Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.


Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.


Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for mlb.com before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.


Zobel: Vikings will target Ponder or Locker

Posted by: under Off the field, Quarterbacks, Vikings, NFL draft, Pat Williams, Ray Edwards Updated: March 30, 2011 - 12:59 PM
Shawn Zobel might be busy working toward a degree in Leadership and Management at the University of St. Thomas, but that didn't stop him from recently completing his fifth NFL draft preview.
 
The 244-page book from Zobel's Draft Headquarters includes profiles on 251 players and more than 200,000 words of content. Zobel took time Wednesday to answer some Vikings draft-related questions via e-mail. (For information on how to get the book, click here.)
 
Q. Who are you projecting the Vikings will take at No. 12, knowing it's subject to change?
 
A. As of right now, USC offensive tackle Tyron Smith is the most likely player that I believe that Vikings will take. Smith has a tremendous combination of size, strength, and athleticism and would be a great player for the Vikings to build around on the offensive line for the future.
 
Q. Obviously, the Vikings would like to get a quarterback in the first two rounds. Do you think that's realistic and is your feeling that they might trade up or down in the first round to do it?
 
A. I think that it is realistic. If I'm Minnesota, I take the best player available at No. 12 overall, then look to trade up from the second round to acquire a quarterback. I personally feel that Christian Ponder and Jake Locker are the two players that they'll want to target. Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick are two other options. However, I'm not as high on them as others are.
 
Q. In your opinion, how much does the lack of a third-round pick hurt the Vikings?
 
A. It hurts them because they now lack the ammunition to trade up for a player like Blaine Gabbert. To make such a deal, you’d be giving up half of your draft this year and the beginning of your draft next year. With 56 underclassmen, they could have really used that pick.
 
Q. What is your assessment of this quarterback class?
 
A. It’s all about potential with this class. There are no sure-things and no consensus No. 1 overall type of quarterbacks this year. Every quarterback needs development this year, more than you usually see. However, the talent and potential that each of them brings is significant, which is why players like Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton are rated so highly.
 
Q. Do you feel Blaine Gabbert and Cam Newton should go as early as some project?
 
A. I do believe they should, but only under the assumption that they won’t be thrown into the fire right away. Both of these players have quite a bit of polishing and refining needed in their respective games, which is why, ideally, you’d like to see each of them spend a year developing on the bench before giving them the opportunity to start.
 
Q. If Gabbert and Newton are 1-2 when it comes to quarterback, who do you have in your next level?
 
A. I have them rated as follows: 1. Blaine Gabbert, 2. Cam Newton, 3. Ryan Mallett, 4. Christian Ponder, 5. Jake Locker. Mallett’s skillset is extremely intriguing. However, the team that drafts him must know ahead of time that it may need to keep an eye on him away from the field and help develop him mentally both on and off the field. Ponder is a polished prospect with the poise and moxie that I really like to see. He needs development like the rest of the crop, but not quite as much as the others. His biggest question mark is durability. Locker’s career record of 14-25 as a starter, as well as the 55 percent completion percentage, are red flags in my opinion. He has tremendous physical skills that could be developed into a Pro Bowl-esque quarterback. However, that development will likely take longer than most think.
 
Q. There has been plenty of talk about Locker to the Vikings. Can you elaborate on your scouting report on him?
 
A. Like I mentioned, I believe that his skillset and tools that he has to work with are fantastic. However, his accuracy has regressed the last two years. I was not impressed with him at the Senior Bowl and he was only moderately improved at the Combine. He’s at least a two-year project. For a team like the Vikings, who could look at a veteran along the lines of Matt Hasselbeck to fill in for a couple of years before handing the starting job to Locker, they have a good situation where it could work. My scouting report of Locker in my Draft Preview is 2,000 words.
 
Q. The Vikings have plenty of needs. What do you have listed as their top three?
 
  • Defensive line: They need to rebuild here. Losing Pat Williams and Ray Edwards could really be a major blow to their defense.
  • Quarterback/offensive line: They must find a franchise quarterback in the next two years, whether it’s Gabbert, Locker, or Ponder this year, or Andrew Luck/Matt Barkley next year. They need to solidify the offensive line that will protect that quarterback as well.
  • Secondary: Cornerback has a cluster of players that can contribute, but is there a quality starter there? The safety position is in need of a major upgrade as well.

 

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