Monday Morning Mailbag


Mailbag Extra: Quarterbacks Only

Posted May 7, 2014

Do you have a comment or question? Send it to the Mailbag! Every Monday we’ll post several comments and/or questions as part of the Monday Morning Mailbag feature. Although we can’t post every comment or question, we will reply to every question submitted.

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I know I've been screaming defense, but if one of either Teddy Bridgewater or Johnny Manziel are there it would be exciting. If Manziel were there at No. 8, do you think it would be a good fit and would the extra flash and fame that comes with him be good in Minnesota?
-- Diontae T.
Bloomington, MN

More than likely, any team that drafts Manziel is going to have to make changes to their offensive system, so I’m not sure he’s a “good fit” in many places. But that certainly doesn’t mean he’s not a good pick for particular teams. The Washington Redskins had to significantly alter their offensive approach when they drafted Robert Griffin III, and they won the NFC East his rookie season. With that being said, Manziel possesses many of the traits I would look for in a franchise quarterback – tremendous arm talent, competitiveness, mobility and a knack for making the big play. You have to wonder about his durability and his discipline in the pocket at times, but there is a lot to like.

As for Bridgewater, he also possesses the traits you’re looking for in a franchise quarterback. His production at the University of Louisville was incredible, but two of the underrated aspects of Bridgewater’s game are his toughness and his mobility. What you have to wonder about with Bridgewater is his size (6-2 with small hands) and his ability to step into a NFL locker room and lead. The latter shouldn’t be a problem because of his ability and character, but some will hesitate on him because of the former.

With Norv Turner now in the mix, what does he value in a quarterback? Strength and stature, like we saw with Phillip Rivers, or something else entirely, like leadership, accuracy, mobility? Obviously all are important, but do you have a sense yet what his priorities might be?
-- Jeremy H.
Avoca, IA

Traditionally, Turner has featured big, strong quarterbacks who stand in the pocket and deliver the ball downfield (think Aikman, Rivers). My sense is Turner hasn’t shifted from that, but I also think he realizes how much more athletic pass rushers have become in this League. With that being the case, I expect Turner is going to want a quarterback with those qualities I mentioned first but who also has some ability to escape the rush or at least move around in the pocket to buy time.

What’s your opinion of Tajh Boyd out of Clemson? He seems like he could be a good fit into our system.
-- Frank R.
Crystal Lake, IL

I watched five of Boyd’s 2013 games on film - Georgia, Syracuse, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Ohio State. From that, I came away thinking Boyd was a successful system quarterback. If you read between the lines on that, you’ll see a complement along with a possible criticism. Boyd’s production at Clemson was off the charts – he’s the first quarterback in ACC history to throw 30+ touchdowns in three different seasons. But some knock him because he played exclusively in a read-option/pistol scheme and wasn’t asked to make a lot of “NFL throws.” But I think Boyd has a smooth arm motion and is a flick of the wrist type of thrower. He will take a hit and deliver from within the pocket, but he is also elusive and good on the run. Ultimately, Boyd is at his best when he’s doing one of three things: 1) throwing downfield versus man coverage; 2) throwing a fade to a playmaking receiver in the end zone; 3) making a play by eluding the rush with his athleticism and throwing on the run to a receiver who has broken open.

As I watched film on Zach Mettenberger, he really reminds me of Tom Brady. Though it could be exciting to have a running quarterback to mix with Cordarrelle Patterson and Adrian Peterson, do you feel the Vikings benefit most from a pure pocket passer, such as Mettenberger? Or are we better off with a Johnny Football or Teddy Bridgewater (mobile type) given our current offensive personnel?
-- Bill S.
Reading, PA

Continuing the discussion from the first question, I feel it’s most important for a quarterback to be able to deliver with accuracy from within the pocket (versus pressure or not). Yes, mobility is important because the pocket can break down and/or receivers may take a bit to break open, but as a general rule I would say production from the pocket, regardless of style of offense, is paramount in today’s NFL. Those quarterbacks who can magically escape the pass rush and pick up first downs with their legs add a valuable layer to their offense, but that can only take a team so far. At some point, defenses are going to make the quarterback stand in the pocket and deliver.

I'm really intrigued by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Do you see him as someone who could fit in a Norv Turner offense?
-- Kyle C.
Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii

Yes, from a profile standpoint I would say Garoppolo would be a great project for Turner. I don’t know Turner’s personal opinion of Garoppolo, but we’re talking about a quarterback with a prototypical size, outstanding production at the college level, a lightning-quick release, moxy in the pocket and the amount of mobility needed to stay alive against the rush. With the Vikings, Garoppolo would join a depth chart that includes Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder, which would provide him with a structure and a level of competition that would benefit him as he developed.

You did some analysis of the top draftable quarterbacks by looking at tape. You said on KFAN that it changed your opinion on Teddy Bridgewater.  Gil Brandt of thinks Pittsburgh quarterback Tom Savage is pretty special. What do you think of him after watching the film and would he be a good mid- to late-round pick for the Vikings?
-- Ted W.
St. Paul, MN

I did watch some tape of Savage – games against Florida State, Duke and Notre Dame. His strengths are arm strength, experience from the gun and from under center, size, intangibles, decision making and production despite a lack of elite talent around him. A few things to work on include production versus pressure, footwork, not staring down receivers and manipulating safeties with his eyes, and delivering the ball on time. Overall, Savage is an interesting prospect and you really have to wonder how much better he would look to a lot of people if he could’ve had some continuity throughout his college career – he played for three different programs (Rutgers, Arizona, Pittsburgh). Also, he’s labeled as a plodder or a slow-footed quarterback, but I actually came away from the three games I watched thinking he was nimble enough to move around in the pocket to buy time while avoiding the rush. Interesting prospect and perfect for teams that already have established starters and can take a year or two to develop a quarterback.

I really like AJ McCarron as a good quarterback that could grow into a seasoned NFL passer. What are the chances of 1) the Vikings getting McCarron later in the draft, and 2) trying to get a veteran quarterback to help for the upcoming seasons and drafting McCarron as a quarterback for the future?
-- Kenny G.
Los Angeles, CA

This was a question I saved for this mailbag from before free agency began, so obviously the answer to the second part of the question was revealed with the re-signing of Cassel. The chances of drafting him are impossible to estimate because there are 31 other teams in this draft and the Vikings currently have eight picks.

As for McCarron, he’s not the perfect prospect but there is a lot to like. He played for an extremely successful program (Alabama) that won two championships with him as a starter, and he experienced that success while playing with and against NFL-caliber talent (SEC). McCarron completed 66.9% of his passes at Alabama for just short of 10,000 yards with a touchdown-interception ratio of 77-15. There are a lot of boxes you can check for McCarron, but some of the evidence used to support him you can use against him. Did he simply benefit from playing on a great team with a great defense year-after-year? He has his detractors, but there is plenty of evidence to use in support of him, too.

With the re-signing of Matt Cassel and the Vikings looking to draft a quarterback to groom for the future, where does that leave Christian Ponder? What do you think the Vikings will do with him?
-- John L.
San Diego , CA

The Vikings will keep him and he will compete to play, just as Cassel and any other addition will do. With the re-signing of Cassel and the likely addition via either the draft or undrafted free agency (or both), much of the focus has gone away from Ponder and the expectation level for him has plummeted. But there is no rule that says Ponder can’t improve and flourish under Turner to become a solid backup or even the starter.