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The Vikings Have A Draft Dilemma

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Christian Ponder is on his way out and the Vikings need to find their new franchise quarterback. Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images.
Christian Ponder is on his way out and the Vikings need to find their new franchise quarterback. Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images.

No team illustrates draft dilemmas more than the Minnesota Vikings

Selecting eighth overall, the Vikings might be able to get a franchise quarterback. Or not. Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles could well be off the board by then. 

They could opt for a star defensive player such as linebacker C.J. Mosley. But he might be gone then too.

Will they trade up?

They could, perhaps to second overall, where the Rams now sit, or to fifth, the Raiders’ perch. 

Or they might decide to trade down and get more picks. That’s often the best move, but let’s face it, sometimes emotions get in the way. 

Like most teams, the Vikings are missing more than one piece to the puzzle. They did a good job in free agency, strengthening their defensive line by re-signing Everson Griffen and stealing Linval Joseph from the Giants. 

They got Matt Cassel back at quarterback; he’s no star, no franchise signal-caller, but he’s serviceable. With him, the Vikings are not forced to take a quarterback in the first round, but they must choose someone by the third.

They also signed Captain Munnerlyn, so their secondary figures to be better. (Last year the team made a huge mistake letting Antoine Winfield go, and pass coverage was a dumpster fire.) They have some young talent, including Cordarrelle Patterson and Sharrif Floyd, in addition to stud running back Adrian Peterson.

This could be a team that makes major improvements in 2014.

The point is that the team, guided by incoming coach Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman, should not be in a position of desperation. They need to be like stockbrokers and stay smart, not reckless gamblers. They need to avoid the twin emotions of fear and greed.

Fear -- that you don’t have a quarterback, so you reach and pick someone who’s not worthy. That’s what happened in 2011 when the team picked Christian Ponder 11th. Now that the Ponder experiment is over, the team has to be completely rational. 

That year, there was a run on bad quarterbacks: Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker and Andy Dalton were selected before Colin Kaepernick in the second round. You have to think that some executives were infected with the herd mentality.

Like Spielman. He was the guy who wanted Ponder, and he got him. He was also the guy who was so cost-conscious that he wanted to dump the team’s only decent corner, Winfield. Somehow he skated away from that mess, with two horrible seasons (and one 10-6 year highlighted by AP’s incredible year) with his job, while coach Leslie Frazier was cashiered.

I have a feeling Spielman won’t survive another bad quarterback choice. The selection, which must have his approval, will be much-scrutinized by his bosses. (Vikings fans would’ve dumped him already, if complaints at such websites as Viking Age and Daily Norseman provide any indication -- and I think they do.)

So does that mean the team will be conservative and pick someone in, say, the second round? The SEC had three very good quarterbacks who might be plucked around that time: Georgia’s Aaron Murray, LSU’s Zach Mettenberg and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron. That might be a good move if you think there isn’t much difference between the supposed top-tier guys like Bortles, Manziel and Bridgewater, and the three SEC dudes. 

But supposing the Vikings want Manziel or Bortles. Bad. What do they do?

They would have to decide how much he’s worth to them. Would they be willing to part with a couple of draft picks? They don’t have enough talent on the roster to get rid of good players. How about future draft picks?

The draft is a huge gamble. And at the other side of the spectrum from fear is greed. It could come in the form of the team becoming obsessive about one player. If the ante goes up, they keep pitching more into the pot. 

Now, at this point, you have to play hard to get, and like some women we might’ve known, pretend you don’t like the guy at all when you’re madly in love with him. I wonder if that’s true with Manziel. Zimmer has made disparaging comments about him.

A poor team can’t afford to fall in love with anyone too much. There’s always the possibility you’re wrong. You can’t go nuts, as Vikings GM Mike Lynn did in the 1980s with the Herschel Walker trade that hurt the Vikes and helped ancient enemy Dallas build a dynasty. Lynn wanted to make a deal and made it happen, but the price was too high. He became a monomaniac with only one thought, like an NFL version of Ahab. Walker wasn’t worth the price, but Lynn considered nothing but The Deal. It was very raw for the Vikings and wonderful for the Cowboys.

Still, a great player would be worth a large investment. If Manziel or Bortles are deemed potential Joe Montana's, then go for it. Maybe.

A little humility is in order. For every AP, drafted seventh in the first round, there is a Demetrius Underwood, picked in the first round by Dennis Green.

Who? He had some severe health problems and never played. 

For every Peyton Manning, there’s a Ryan Leaf. A lot of scouts thought the two were almost equal in talent. For every Aaron Rodgers, there’s a Tony Mandarich. The latter was thought to be can’t-miss, but he found a way to miss. By a lot.

Executives salivate at the prospect of making the Perfect Pick or the Great Deal. But they should remember, always, that supposedly smart folks have made some dumb moves.