Leading into the NFL Draft starting Thursday, April 25th, the Star Tribune will assess the Vikings roster, draft history and college prospects during this eight-part series. 

The Vikings’ commitment to quarterback Kirk Cousins, a three-year, $84 million bet on the team’s readiness to win now, has ripple effects throughout the roster. One of the smaller, but noteworthy, aftershocks may reinforce a Vikings’ approach to the NFL Draft: Rick Spielman just doesn’t use draft capital on developmental quarterbacks.

Minnesota has drafted the fewest quarterbacks (2) among all NFL teams in the past decade outside of Atlanta, where the Falcons have started Matt Ryan the entire time. The Vikings’ two draft picks on passers (Teddy Bridgewater, Christian Ponder) since 2009 are tied with three franchises boasting future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in the Saints, Packers and Chargers. The bets have been seldom, and only big.

Level of need
Last. The Vikings have the NFL’s only front office that has not drafted a quarterback outside the first round in a decade. A massive investment in Cousins may prevent that from changing as the Vikings allocate resources to the rest of the roster. Former Rams quarterback Sean Mannion, expected to sign a one-year deal with the Vikings, adds a third passer to the room after the loss of Trevor Siemian to the Jets in free agency.

Contract years
Kirk Cousins (2020)
Sean Mannion (2019)
Kyle Sloter (2019)

Draft history
Teddy Bridgewater (2014, 32nd overall)
Christian Ponder (2011, 12th overall)
John David Booty (2008, 137th overall)
Tyler Thigpen (2007, 217th overall)
Tarvaris Jackson (2006, 64th overall)

Don’t forget about
Kyle Sloter. The third-year quarterback has put forth two strong preseasons, but has been entrenched in the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. If Mannion is his top competition this summer, Sloter could have a legitimate shot at earning the backup job this time around. He’s excited to be reunited with new Vikings quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak, who coached Sloter in Denver.

Five names to know
Kyle Kempt, Iowa State: The former walk-on quarterback had a prolific run as Iowa State’s starter in 2017 before he struggled and suffered an injured knee during last year’s season opener. The Cyclones beat No. 3 Oklahoma and No. 4 TCU with Kempt under center the previous season. He’s a relative unknown having appeared in just 13 big-time college games.

Brett Rypien, Boise State: What Rypien (6-1, 210) lacks in prototypical size, athleticism and arm strength, he made up for with accuracy and proficiency in college. He threw for 90 touchdowns to 29 interceptions in four seasons. Rypien also reportedly had a solid week during the East-West Shrine Game and practices while playing for the West team coached by Vikings linebackers coach Adam Zimmer.

Easton Stick, North Dakota State: Stick filled big shoes while stepping in for Carson Wentz, and the three-year team captain became the FCS’ all-time leader in win percentage with a 49-3 record in four seasons. Questions about Stick’s arm could drop him into undrafted free agency.

Manny Wilkins, Arizona State: Wilkins was a dual threat as a three-year starter for the Sun Devils, throwing 52 touchdowns and running for 20 touchdowns. He’s shown to have a strong arm, but reportedly projects as unpolished for the NFL.

Taylor Cornelius, Oklahoma State: Another unpolished prospect with natural talents is Cornelius, who was not invited to the combine but should draw interest as an undrafted free agent. He’s listed 6-6 and 232 pounds, making him an interesting project after he threw for 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his lone season at the helm.

How it’ll happen
Our best guess is the Vikings will add another quarterback in undrafted free agency, with the level of player depending on how they approach bidding wars for the best of who’s left after the NFL Draft. They may just settle for a camp arm picked up through a tryout with three quarterbacks already expected to be under contract.

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