The Vikings in 2014 and the Timberwolves in 2015 had franchise-defining decisions to make in their respective drafts.
The Vikings, having concluded that three years of the Christian Ponder era were enough, went into the draft looking for their next franchise quarterback. The Timberwolves, for the first time in their history, had won the right to draft No. 1 overall and had their pick of anyone they wanted.
The Vikings and GM Rick Spielman did their usual wheeling and dealing in the first round, but early on they had their pick between two quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel. By the end of the first round, Manziel was gone. They were happy to grab Bridgewater.
The Wolves' decision essentially boiled down to Karl-Anthony Towns vs. Jahlil Okafor. Both have been productive rookies. But Okafor has already had multiple off-court incidents. Towns has exuded a maturity beyond his years in the wake of Flip Saunders' death and appears to know how to stay out of trouble — in addition to looking like a star in the making on the court.
The catch-all term "distraction" gets not only overused in sports but also tends to marginalize or trivialize important things. Manziel hasn't been a distraction; he's been battling personal problems. Okafor getting involved in a fight outside a nightclub isn't a distraction, but it is a dumb mistake by a young player.
That said, those personal incidents have spilled over into their professional lives in a way that has not happened at all with Bridgewater and Towns.
Of particular interest this weekend: While Okafor serves the second game of a two-game team suspension Saturday against Denver, Towns will almost certainly suit up for the improving Wolves when they play Portland.
And on Sunday, while Austin Davis takes over as starting quarterback for the Browns instead of Manziel in the wake of Josh McCown's injury and Manziel's partying, Bridgewater will almost certainly be under center for the Vikings in a critical game against Seattle.
The Wolves have had more than their share of high draft picks that didn't pan out for all reasons imaginable. The Vikings have been searching for stability at quarterback since Daunte Culpepper wrecked his knee a decade ago, a span interrupted only by one great year (and one dismal year) from Brett Favre.
That's not to say Okafor or Manziel are bad people or that the scales won't ultimately tip in the other direction. But as of now, the Wolves and Vikings are looking shrewd in both decisions — and both could be looking really bad had they gone the other direction.