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Will Vikings pick a QB in first three rounds of the draft? Should they?

It’s now April 1, and this is no joke: After a horrendous month of March, we can at least start to try to think about warmer weather, better times ahead and actual things on the sports calendar.

Chief among them: The NFL Draft, which is going on as scheduled April 23-25 — albeit in a different form, with prospects and their families not in attendance and everything being handled virtually. (You can still boo Roger Goodell from a safe distance, however).

On the most recent Access Vikings podcast, we talked about the Vikings’ draft strategy — and whether they might pick a quarterback with a meaningful selection. Let’s say that means sometime in the first three rounds, when Minnesota has five choices — two firsts (including one from Buffalo in the Stefon Diggs trade), a second and two thirds (including a compensatory pick).

Here are three reasons it makes sense that they would pick a QB with one of those five picks — and three reasons it doesn’t make sense.

DRAFT A QUARTERBACK? YES!

1 Kirk Cousins’ contract: You’ll actually see this category show up in both sections. Here’s why it appears on the “yes” side: His extension, agreed to a couple weeks ago, only added two years to his deal for three years total. And it does not, as our Ben Goessling noted on the podcast, include a no-trade clause (which was part of his original deal). Even if Cousins remains the starter here all three years, that’s a short enough period of time to consider either a succession plan or a backup plan as early as this draft.

2 Speaking of which, the Vikings clearly want a better backup quarterback in 2020. A month ago at the Scouting Combine, head coach Mike Zimmer said this about the No. 2 spot: “We want to be able to have somebody who, if he has to go in for three games, can win those three games. It’s not to be another coach for Kirk, OK? It’s for somebody who can help you with that, but at the end of the day he’s got to be able to play, too.”

That didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of 2019 backup Sean Mannion. The Vikings did bring back Mannion on a veteran minimum deal for 2020, but they could easily cut him with little penalty if they found someone they liked more in the draft and that player beat out Mannion for the backup spot. And that player — let’s say he was taken with the No. 89 pick in the third round — would be on a rookie scale deal making about as Mannion with far more upside.

3 A drafted QB almost certainly would be, at best, a backup in 2020 and probably 2021. If that’s as good as he was, it would still be worth it. But what if he developed into a truly special player — a Russell Wilson type (also a third-round pick)? Taking a shot with a reasonably high pick is the Vikings’ most viable path to hit a home run, even if Cousins is an above-average option right now who led the Vikings to a playoff win last season.

DRAFT A QB? NO WAY!

1 Cousins’ health and contract push quarterback pretty low on the priority list. If the Vikings were going into the draft without having extended Cousins, this would be a much different conversation. But his high-dollar deal over the next three years — combined with the fact that he has been healthy for every start over the last five years — could mean that finding another QB (even as a backup) isn’t urgent in the draft a few weeks from now. Honestly, the time to do it was the 2019 draft — so they could have a year to evaluate before having to decide on a Cousins extension.

2 Perhaps the biggest reason to think the Vikings won’t take a QB in the first three rounds is that it’s simply not in their DNA to pick one unless they absolutely need one (Teddy Bridgewater in 2014, Christian Ponder in 2011, Tarvaris Jackson in 2006). We can argue the merits of this approach, but history is history.

3 They have a lot of other roster holes to fill. The Vikings need offensive linemen, defensive linemen, defensive backs and a skilled wide receiver — among other things — after having a lot of roster turnover in free agency (much of it necessitated by salary cap issues and a desire to get younger). With so many positions of need, drafting a QB could be seen logically as a luxury.

Maybe what ends up happening is some sort of compromise — drafting a QB, but maybe a little later like the fourth or fifth round. We’ll have plenty of time to mull it over and look for clues in the next few weeks.

Carr testing NBA draft? It makes some sense if you consider ...

Gophers men’s basketball followers were prepared for one early NBA departure — dominant big man Daniel Oturu — but two? Guard Marcus Carr?

That wasn’t really on the radar for most of us until Monday night when Carr posted on Instagram that he is declaring for the June NBA draft.

Though Carr said he is not hiring an agent, thus making him eligible to return — and our Marcus Fuller reports per sources that Richard Pitino has been told Carr wants to return to the Gophers next season even though he is gathering information about his pro career — the end of his Instagram post was the one that really caught my eye: “No matter what happens, my time here at the University of Minnesota has provided me with an unbelievable opportunity and it will forever hold a special place in my heart.”

Those seem to be the words of someone who is giving at least some serious weight to leaving.

While some of the key numbers in the decision are 15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists — all of Carr’s averages with the Gophers last year, in his first year after transferring from Pitt — some more important numbers are probably these: 21 and 3.

The 21 represents Carr’s age when the NBA Draft is slated to be held in late June. And the three is the number of years he’s been in school — one at Pitt, one sitting out after transferring and one with the Gophers. Though he’s relatively young for having been in college three years already (he doesn’t turn 21 until early June), a quick look at the top of the NBA prospect list shows that Carr is already “old” for a first-round pick.

Only two players in this first round mock draft are older than Carr, and only two have been in college for three years. The rest are freshmen, sophomores or international players. Carr doesn’t figure to get drafted even if he does leave, but even getting a jump on his pro career overseas or in the G-League could have appeal.

Carr is in a similar position in some ways to Amir Coffey a season ago. Coffey left the Gophers after his junior year despite not having much draft buzz and ended up getting a two-way contract with the NBA’s Clippers after going undrafted.

Those situations aren’t perfect matches. Coffey was comparatively a full year older than Carr at the time of his decision, and Coffey was also comparatively more accomplished. But just as Coffey might have looked at his situation and decided he couldn’t help himself any more by staying in school, Carr might be doing the same.

The other factor that could weigh in Carr’s decision is the relative uncertainty of all sports right now because of the coronavirus pandemic. What will the college or NBA seasons look like next year? Will they go on as planned? Will they be interrupted or otherwise impacted? Will they be wiped out altogether?

We can hope it’s the first answer, but at this point we don’t really know. And maybe that uncertainty is pushing Carr to at least want to get on the radar of professional teams now — instead of a year from now, after a year of uncertainty.

In any event just like Coffey’s decision, Carr’s announcement Monday makes more sense when you take everything into account. He could very well return, which would obviously be a boon to the Gophers’ hopes next season. But there are also viable reasons he won’t return.

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