The Donovan McNabb to the Vikings speculation has been swirling in recent weeks despite the fact that team officials are prohibited from conducting trade talks with Washington as long as the NFL lockout is ongoing. There also is the fact that new coach Leslie Frazier has made it clear he would like to end the five-year trend of Winter Park becoming a home for aging quarterbacks.
With this mind we asked NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, who also is the television analyst for Vikings preseason games, whether he thought the team should draft a quarterback at No. 12 or go with a guy like McNabb.
"The problem this year is there’s not one quarterback I can pound the table for and tell you he’s Sam Bradford or Matt Ryan," Mayock said. "If you’re familiar with my work, every year there has been a guy where I’ve pounded the table. This year there are four guys with what I call first-round talent, none of whom I would pound the table for. The two that I think are the cleanest, [Blaine] Gabbert and [Cam] Newton, are going to be off the board. So Minnesota sits in an awkward place at 12.
"You think you want to talk yourself into Jake Locker. Great kid. He’s got all the intangibles, he’s a heck of an athlete, he’s got the work ethic and toughness. The accuracy is an issue, and I think that’s what they are trying to decide in that building right now. That’s what I’ve been trying to decide. Can we give this kid enough reps to get him more accurate, to get him more comfortable in the pocket? [Mayock did say he could see Locker going to Washington at No. 10 or the Vikings at No. 12.]
"The problem is if the answer to that is no and you’re not going to take Ryan Mallett because of off-the-field considerations, then you are going to reach for a guy that you’re going to have to develop at some point. Can you come back in the second round and get a guy? Get an [Andy] Dalton or get a [Ricky] Stanzi or get a [Christian] Ponder? In all honesty, they have great intangibles but they don’t have the same physical characteristics as the other guys.
"So this is a tough, tough year, and because free agency is coming after the draft I think there’s panic amongst the teams that need quarterbacks. And ultimately, would it make sense for the Vikings to have a Kevin Kolb or a [Marc] Bulger or [Donovan] McNabb or [Carlson] Palmer, if he was available? Maybe. Because I think the worst thing you can do is reach for a quarterback and miss."
Let me jump in here and say a few things about this. I agree with Mayock that the worst thing you can do with a quarterback is reach and miss, and clearly that's what happened when the Vikings went way off track and took Tarvaris Jackson in the second round in 2006. But there is another side to this discussion.
Mayock brings up Bradford and Ryan as guys he would pound the table for. That's great, but remember that Bradford went first overall to St. Louis in 2010 and Ryan was the No. 3 overall pick by Atlanta in 2008. It took a 4-12 finish by the Falcons in 2007 for them to get in a place to pick Ryan and a 1-15 season from the Rams in 2009 in order for them to get Bradford.
I realize that many don't expect the Vikings to be world beaters next season but do you really see a 4-12 or 1-15 finish in 2011? Because that’s what it will take to get Stanford's Andrew Luck, who if he has another standout season will be a guy that is seen as a can't-miss quarterback.
The fact is if the Vikings want to end the string of veteran quarterback coming through Winter Park at some point they are going to have to trust they can find a quarterback whom new offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave and quarterbacks coach Craig Johnson can help to develop. And doing that means taking a certain amount of risk.
The Vikings have the perfect opportunity to do that this year because Frazier has made it clear some of Musgrave's offense will be designed directly around the new quarterback's strengths. So, yes, a quarterback who was drafted would be hurt by the lockout but ultimately he would be well served by being on the ground floor of what Musgrave is developing. [Honestly, all this talk about the lockout and how the planning should revolve around it is very short-sighted for a Vikings organization that needs to be thinking about the next five years.]
If the Vikings feel they can take a young quarterback and develop him and also sign McNabb as a stopgap who would help in the rookie's development that might be another story. But there is nothing to suggest the 34-year-old McNabb would be happy in a role that would see him go from mentor to gone in short order.