Note: Until the 2017 NFL draft starts April 27, we’ll take a look at where things stand at each Vikings position group. We’ll combine some in order to address as many as possible. Check for a new post each weekday.
For the Vikings, no position has experienced more upheaval since the time we did these positional draft previews than quarterback.
This time a year ago, Teddy Bridgewater was heading into his third season after a steady start to his career. The 2014 first-round pick would go on to have a strong training camp and preseason before a fluke non-contact injury in an August practice ended his season, jeopardized his career and put the quarterback position back in flux for the Vikings.
A few days after Bridgewater was lost, the Vikings made a bold move to acquire Sam Bradford from the Eagles, giving up their first-round pick to get him. Given the team’s Super aspirations, it was an understandable move. And even though the Vikings came up well short of winning it all, their 8-8 record was not the fault of Bradford, who played pretty well behind one of the league’s leakiest offensive lines.
Days after the season, during which Bradford set the NFL’s single-season record for completion percentage, Mike Zimmer declared that Bradford would be the starter in 2017. The head coach also said he wanted Bridgewater to worry only about getting healthy. Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman continue to publicly say there’s no timetable for his return.
While Bradford is under contract for 2017, there are major questions the Vikings must answer in the coming weeks. Will they pick up Bridgewater’s fifth-year option by early next month? Should Bradford get an extension? And do they need to consider drafting a young QB this weekend?
And to think, this position seemed stabilized less than a year ago, when Bridgewater looked to be on the verge of a breakout third season.
Projected starter: Bradford, barring a Bridgewater miracle.
Don’t forget about: Taylor Heinicke. Last summer, the Vikings were eager to see if Heinicke could overtake veteran Shaun Hill to become Teddy’s top backup. But then Heinicke kicked through a glass door and missed all of camp and the preseason with an injury, costing him valuable reps. He will need a strong spring and summer to beat out free-agent addition Case Keenum and maybe a 2017 draft pick to be QB2 this season.
Level of need: Low in the short term. Beyond this season? [shrugs]
Five prospects to remember: C.J. Beathard, Iowa; Josh Dobbs, Tennessee; Jerod Evans, VT; Brad Kaaya, Miami; Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech.
Our best guess: Despite all the uncertainty at the position, the Vikings should be in good shape this season with Bradford, assuming he can stay healthy. Keenum is a capable backup and Heinicke intrigues. And they might add another developmental passer to this group in the later rounds if there is one they feel has promise. But the future of this position hinges on Bridgewater’s health. If he is unable to ever return, the Vikings in the 2018 draft might have to use an early pick on a quarterback again.