Grade : A+
Round 1 – Anthony Barr LB
Round 1 – Teddy Bridgewater QB
Round 3 – Scott Crichton DE
Round 3 – Jerick McKinnon RB
Round 5 – David Yankey G
Round 6 – Antone Exum CB
Round 6 – Kendall James CB
Round 7 – Shamar Stephen DT
Round 7 – Brandon Watts LB
Round 7 – Jabari Price CB
After a disappointing 5-10-1 season the Vikings came into the 2014 NFL draft needing to find both defensive playmakers and a franchise QB. It was a tough ask and it could still all go wrong (there hasn't been a single snap or play yet), but the Vikings played the draft system magnificently to grab players who have the best possible chance of doing both these things.
Lets put into context what a achievement this was. Typically, you wouldn't dream of drafting a potential franchise QB and a legitimate ready-made pass rush threat in a single draft. Such a feat was even more difficult in the 2014 draft. Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater were the only top quality QB prospects and there were few developed pass rushers. This fact is demonstrated by the Eagles gambling on Marcus Smith in round one.
With all that in mind for the Vikings, to come out of the draft with both linebacker Anthony Barr and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is a home run.
Anthony Barr is a lightening quick outside linebacker whose speed will help to get pressure on the QB. Last season Barr made 65 tackles with 20 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles. The Vikings secondary isn't great and in an NFC North containing Aaron Rodgers and the Detroit Lions receiver corp, getting pressure on the QB from the pass rush is crucial. By adding Barr to a defense containing Eversen Griffin, the Vikings have immeasurably improved the pass rush.
Third round pick Scott Crichton shouldn't be overlooked either. In 2013 Crichton notched up 19 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. He isn't in the same class as Barr but he should create pressure. One thing is for certain barring a disaster, the Vikings defense is unlikely to be the 31st worse defense in the NFL again.
Barr, of course, wasn't the only player the Vikings picked up in the first round. They traded back into the first round to take QB Bridgewater with what had been Seattle's 32nd pick.
Getting Bridgewater with the 32nd pick is an absolute steal. The ex-Louisville signal caller has an accurate arm and makes good decisions when under-pressure. He is the most pro-ready QB in this years draft. The nagging question remains though, if he is that good why then did he almost drop out of the first round?
The explanations for Bridgewater's fall seem to have been based on the combination of his weak pro-day, concerns about whether he can make the deep throws and his slight frame. The pro-day is a complete red-herring and no NFL team will have been swayed by it. They are essentially irrelevant exercises. Need anyone be reminded that JaMarcus Russell had a great pro-day.
As for Bridgewater's lack of strength at throwing the deep ball. This shouldn't be a massive concern for the Vikings; at least not immediately. The Vikings personnel isn't reliant on stretching the defense vertically to make plays. Receivers like Patterson have the pace to make yards after the catch and the big threat on offense will still be running-back Adrian Peterson.
So long as Bridgewater keeps the defense guessing so those running lanes remain open, he will be a success. Remember, over time Norv Turner and the rest of the coaching staff can improve Bridgewater's deep threat ability.
As for concerns over Bridgewater's durability. The key here is to protect him in the pocket with a strong offensive line. Taking guard David Yankey in round 4 is a huge step towards doing this. Behind Su'a-Filo Yankey was the best guard in the draft. At 6'5'' and 311 pounds with an explosive first step and solid footwork, Yankey should help protect Bridgewater for years to come.
Overall, it's hard to find anything to dislike and easy to find things to like about the 2014 Vikings draft. The Purple and Gold has taken a huge step to become a real threat in
the NFC North.
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