You'll recall the end of the 2011 NFL season, when plenty of Vikings fans wanted their team to tank for draft position. Instead, Minnesota won a late game against Washington, taking the organization out of the Andrew Luck/Robert Griffin III sweepstakes.
The Vikings ended up doing just fine, swiping picks from Cleveland that enabled them to take Matt Kalil and Harrison Smith in the first round. The Vikings, Colts and Redskins, in fact, all would eventually make the playoffs in 2012 after major upgrades through the draft.
Still, before 2012 started, there was a notion that it wouldn't be a real shame if the Vikings didn't take much of a step forward. Why, another awful year -- maybe the worst in the NFL? -- would give them the No. 1 overall pick and a shot at USC QB Matt Barkley.
Fast-forward to today, two days before the 2013 draft. The Vikings hold the 23rd and 25th picks. Barkley had a good but not great year at USC, and his draft stock has plummeted as a result. Most see him now as a late-first/early-second rounder.
If you are the Vikings, is it completely crazy to think about taking Barkley -- either straight-up with one of those picks, as part of a trade-back later in the first or early in the second, or if he slid all the way to No. 52 where they pick in the second round?
OK, maybe it's almost completely crazy. But hear us out: This is Christian Ponder's make-or-break year. Matt Cassel is in as a capable backup who can also start. If Ponder falters enough to the point that the Vikings no longer see him as the QB of the future, Cassel can take over short-term. Long-term, though, the Vikings would be back to square one in their search for a QB. Draft Barkley and you are a year into the project already when 2014 rolls around with an accurate young QB who was once considered the top draft talent in all of football. Reuniting him with left tackle Matt Kalil, his protector during that excellent 2011 season, could be a major boost.
Or, if Ponder is lights out this year and the Vikings look like they have their guy for the long haul, let Barkley develop and then trade him to a QB-starved team for reasonable value.
Will this happen? We would guess there is a 99.9 percent chance it doesn't happen. We aren't even advocating for it. The Vikings still have a lot of roster holes to fill, and high draft picks are too important to play around with (see: bonus pick Dimitrius Underwood).
That said, it would sure liven things up and make a certain amount of football sense. Manti Te'o and Matt Barkley in the first round? Just think about it, at least, as Thursday night approaches.