With the Jacksonville Jaguars rolling into town to take on the Vikings at Mall of America Field on Sunday, it got me to thinking: would the Vikings be better off with Christian Ponder and Matt Kalil or Blaine Gabbert and Justin Blackmon?
So I decided to submit the question to the VikesCentric audience.
Which is it? The Vikings second-year quarterback and rookie left tackle or the Jaguars second-year quarterback and rookie wide receiver?
Are the Vikings better off with Ponder and Kalil in their huddle?
Clearly we don't know how good any of these guys are going to be since all four are just starting their careers. But pretend you're Vikings general manager Rick Spielman
and do some projecting… which tandem would you rather have? We know what Spielman's answer would be because he's been the one in charge of the Vikings draft the last two seasons. What's your verdict?
The Jaguars selected Gabbert with the 10th overall pick in last year's draft, two spots ahead of where the Vikings selected Ponder. The Vikings selected Kalil fourth overall in this year's draft, one spot ahead of the Jaguars' selection of Blackmon. For the sake of this exercise forget that the Vikings would have needed to trade up three spots last year to make a Gabbert/Blackmon duo a possibility. Just wipe the slate clean and choose one of the two tandems.
The four players were drafted in such close proximity to each other I thought it might make for an interesting debate.
The answer isn't clear-cut in my mind.
Neither Gabbert nor Ponder overwhelmed last year. Gabbert played 15 games, completed 51 percent of his passes for 2,214 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 65.4. Ponder appeared in 11 games, completing 54 percent of his passes for 1,853 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 70.1. Gabbert (6-4, 235) is slightly bigger than Ponder (6-2, 229) and has a stronger arm. Ponder, 24, is a little older than Gabbert (23 in October) and considerably more mobile.
Gabbert was projected by many to have the higher ceiling coming out of college, but he didn't show enough last year to convince me he'll be considerably better than Ponder.
The Kalil and Blackmon comparison is harder to make because they play different positions, so for some of you it may just come down to a matter of philosophy. Do you want a big left tackle with Pro Bowl potential who could anchor your line for the next decade or so? Or would you prefer a big-play wide receiver who many projected as the best at his position in this year's draft class?
Most would agree wide receiver remains a position of need for the Vikings, but at the same time the Vikings don't have a wealth of depth on the offensive line and would have no answer at left tackle sans Kalil.
My verdict: I consider the two quarterbacks in question a push at this point and don't foresee a sizeable gap in their eventual NFL production. There are probably a lot of scouts who would scoff at that and would still lean heavily in favor of Gabbert. With the NFL being such a quarterback-driven league, that may be enough for many to choose the Gabbert/Blackmon tandem.
That said, I do think Kalil will be the best player of the four. He'll be a Pro Bowl player within two or three years. That's a heck of a nice asset to have.
Meanwhile, no scout will tell you that Blackmon has the look of an elite wide receiver. He's not the next Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald or Julio Jones, folks. Is he going to be pretty good? Yeah, I bet he will. He may even do some damage against the Vikings' spotty secondary on Sunday.
In the long run, however, Kalil looks like more of a sure thing. Thus, I'll give the slight edge to the two guys the Vikings currently have on roster over the two who will be opposing them on Kickoff Weekend.
Now it's your turn. Which pair would you rather see in purple and gold, Vikings fans?