Should Griffin fall to Vikings, do they dare take a pass?

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2012 - 12:41 AM

The Baylor QB looks like the real deal, and he very well could be swooped up at No. 2. If not, it'll be decision time.

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Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is an enticing prospect for teams a the top of the NFL draft. The Vikings could face a difficult decision if he falls to No. 3.

Photo: Jon Eilts, Associated Press

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INDIANAPOLIS — Nowadays, Rick Spielman can't stop smiling.

This whole NFL draft experience, with all its requisite research and hypothesizing, seems to fall right in his wheelhouse, the kind of challenge that causes Spielman to fill binders with new philosophies and historical analysis.

The whole, complicated process gives Spielman an effervescence that was on display Thursday at the NFL Combine.

"I love putting puzzles together," he said with a giddy laugh.

Back in January, when Spielman jumped into this new role as Vikings general manager, he welcomed the pressure and longed to be the final voice on high-stakes personnel decisions.

So imagine this scenario: Some time around 7:15 p.m. on April 26, the Vikings go on the clock with Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III still available.

What then? RG3 as a Viking? Is it possible?

At present, the likelihood the Vikings draft Griffin seems miniscule, what with the GM, head coach Leslie Frazier and just about everyone in the organization standing firm in their belief that Christian Ponder is the long-term answer at quarterback.

But how costly might the gamble be if the Vikings passed on a chance to pull Griffin to the Twin Cities and then the charismatic quarterback lived up to all the hype he's currently generating?

Yes, the Vikings have countless other areas of need. And sure, it would be unconventional and quite awkward to undercut Ponder after only 10 starts. But Griffin just might be the type of puzzle piece that brings the playoff picture back into focus.

He's a difference maker who NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says is "the most exciting young player in this year's draft."

"The more tape I put on of this kid, the more fun I have watching him," Mayock said. "I've been pleasantly surprised by his pocket awareness, his eyes [remaining] down the field. And the physical toughness is outstanding. ... Bottom line, he's a playmaker. And that's what this league is all about at that position."

'Everything you're looking for'

So what exactly would have to unfold to give the Vikings incentive to grab Griffin at No. 3?

"I came up with a couple [scenarios] already," Spielman said. "I'm not going to share those. But they're a couple doozers."

Added Frazier: "You've got to do your homework. You've got to make the decision that you think is going to be best for the organization. We are confident Christian is going to be an outstanding quarterback and lead us to victories in Minnesota. But you do have to have a feel for these guys who are coming out and know what their potential is and how they might fit if you choose to go down that road."

In truth, no player in this year's draft has created buzz quite like Griffin. Sure, Stanford's Andrew Luck is a near certainty to be selected No. 1 by Indianapolis, already classified as a Hall of Fame-level talent.

But Griffin? Mayock sees a kid whose exuberance is contagious, whose arm is strong, whose speed is off the charts.

All those strengths Ponder exhibited to win the Vikings over a year ago? Griffin seems to rate as good or better in every category. That includes intelligence, mobility, touch and overall presence.

Spielman himself asserted Thursday that Griffin has "everything you're looking for in a franchise quarterback."

Griffin won't throw Sunday at the combine. But he will continue trying to win teams over with his positive energy. As he met a massive horde of reporters Friday, Griffin exhibited no doubts about his ability to excel in the NFL. He asserted that Baylor's offense was quarterback friendly but not "simple" as some critics have suggested.

He let it be known that he's a pass-first, run-second playmaker.

He even showed off his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle socks, part of a unique style he adopted in high school.

Said Griffin: "It's to show I'm comfortable with who I am. I'm comfortable in my own skin."

So what might the risk be of passing on Griffin? The recent past provides notable examples of bungled quarterback decisions that set franchises back.

Jacksonville, for starters, selected Byron Leftwich with the seventh pick in 2003. But the Jaguars' belief in Leftwich proved costly when they passed on chances to select both Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers in the next two drafts.

Of the other nine teams who let Roethlisberger slip past in '04, Houston and Detroit likely wound up kicking themselves most, having made significant draft investments two years earlier in David Carr and Joey Harrington, respectively.

A similar missed opportunity haunts the Bears, who used a first-round pick on Rex Grossman in 2003 but subsequently passed on their chance to nab Rodgers two years later. (Instead they drafted running back Cedric Benson at No. 4.)

What's at stake?

On the flip side, in 2010 Carolina drafted Jimmy Clausen at No. 48, hopeful he had the talent and moxie to become their long-term leader. But after a rookie season in which Clausen posted a rating of 58.4, new Carolina coach Ron Rivera insisted his first order of business was finding a franchise quarterback.

The Panthers then used their top overall pick last April on Cam Newton, who quickly rewarded that move by accounting for 4,757 yards of offense and 35 touchdowns as a rookie.

In fairness, the talent gap between Clausen and Newton versus those in the Ponder-Griffin quandary seems vast. So it's best not to get too carried away with that parallel.

But it's not impractical to assess what's at stake for Spielman and the Vikings if they fully support Ponder without giving Griffin serious consideration.

"If it turns out Ponder isn't the answer, it's probably going to set the Vikings back five, six, seven years," said draft analyst Scott Wright of DraftCountdown.com.

The St. Louis Rams, it should be noted, remain in the driver's seat with the No. 2 pick, capable of holding a competitive auction for the rights to Griffin long before the Vikings are on the clock.

Beyond that, Spielman will have other highly intriguing options, potentially able to land offensive tackle Matt Kalil, receiver Justin Blackmon or cornerback Morris Claiborne at No. 3. All of those players could help the Vikings immediately.

"But in truth," Wright said, "if you don't have a quarterback, nothing else matters. And to this point, who can say that Ponder has shown nearly enough to make you feel comfortable putting your job on the line to say that he's the franchise quarterback?"

The puzzle table is ready for Spielman. The final say on these franchise-altering decisions are all his.

  • NFL COMBINE 2012 THROUGH TUESDAY

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Minnesota 14 2nd Qtr 3:25
Miami 7
Baltimore 0 2nd Qtr 6:30
Houston 6
Detroit 7 2nd Qtr 4:00
Chicago 0
Cleveland 3 2nd Qtr 2:36
Carolina 3
Atlanta 6 2nd Qtr 6:12
New Orleans 7
Green Bay 10 2nd Qtr 4:55
Tampa Bay 0
Kansas City 6 2nd Qtr 3:50
Pittsburgh 10
New England 7 2nd Qtr 2:33
NY Jets 7
NY Giants 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
New York 2:30 PM
Toronto
Memphis 3:30 PM
Cleveland
Boston 5:00 PM
Miami
Detroit 5:00 PM
Brooklyn
LA Lakers 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Orlando
Phoenix 5:00 PM
Washington
Indiana 6:00 PM
Minnesota
New Orleans 6:00 PM
Oklahoma City
Colorado 5:00 PM
Detroit
Dallas 5:00 PM
Edmonton
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Boston
Carolina 6:00 PM
NY Rangers
Toronto 6:00 PM
Chicago
Philadelphia 8:00 PM
Winnipeg
Harvard 27 FINAL
Virginia 76
Maine 29 2nd Half
Army 29
Ferris State 37 2nd Half
Bowling Green 36
San Francisco 32 2nd Half 18:57
Cleveland State 28
Oregon State 33 2nd Half 14:13
Quinnipiac 37
Coastal Carolina 19 1st Half 2:23
Central Arkansas 25
Holy Cross 2 1st Half 18:40
Canisius 0
Southern Miss 0 1st Half 18:54
Georgia State 2
Western Carolina 0 1st Half 19:38
UNC-Asheville 0
Creighton 3 1st Half 16:37
North Texas 6
Maryland 0 1st Half 20:00
Oklahoma State 0
Cornell 0 1st Half 18:43
Radford 2
Vermont 1 1st Half 18:00
Saint Louis 4
Loyola-Maryland 3 1st Half 18:10
Stony Brook 0
Reinhardt 1:00 PM
Winthrop
Ark-Little Rock 4 1st Half 16:33
Green Bay 8
TX-Pan American 6 1st Half 17:00
Nebraska Omaha 9
Alabama State 0 1st Half 20:00
Evansville 0
FIU 1:30 PM
Hartford
Goshen 1:35 PM
Valparaiso
Bryant 2:00 PM
Denver
Austin Peay 2:00 PM
Lipscomb
Tennessee St 2:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
South Dakota 2:00 PM
Montana
ULM 2:00 PM
Samford
Coker 2:30 PM
South Carolina
USC 3:00 PM
Boston College
Northern Ariz 3:00 PM
Hampton
SD Christian 3:00 PM
San Diego
UC Irvine 3:30 PM
Bradley
Troy 3:30 PM
Nicholls
Seton Hall 5:00 PM
Georgia
Appalachian St 5:30 PM
Alabama
North Dakota St 6:00 PM
Kent State
San Jose St 6:00 PM
Washington St
Alcorn State 8:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Sacramento St 9:00 PM
Seattle
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 24 FINAL
Air Force 38
South Alabama 28 FINAL
Bowling Green 33
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
UCF
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Cal-Irvine 55 FINAL
Denver 63
St Marys-CA 52 FINAL
George Washington 70
TX-San Antonio 49 FINAL
Nicholls 57
Portland State 71 FINAL
Columbia 66
Tenn Tech 62 FINAL
Morgan State 56
SMU 43 FINAL
Auburn 56
Quinnipiac 70 FINAL
Hartford 58
Hofstra 75 FINAL
Boston College 61
Eastern Washington 55 FINAL
Georgia Southern 42
Liberty 24 2nd Half 16:03
(1) South Carolina 51
Fairleigh Dickinson 45 2nd Half 13:19
Brown 44
Buffalo 39 2nd Half 17:57
Long Island 33
Bucknell 41 2nd Half 14:54
Mount St Marys 30
Stony Brook 40 2nd Half 17:37
Wagner 35
FIU 45 2nd Half 16:00
Wofford 33
Duquesne 21 2nd Half
Providence 25
Maine 33 2nd Half 13:27
William & Mary 33
Alabama State 20 2nd Half 17:55
Samford 31
TX-Pan American 28 2nd Half 17:47
VA Commonwealth 38
South Dakota St 44 2nd Half 15:46
Marist 47
Saint Josephs 31 2nd Half 12:45
(5) Notre Dame 51
Radford 29 2nd Half 17:55
Virginia Tech 32
(3) Texas 22 1st Half 4:20
(4) Texas A&M 28
Rhode Island 23 1st Half 2:43
Bryant 18
NC A&T 1:00 PM
Chattanooga
Fairfield 1:00 PM
Iowa State
Richmond 1:00 PM
Eastern Kentucky
Kent State 1:00 PM
Colgate
Saint Peters 1:00 PM
Navy
NJIT 1:00 PM
Lafayette
Davidson 1:00 PM
Charlotte
South Florida 4 1st Half 18:06
Penn State 2
Sam Houston St 4 1st Half 16:39
TCU 4
Evansville 0 1st Half 18:33
IUPUI 4
(14) Maryland 9 1st Half 16:54
Coppin State 5
Mercer 6 1st Half 18:06
Coll of Charleston 0
Princeton 0 1st Half 20:00
Monmouth 0
Eastern Illinois 4 1st Half 17:49
Lehigh 2
Rider 2 1st Half 17:14
Binghamton 4
SC State 0 1st Half 19:33
Clemson 0
Cleveland State 12 1st Half 14:35
Morehead St 9
South Alabama 5 1st Half 14:59
UAB 13
Youngstown St 9 1st Half 14:45
Pittsburgh 12
Indiana State 1:30 PM
St Johns
Southern U 1:30 PM
Florida
Wright State 1:30 PM
Purdue
(19) Oklahoma St 2:00 PM
USC
Houston 2:00 PM
Texas Tech
Ark-Little Rock 2:00 PM
Tulsa
Dayton 2:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Northern Ariz 2:00 PM
New Mexico
UNC-Asheville 2:00 PM
USC Upstate
North Dakota 2:00 PM
South Dakota
Western Ill 2:00 PM
Marquette
Elon 2:00 PM
(6) North Carolina
Ball State 2:00 PM
Western Ky
(8) Kentucky 2:00 PM
(13) Duke
New Orleans 2:00 PM
Alabama
Chicago State 2:00 PM
Milwaukee
Bowling Green 2:00 PM
Bradley
Ill-Springfield 2:00 PM
SE Missouri St
Northern Ill 2:00 PM
Northern Iowa
(23) Iowa 2:05 PM
Drake
Central Michigan 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Western Carolina 2:30 PM
North Florida
Wyoming 3:00 PM
Colorado
Portland 3:00 PM
Boise State
Cal Poly 3:00 PM
Colorado State
No Dakota State 3:00 PM
Grand Canyon
Albany 3:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Oklahoma 3:00 PM
Arkansas
Idaho State 3:00 PM
Seattle
(18) Michigan State 3:00 PM
(19) Syracuse
Northwestern 3:30 PM
Arizona State
TX-Arlington 3:30 PM
North Texas
Fresno State 4:00 PM
Oregon
St Francis-PA 4:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
UNLV 4:00 PM
CS-Bakersfield
UCLA 4:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
(10) Louisville 4:00 PM
(24) California
Howard 5:00 PM
Virginia
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
(21) Miss State
Illinois-Chicago 8:30 PM
Old Dominion
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2014 preseason     
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