Randball: Michael Rand

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer was full of candor when he talked Thursday about his team’s quarterback conundrum at the NFL scouting combine. There were nuggets to dissect from all angles, but one of the most basic — yet revealing — quotes from Zimmer came when he was assessing Case Keenum’s breakout performance in 2017.

“Is it because he had a good team around him?” Zimmer wondered.

It’s a good question — one that pertains to more than just Keenum and one that must be factored into how the Vikings proceed in their decision to pick a quarterback.

It’s likely part of the reason the Vikings and Zimmer were hesitant to fully commit to Keenum even in the midst of his strong season. It started with Sam Bradford playing like an All-Pro against the Saints before being injured, and continued with whispers that Teddy Bridgewater could take over once he was healthy.

Now all three of those QBs are under consideration to be the starter for the Vikings in 2018. So too, it would appear, is free agent Kirk Cousins.

Any of those quarterbacks would inherit a different system from 2017 under new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. But they would also inherit a pair of wide receivers in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs who have emerged as one of the best duos in the NFL, as well as tight end Kyle Rudolph and a soon-to-be-healthy Dalvin Cook.

Those guys will help any QB. But the right QB will help the offense even more. Determining just how much help the Vikings need could be the key to figuring out how they will proceed.

Michael Rand is the senior digital writer for Star Tribune sports and keeper of the RandBall blog at startribune.com/RandBall.


There’s one ranking from the NFL regular season that’s still hard for me to figure out.

According to the website Football Outsiders, which compiles all sorts of advanced metrics for NFL teams, Case Keenum was the No. 1 quarterback in the NFL in 2017.

Not Tom Brady, not Drew Brees and not Kirk Cousins — Case Keenum.

Keenum ranked No. 1 in the NFL in the statistics knows as DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at 28.2 percent.

The statistic attempts to assign a value to a given player over or below the average player. Football Outsiders is unique in that it assigns every play a value based on how many yards were gained, what the down and distance and adjusts for strength of opponent. Not every yard is created equal. For instance, 5 yards to get a first down on third-and-4 against the Jaguars, one of the top defenses, is more valuable than 5 yards on third-and-20 against the Browns that leads to a punt.

– the receivers do too.

Their ability to get yards after the catch helps a quarterback’s rating. Keenum’s ranking reflects that the Vikings had a great passing game thanks to targets Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph. You could argue a lot of quarterbacks could be successful with the same group of receivers. But if Keenum and his teammates are already No. 1, why break the bank for Cousins?


Chris Hine is the lead writer for North Score, the Star Tribune’s new sports analytics beat. Find his stories at startribune.com/northscore.