EAGAN, Minn. – The Vikings are set at starting quarterback for the 2020 season with Kirk Cousins, who is entering his third campaign in Minnesota since joining the team as a free agent in 2018.
Sean Mannion, who backed up Cousins last season and played one full game when the Vikings rested their starters against the Bears in Week 17, also is returning. The Vikings additionally have Jake Browning, who signed as an undrafted free agent last spring and spent 2019 on the practice squad.
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman added to the quarterbacks room in the 2020 NFL Draft, during which he used one of his record-setting 15 draft picks to grab Hawkeyes passer Nate Stanley 244th overall.
Bleacher Report analyst Matt Miller called Stanley the "biggest sleeper" among passers heading into the 2020 NFL Draft and listed him as the eighth-best quarterback in the class.
ESPN's Todd McShay also had positive things to say about the former Hawkeye on the First Draft Show podcast.
"If I had to bet on any of these guys, including Jalen Hurts, I would bet on [Stanley]," McShay said. "He's big. He's strong. He's been around a pro system, and [Iowa Offensive Coordinator Brian] Ferentz comes from the NFL and played under and worked with [Patriots Head Coach Bill] Belichick in New England. That's pretty good to have as an offensive coordinator the past few years."
Here's a deeper dive on how Stanley could work within Minnesota's quarterbacks group:
Player Profile: QB Nate Stanley, Iowa, Senior
Stanley, a native of Menomonie, Wisconsin, was a permanent team captain for Iowa in 2019. He finished his senior campaign 237-of-399 passing for 2,951 yards with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
He's one of just two quarterbacks in Hawkeyes history to go 3-0 in bowl games, joining Ricky Stanzi, and ranks second in school history with 68 career touchdown passes.
Spielman was impressed not only by what he saw on tape but also by a couple in-person scouting sessions of Stanley.
"He's a big kid that has a strong arm. He's won a lot of games in the Big Ten," Spielman told Twin Cities media members. "The one thing that I think he doesn't get enough credit for is his size. He's a very good athlete."
Stanley, who measured 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, impressed in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. His time of 4.81 seconds ranked eighth-fastest among quarterbacks. In the 20-yard shuttle, Stanley ranked fifth in the position group with a time of 4.48 seconds.
"When you watch him live, or even on tape, you may underestimate what type of athlete he is," Spielman said. "But when he opens stride and had a couple scrambles in some of the games – he can really move – getting the ball out quick, time and rhythm throws, ability to move in the pocket. We are excited to have him come in here and compete."
As stated earlier, Stanley is one of four quarterbacks currently on Minnesota's roster and will compete for a backup position behind Cousins.
Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak spoke highly of the young QB and of his alma mater.
"It seems like every player I've had come play for me out of that school, I don't know, there's something special about them," Kubiak said in an interview with Vikings Entertainment Network. "They catch up to speed very quickly. You're going to get everything they have."
Kubiak called the 22-year-old a "winner" and pointed out that he "finds a way" to come out on top in big games.
But for now, Stanley is focused on soaking up everything he can to put himself in the best position to compete – even though that means distance-learning for the time being.
Moments after his draft, Stanley explained to media members via video conference how excited he was to learning from Cousins.
He's approached learning the playbook and system to "make sure I can be as efficient and consistent as possible."
"As a coach, for [quarterbacks coach Klint Kubiak] and I to go to work, he comes in our room with Kirk, Sean and Jake, he fits right in from a personality standpoint, from a winner in college standpoint, which all of those guys were. He'll be a very quick study, is very bright, in what they're doing. [Hawkeyes Head Coach Kirk Ferentz], I know his program very well, I know how he teaches, I know what he expects of his players. The way they call things offensively is much like the way I run my offense, so I think we can make up a lot of ground with him. Very fortunate, you're sitting there in the seventh round, a lot of people chasing him if he wasn't going to get drafted. The fact that Rick had all of these extra picks late in the draft is the reason we end up with this young man."
— Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak
Film Breakdown: Former Vikings linebacker and coach Pete Bercich, now a Vikings Radio Network analyst, looked at some of Stanley's tape from Iowa.
"Stanley brings some nice attributes to the table, and I think it's going to be an interesting preseason to see whether or not he can beat out Jake Browning for the [QB3] position or maybe even move further up that depth chart," Bercich said.
Bercich pointed out that Stanley has "the requisite size" to be an NFL quarterback and has a strong arm.
"I think he can press and do and sit in that pocket and have a good pocket presence," Bercich said.
He highlighted a play against Rutgers that illustrates Stanley's ability to identify coverages and "get the ball exactly where it's supposed to be," as well as a red-zone situation against Iowa State in which Stanley showed his toughness by running the ball in for a touchdown himself.
Bercich showed another deep throw against Wisconsin that was completed thanks to Stanley's smarts.
"I love the way he can diagnose down the field," Bercich said. "That's what he's going to have to do at the next level, but he's going to have to do it a little more quickly. And again – these bang routes, these [Cover] 8-beaters, these post routes, his ability to throw the football on-time and hit these receivers in-stride, I think, is going to bode well for him in the preseason this year.
"How athletic is the big fella?" Bercich asked next. "He's athletic enough. He has enough of the enoughs. He's tall enough, he's big enough and … he's fast enough."
Bercich said Stanley will not be an option-style quarterback but is "athletic enough to move in the pocket and, at times when he has to scramble to get a first down, he has the speed to do so."