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Wednesday
Oct 22nd

Moments in Sports: Vikings display their usual gift of draft

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teddy bridgewater poses for fan dayShould recent Vikings first round draft pick Teddy Bridgewater turn in a Hall of Fame career over the next decade or so, then like Michael Jackson, his glove will go down in history with him.

It was the lack of a throwing glove that Bridgewater blamed for a poor showing in the NFL scouting combine in February. It was also that poor showing that mostly changed his prospects from a potential No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, to being the overall 32nd pick by the Vikings. We all have bad days at "the office," but Bridgewaters' bad day at the combine possibly cost him several million dollars ... though I'm sure he'll make do with the checks Vikings owner Zygi Wilf cuts for him.

Vikings fans may have found fortune through Bridgewaters' bad day. The NFL quarterback position can turn "can't miss" prospects into UPS delivery men. Bridgewater began the 2013 college season as a "can't miss" "Top 5" pick. Curiously he had a stellar 2013-2014 junior season at the University of Louisville, throwing for 4,048yards and 31touchdowns. Perhaps the ho-hum nature of his great performances, made Bridgewater less dazzling in comparison to his extravagant peer Johnny Manziel, who was drafted ten slots before him (22nd) by the Cleveland Browns. Bridgewater stands poised in the pocket, and delivers very clean passes. He certainly has the throwing gifts and general size to succeed. He's got "the look." But everyone looks good in the royal color purple, and, as they say, it's all good until somebody gets hit in the mouth.

There are people who smile a lot, and there are football players who flash a sinister smile of appreciation after getting their block knocked off (former Vikings QB Brett Favre comes to mind). NFL defenders can quickly take the smile away from a 21-year-old lad. If Bridgewater can maintain his poise at the professional level – and the offensive line blocks for him – then one might say that the sky is the limit for his future in the league.

Super Bowls are won by teams, but Bridgewater projects the ability to be an efficient, perhaps quietly dynamic, young general of the offense.

Fortunate for Bridgewater, the Vikings executives have managed to assemble a very sane situation at the quarterback position. Veteran starter Matt Cassell returns along with former first round pick Christian Ponder, providing the rookie with a safe circumstance to compete and learn. Former Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, as well as Ponder, should have been afforded the same competitive comfort (Jackson just won a Super Bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks, continuing the legacy of leave Minnesota, win a championship ring – no matter the sport).

Since Rick Spielman assumed the position of Vikings General Manager in 2012, the direction of the team, from a management perspective, has been mostly sensible. Regardless of management inefficiencies, over the last couple of decades, the Vikings franchise maintains a stellar record of drafting valuable players. If most of the players drafted end up starting, or playing several years, then good job; if there are a couple Rookie of the Year awardees sprinkled in (Adrian Peterson 2007, Percy Harvin 2009), then great job. Last year wide receiver Cordarelle Patterson was a finalist for NFL Rookie of the Year.

Before Bridgewater, the Vikings first pick (No. 7 overall) was UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr. Barr's speed, athleticism and nose for the quarterback sack, paired alongside a youthful, but tenured Chad Greenway, makes for a gifted sideline-to-sideline defensive nucleus. With potential Hall of Fame defender Jared Allen moving on to play for the rival Chicago Bears, Barr will be needed to produce much quicker than Bridgewater does on offense.

Scott Crichton of Oregon State is the unfortunate rookie drafted to specifically replace the void left by Allen's departure. Crichton's greatest gift is effort. In that the defensive end position is an arduous task in comparison to other positional roles, requiring constant pursuit, the Vikings were smart to take the type of player that can minimally match Allen's hardnosed zeal. Talent generally wins out in sports, but effort keeps the (Viking) ship from sinking.

Jerrick McKinnon (running back, Georgia Southern) and David Yankey (offensive guard, Stanford) were the fourth and fifth picks, from an overall haul of 10 total draft picks for the Vikings. McKinnon and Yankey provide some fresh young legs on an offense that can certainly use them. Hopes are that McKinnon can compliment and rest team MVP Peterson by adding speed and role flexibility to the running game.

Pundits have generally lauded the Vikings performance in this years' draft, and overall they did a good job filling positional holes. Bridgewater was certainly worth the early pick and projects as a really nice young man. You have to hope that the magic glove works out for the kid ... even if this is Prince territory.
 

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