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 therefore had their pick of anyone they wanted.
The Vikings and GM Rick Spielman did their usual wheeling and dealing in the first round, but at a point they had their pick between two quarterbacks: Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel. With the No. 9 pick, they opted to go with neither — choosing linebacker Anthony Barr. If they had wanted it badly enough, one imagines they could have jumped back into a spot where Manziel was available; instead, they waited for Cleveland to take him at No. 22 and then jumped back in to get Bridgewater at No. 32, the last pick of the first round.
That marked the end of an unprecedented run of seven No. 1 picks in a three-year span for the Vikings. Those picks: Matt Kalil, Harrison Smith, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, Cordarrelle Patterson, Barr and Bridgewater. Kalil’s tenure has been up and down, though he’s been better this year. Patterson looks like a bust at this point. The other five are cornerstone players on reasonable contracts with fifth-year team options because they are first-rounders.
More specifically, Bridgewater has been a steadying influence at quarterback. He’s not spectacular, but there is this: there’s no way the Vikings would be 8-3 right now had they taken Manziel (who isn’t even starting over Austin Davis in Cleveland) and had to deal with his off-field baggage. As we sit right now — which is always subject to change — the Vikings look exceedingly smart for going with Teddy.
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, the latest of which earned him a two-game suspension. Towns, on the other hand, exuded a maturity beyond his years in the wake of Flip Saunders’ death and appears to know how to stay out of trouble.
Again, that’s not to say Okafor is a bad person or that the scales won’t ultimately tip in the other direction. But as of now, the Wolves — like the Vikings — are looking quite shrewd for their decision.