Saturday, January 29, 2022

With Kirk Cousins’ future uncertain, the Vikings may use the 12th pick for the quarterback.

The Vikings may try to outplay the 12th-picked quarterback in the NFL Draft this year.

In 2011, the Vikings were in desperate need of a quarterback when they surprised many by drafting Florida State’s Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick. Rick Spielman led the draft as vice president of player personnel, but was promoted to general manager in January 2012.

It didn’t work out that way, and it didn’t help Spielman in the early years of his new job. But the former CEO managed to last ten years until he was fired last Monday, along with head coach Mike Zimmer, after the Vikings set losing records over the past two seasons.

The Vikings will soon have a new general manager and will again be drafted 12th overall. And again, they can take the quarterback.

Kirk Cousins ​​has one year left on his $35 million guaranteed contract with a whopping $45 million salary cap, and it’s unclear if he’ll return in 2022. But even if Cousins ​​comes back and bans him from signing an extension, the Vikings might still want to find a quarterback at the start of the Aug. 28-30 draft in Las Vegas.

“It’s hard to imagine a new general manager tying his early regime to Kirk Cousins, especially since he’s going to have a $45 million cap next year,” ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid said. “Kirk is good, but it turned out that he was not worth the price. … We don’t know who the next general manager and head coach will be, but (in terms of the quarterback situation) it will be one of the big decisions they will have to make early on.”

The Vikings may have to pay a portion of Cousins’ salary in a possible deal, and may want a veteran defender in return. But they may not be able to pick a quarterback well enough to bypass the priority of picking one of them in the draft.

One problem, however, is that 2021 is not considered a deep draft for quarterbacks. Not like last year when Trevor Lawrence was No. 1 in Jacksonville, Zach Wilson was No. 2 in the New York Jets, Trey Lance was No. 3 in San Francisco, Justin Fields was No. 11 in Chicago and Mack Jones was No. 15. to New England.

“It’s a class of quarterbacks that are very volatile and in a way it’s the opposite of last year when you had five quarterbacks and you felt good that all five could start in the league and could potentially take us to the playoffs.” – he said. Dane Brugler, draft analyst at The Athletic. “You have five or six quarterbacks at the top this year and it’s hard to be sure, ‘Hey, this is the guy who can help us make the playoffs.’ … It complicates the task. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

If the Vikings really want to take the 12th pick, they will likely have more choice among the top picks available than they did in 2021, when four quarterbacks left for the 11th pick.

Although it’s still early days, Reid foresees three castle-looking quarterbacks going through the first round – Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Mississippi’s Matt Corral. Reed said it was not known what the order would be. He said that any of the three could be available to the Vikings at number 12 if they stayed at that location.

Reed said Liberty’s Malik Willis could make it to the first round, as could Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. He said that Nevada’s Carson Strong may be considered top-notch talent, but there are health concerns as he has had three knee surgeries.

Five of those six quarterbacks will be featured at next week’s Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Alabama, and Reid said there will be a better idea of ​​which players stand out. Corral is ineligible as he is a redshirt junior who has not graduated from high school. He suffered a severe ankle sprain in a 21-7 loss to Mississippi at the Sugar Bowl against Baylor on Jan. 1, but he is expected to eventually be fit enough to show his gear to scouts during pre-draft practice.

The Vikings really started thinking about a future as a quarterback when they drafted Kellen Mond with the 66th overall pick in the third round last year, their highest-picked quarterback since Teddy Bridgewater became the 32nd pick in 2014. year. But Mond struggled in the preseason. and was inactive in 15 of 17 regular season games as a third hitter behind Cousins ​​and veteran backup Sean Mannion. With Cousins ​​missing a Jan. 2 game in Green Bay while on the COVID-19 reserve list and Mannion leaving briefly in the fourth quarter with an injury in a 37-10 loss, Mond played three games but didn’t look very good.

“I think the guys at the top have a lot more prospects than Kellen, who came out a year ago,” Reid said of this year’s potential first-round picks. “I think he would be a level below those guys.”

After the Packers game, Zimmer was asked if he wanted to see more of Mond in the next week’s pointless season finale against Chicago. He said “not particularly” because “I see him every day (in practice).”

Mond’s confidence did not appear to have wavered. A source close to Mond said Zimmer’s comments “didn’t bother him at all” because “Kellen has thick skin.”

Mond does have one big supporter in former Vikings quarterback Tommy Kramer. He and Mond are both from San Antonio, and Kramer kept a close eye on Mond at Texas A&M.

“They didn’t give him a chance,” Kramer said of Mond’s debut season. “You just need a chance. I think the guy from Mond can play.”

However, if the Vikings leave Cousins ​​or if 2022 remains the last year of his contract, Kramer said now is the time to take the quarterback in the draft.

“No. 12 is not bad,” Cramer said of the Vikings’ draft position. But that’s what scouts are for.

While the Vikings will not have a general manager or coach during Senior Bowl week, they will have a number of scouts. Then, once hired, there will be an opportunity to evaluate quarterbacks at the mill and on professional days.

Many analysts consider Pickett the most promising player at the moment. As a redshirt senior, he finished third in Heisman Trophy voting in 2021, a season in which he threw for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns, and seven interceptions.

“He may not have elite physical skills, a powerful arm, but Kenny Pickett has accuracy and agility,” Brugler said. “Perhaps the team feels he can be their starting player.”

Howell was instrumental in causing current Vikings linebacker Chazz Surratt to switch positions in North Carolina in 2019 for the last two seasons. Surratt was the quarterback there until Howell arrived and it became obvious he couldn’t beat him.

Howell had immediate success with the Tar Heels, throwing for 7,227 yards and 68 touchdowns with 14 interceptions in his first two years. But in his final season in 2021, he dropped slightly, throwing for 3,056 yards with 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

“They lost so much on offense,” Reid said of the Tar Heels losing a number of top hitters in 2021. ). But I think he’s one of the most gifted passers in this class of quarterbacks.”

Corral threw for 3,337 yards with 29 touchdowns in 10 games in 2020, then 3,343 yards with 20 touchdowns in 13 games in 2021. But he has significantly reduced the number of interceptions, from 14 in 2020 to five in 2021.

“I think he made a big leap,” Reid said. “The biggest was the reduction in employee turnover and bad decisions. He has a lightning fast shot and can really make decisions quickly.”

The athletic Willis may prove to be the hardest potential first-round quarterback to evaluate. He threw just 14 passes in his first two seasons at the Auburn before moving on to the Liberty where he threw 47 touchdowns in the last two seasons. But it competed with lower level competitors.

Ridder led Cincinnati to an undefeated regular season and led the Bearcats to the college football playoffs. But averaging 245.4 passing yards per game and 30 touchdowns, he didn’t help himself in a 27-6 loss to Alabama in the semifinals, completing just 17 of 32 passes for 144 yards and failing to lead his team to a touchdown. .

For what it’s worth, Pro Football Focus gave Pickett the highest 2021 rating of any quarterback in the draft, and on the analytics site, he’s in a trial draft going to Minnesota at No. 12. That sounds better than 2011, when many derided In the draft, Ponder was drafted late in the first round or in the second round before he moved to the Vikings at number 12.

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