Like a bridge over troubled BridgewaterPublished 10:41am Thursday, May 15, 2014
While the Vikings may have botched their attempt to pick Johnny Manziel, the 2014 draft figures to be another one for GM Rick Spielman to hang his hat on if it results in the end of the team’s perennial quarterback carousel.
While LB Anthony Barr and QB Teddy Bridgewater project to be solid players for the Vikings, it’s the way Spielman maneuvered to get them by jumping around the draft board in coy, value-adding fashion that was the juiciest part of last weekend’s affair. Such moves have become a trademark of Spielman’s draft style, and as a result, the Vikings now boast seven first round draft picks on their roster from the last three years alone.
For a variety of reasons, Spielman’s draft savviness has not been able to translate into consistent victories on the field. This broader problem has resulted from poor coaching (Chillyball, Leslie Frazier) and ineffective free agent signings (John Carlson, Jerome Simpson) but the major culprit was the whiff in the 2011 draft on QB Christian Ponder – whom the team ultimately wasted three seasons trying to develop.
With the highly prized QB Bridgewater now on board, the team is in familiar territory – coming off a disappointing campaign following a playoff season, holding no shortage of talent and set to entrust its playoff caliber roster in the hands of an untested QB.
Recognizing that this was effectively a ‘back to the drawing board’ type move, many fans took to online chat rooms and Vikings Fan Line to voice their frustration over the Bridgewater pick. They claimed that Spielman was repeating his mistake from 2011 by using a high pick on a QB with too many question marks. Some even went so far as to anoint Bridgewater as the next, dare I say it, Tarvares Jackson.
These claims are pointedly absurd, even if there were genuine concerns about Bridgewater’s ugly Pro Day performance, brought about because he didn’t wear his usual throwing glove. Likening his selection to that of Ponder or T-Jack is categorically false. By drafting him at #32, the Vikings stole a player who several months earlier was the consensus number one overall player.
Better still, they hardly gave up anything to move up and get him – just a fourth rounder, which was offset by the fifth rounder acquired by trading out of the number eight slot, which allowed them to net the UCLA LB Anthony Barr – one of the top pass rushers in the draft who should have Chad Greenway’s job in no time.
Ponder, on the other hand, was a clear and obvious reach to anyone who remotely pays attention to the NFL draft. In the lead up to the 2011 draft, most mock projections and scouting reports had him going in the 2nd round, yet Spielman panicked after a run on quarterbacks began in the early first round and was pressured into taking Ponder well above his value projection.
To this day, I believe that had the Vikings passed on Ponder in that first round, he would have been available for us in the second. The opportunity cost to that move was an ugly three seasons in the wilderness with an unconfident QB and Adrian Peterson in his prime.
Spielman and everyone else in the front office understands that if they swing and miss on another first round quarterback and the team regresses back into the doldrums, they’ll be the next ones looking for new jobs. Surely they’ll give Teddy every opportunity and resource they can to make sure he succeeds. But more importantly, unlike Ponder who came in nervous knowing that he had been drafted far higher than he should have been, Bridgewater has a chip on his shoulder and some teams to prove wrong after almost falling out of the first round entirely.