A handful of quarterback prospects are drawing attention this week at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Vikings, however, are one team in Indianapolis not looking to use their first pick at that position.
"I'm probably not going to take a quarterback in the first round, I can tell you that," said Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman in a media session with beat reporters Wednesday morning. "Teddy's our guy."
Since making his first career start as a rookie in September 2014, Bridgewater has continued to develop and improve.
In 2015, Bridgewater led the Vikings to an 11-5 regular season record and their first playoff appearance since 2012. He finished the season with 3,231 passing yards and a 65.3 completion percentage, good enough for an 88.7 passer rating. Bridgewater also received a nod to his first career Pro Bowl.
Although the Vikings original plan did not include Bridgewater starting so soon, Spielman said getting thrown into the fire when Matt Cassel suffered an injury was a good learning experience for Bridgewater.
"I think it's going to pay dividends for us as he continues to move on down the road with his career," Spielman said. "We think he's going to be a great quarterback and [are] looking forward to him continuing to progress."
Bridgewater believers extend beyond the borders of Minnesota. Several national analysts and media members view Bridgewater as the Vikings next franchise quarterback.
Analyst and Hall of Fame center Larry McCarren might cheer for his former team, the division-rival Packers, but he likes what he sees from Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. McCarren called Bridgewater a "darn good quarterback to build around."
"He's wise beyond his years," McCarren told Vikings.com. "He just seems to have a handle on the game, and he seems to do a remarkable job of keeping his cool under pressure. Some of the stuff he rolls out of, I mean, you just shake your head [and say], 'Did he just do that?' And he did it."
NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks said he thinks Bridgewater has yet to hit his ceiling but is already an outstanding player.
"I like how the team is built around him," Brooks told Vikings.com. "I like how he's been slowly brought along, and he's not really having to do too much as a young player. I think we'll see him mature and see him become a really, really good player in year three."
In Bridgewater's first two seasons, one of the questions surrounding Minnesota's offense has been the blend of responsibility between Bridgewater and running back Adrian Peterson, the league's leading rusher in 2015.
That's a question NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport is continuing to ask in looking ahead to 2016.
"If Teddy is going to take the next step, which I think he is absolutely poised to do, what does the offense look like?" Rapoport speculated. "Is it being more aggressive on first down? Which is kind of taking the ball out of Adrian's hands a little bit, which is OK as long as you're making yards. I'm just curious to see what the offense looks like as [Teddy] morphs into the franchise quarterback that the Vikings think he is."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer doesn't have a set blueprint for the Vikings offense in 2016, and he's OK with that. Zimmer said he and the coaching staff will take each game one at a time to determine how the team will play.
The end goal is always the same: to win games. The method of getting there? It doesn't much matter to Zimmer, as long as Bridgewater fills his a role as a leader.
"I don't have a problem winning a game 13-10 and running the ball a bunch of times, especially finishing games running the ball. I have no issue with that whatsoever," Zimmer said Wednesday. "[Although] I'd like to win them 24-10.
"I don't know if he'll be throwing the ball more, but really, at the end of the day […] what I want to say is, 'Man, Teddy really took over this offense. He was really in charge of everything he did here. He took charge of the lead,' " Zimmer said. "Whatever that means – if it's getting us in the right place, if it's throwing the ball more, if it's throwing the ball less – just taking charge of this thing. Because it's going to be his baby eventually."
There is some room for improvement on the Vikings offense, and both Spielman and Zimmer hope to hone in on those things during the offseason. One focus will undeniably be the offensive line.
In addition to Spielman saying he hopes to see Bridgewater "let it loose" a little more in 2016, he also said they need to provide him with more protection. Zimmer echoed the sentiments.
"It's extremely important," Zimmer said of supporting his quarterback at the line. "He got sacked 45 times this year, and I think 44 last year, so he's getting hit way too many times."
While the Vikings have the opportunity to evaluate a number of offensive linemen at the combine this week, Zimmer said there's also a big-picture development that needs to happen. It's a responsibility he doesn't take lightly.
"It's not just the offensive line. It's running backs and receivers making the right adjustments, but it is extremely important," Zimmer said. "This guy has got a chance to be an extremely good player, but we have to do a good job with that."
The Vikings will be looking at a number of draft prospects in Indianapolis and considering an even larger array of scenarios. It's clear Bridgewater will be holding the Vikings offensive reins in 2016, but is Minnesota exempt from taking a quarterback in one of the draft's later rounds?
"We'll see how the draft unfolds," Spielman said. "I will never say 'never' to any position."