Had he been in a major conference, he may be considered a better prospect than late round selection. He has a good skill set with very good mobility and can work through his progression quickly. His competitiveness, attitude, work ethic and passion for football will win over a coaching staff and locker room. He has a tendency to be over confident and pass up small windows for tight coverage. He needs to improve his accuracy on the run and arm strength.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 206-pound former Cowboy finished his redshirt junior season with 3,375 passing yards, 29 passing touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 12 games. He also had 573 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns on 125 carries.