Vikings drop back, look over their options at quarterback

  • Article by: JUDD ZULGAD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 24, 2011 - 1:14 PM

The combine will give them an up-close look at several prospects, including three talented juniors.

INDIANAPOLIS - The Vikings have taken part in 50 drafts since entering the NFL in 1961, but only twice have they selected a quarterback in the first round. Tommy Kramer was taken 27th overall in 1977 and Daunte Culpepper 11th in 1999.

A third name could be added in April.

Brett Favre has announced he will retire and Tarvaris Jackson isn't expected back. That leaves Joe Webb and Rhett Bomar under contract. The Vikings want to get a longer look at Webb, who started the final two games of the 2010 season after being a sixth-round pick, but they will explore their options.

"The quarterback thing is the biggest question," said Rick Spielman, Vikings vice president of player personnel. "We're looking at all avenues."

Some key determinations figure to be made this week at the NFL scouting combine. The Vikings hold the 12th pick in the first round.

"There's a very good chance of [drafting a quarterback]," coach Leslie Frazier said. "That's the No. 1 position that we're really homing in on, and it's a matter of whether we're going to draft one or whether we try to sign a potential free-agent quarterback. But we're trying to determine that right now."

The Vikings got their first look at the senior quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl last month in Mobile, Ala., but the combine will give them an opportunity to visit with juniors Blaine Gabbert of Missouri, Cam Newton of Auburn and Ryan Mallett of Arkansas. (Gabbert doesn't plan to throw at the combine; Newton and Mallett are expected to throw.)

Newton and Gabbert could be gone if the Vikings stay put at 12. It doesn't help them that as many as eight other teams in the top 12 of the draft could select a quarterback.

"I think what [the Vikings] have to do is they have to grind the top four guys real hard," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. "Gabbert, [Washington's Jake] Locker, Newton and Mallett. They've got to look at those four guys and first make the decision that if at No. 12 [they] believe any of them are worthwhile at that pick."

"I think the second level of discussion is if there's a playmaker there [they want to take in the first round]. For instance, if they say, 'Gabbert is the only one we like' -- and I don't know any of this, I'm just throwing it out there as an example -- 'If we like Gabbert and he's not there at 12, then are we going to take somebody else and come back in the second round. And who are our choices at that point?'"

Mayock said the next level of quarterbacks include TCU's Andy Dalton, Florida State's Christian Ponder, Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Nevada's Colin Kaepernick.

"One of those eight has to be a Minnesota Viking next year," Mayock said.

Even if the Vikings draft a quarterback, the short-term plan might be to bring in a veteran in free agency who can help in the development of Webb and the other newcomer. Because there could be a work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement expires on March 3, it's uncertain when free agency might start.

Teams are allowed only 15-minute interviews with prospects at the combine, meaning more questions will have to be asked as these guys start to hold their pro days. Newton and Mallett, for instance, will be questioned about character issues.

"I know the media and the fans, you take a quarterback high, they want to see him out there whether he's ready or not," Spielman said. "I think that gets down to how ready you think he is. Can he go out there and handle that or not? Or is it something where he needs to be brought along?"

"Sure, it's great if you have the luxury of what Green Bay did and that's outstanding. They won a Super Bowl by having a Favre and bringing in [Aaron] Rodgers. Maybe Rodgers wasn't in Year One what he was when he took over as a starter. I think every team would like to have that luxury to do that, but in today's day and age, I don't know if you have that luxury."

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