The Vikings and the rest of the NFL are four weeks from entrusting the rare and valuable currency of first-round selections to prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Teams place an incredible emphasis on gathering physical and psychological information on hundreds of players to predict how well they will perform and which one will be the best when cast in a systematic role.
View the top 20 images of Teddy Bridgewater from the 2014 season.
A lengthy evaluation process last year led Minnesota to trade back into the first round to select Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd overall pick.
Some quarterbacks taken in the first round have played immediately, while others have watched and waited behind veterans, and both methods have been successful and unsuccessful.
Bridgewater's rise to the starting job accelerated to Week 4 after Matt Cassel's season-ending foot injury the previous week. The injury, especially when combined with others was a tough hit, but it allowed the Vikings to learn more about Bridgewater in 2014 than they might have, and instilled the belief that they can build around Bridgewater going forward.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer was asked about Bridgewater by national media during last week's NFC coaches breakfast as part of the NFL Annual Meeting. The longtime defensive coordinator who took the helm in Minnesota last year said he observed a successful but calm demonstrative leadership from Bridgewater instead of an in-the-face-of-teammates approach.
"I did learn a lot about that to be honest with you," Zimmer said. "He's a guy that leads by how hard he works, by the improvement that he makes in practice every day, the way he wanted to learn how to annunciate the plays, all the extra effort that the guy put in.
"I thought the players really, he's not one of those guys that's going to get in your face or this and that, but players all gravitate toward this guy," Zimmer continued. "He's always got a smile. He's confident but not cocky. It's never about him. It's always about how I can help this guy or do this better or help the team. Maybe it's not your leadership style that everybody is thinking about, but it was really effective this year, so I learned quite a bit."
Zimmer and teammates often spoke at how calmly Bridgewater was in the huddle from his starting debut, a 41-28 win against Atlanta, through the end of the season that was capped with his selection in a vote by fans as the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year.
"We were fortunate to get Teddy in so many ways," Zimmer said. "I love being around his demeanor. The veterans love being around how he has a calming influence, the way he works and does things. We lost a guard, we lost the tight end and this happens in football, so I'm not making excuses, but for him to come in at the end of the year and play with kind of a make-shift crew if you will and do the things he did, I think everybody on the team and everybody in the organization was impressed with him.
Bridgewater's steady approach likely helped his statistics establish consistency down the stretch. He completed 101 of 140 passes (72.1 percent) for 1,230 yards with eight touchdowns against five interceptions (passer rating of 102.98) in the final five games of the season. He completed at least 68 percent of his passes and had a passer rating of 84.9 or higher in each of those contests, including 120.7 against Carolina, 117.7 against the New York Jets and 114.1 in a shootout in his hometown of Miami.
"I kind of knew at some point Teddy was going to be our quarterback. I just didn't know it was going to be that fast," Zimmer said. "He really has a lot of pressure on him. Every time he runs on the field, the crowd is yelling, 'Teddy, Teddy,' and he's this young rookie who hasn't done anything yet. We're in the two-minute drill and he's doing it.
"I'm more impressed with him as a person than I am as a quarterback right now," Zimmer added. "He played great at the end, but a lot of the great football players I've been around, they're great football players but even better people, and he's kind of starting to fall into that category in my eyes."