I realize this post is a largely unpopular and likely a minority opinion, but at least hear it out.
In the latest mock draft by Mike Florio of NBC Sports, he has the Minnesota Vikings selecting quarterback Geno Smith with the first (No. 23) of the team’s two first-round picks in the NFL Draft.
The chance of Smith actually falling as far as No. 23 or 25 does not seem likely, but if he does, Minnesota should draft him.
Popular belief is that the team would be better off drafting other players to fill holes on the roster. The Vikings appear ready to draft a middle linebacker following the departure of Jasper Brinkley, and will certainly look to add depth at wide receiver and cornerback.
The draft class is very deep for wide outs and defensive backs, according to many talent evaluators. Starter-quality players at those positions can be found in the early-to-middle rounds of the draft. For that reason, Minnesota could select Arthur Brown, Kevin Minter, Alec Ogletree or Manti Te’o with one of their first-round picks, select Smith with their other first-round pick, and address the needs for a receiver and a corner in the second, third or fourth round.
OK, but why draft Smith when the Vikings have Christian Ponder?
1. If Ponder doesn’t progress as much as the team would like him to in his third year as a starter, they have a potential franchise quarterback in the wings. The team signed quarterback Matt Cassel to back up Ponder, so Smith wouldn’t be forced to hop in right away if Ponder doesn’t work out.
2. If Ponder indeed ends up working out, general manager Rick Spielman has a good problem to have. Smith could become trade bait and general manager Rick Spielman could recoup the draft pick used to select Smith.
The quarterback position is very important in the NFL. With exception to Trent Dilfer, who had the league’s best running game and defense at the time he won a Super Bowl, quality quarterbacks are needed to go deep into the playoffs. Adrian Peterson is arguably the league’s best running back, but the defense is far from being the best in the league.
Ponder showed some improvement in his second season, raising his quarterback rating from 70.1 to 81.2, but there remains to be concerns about his accuracy and ability to hit players in stride.
It’s really about playing the odds. With multiple quality options at quarterback, a player is destined to step up and take command of the offense. Limiting options by going all-in on an unknown can be dangerous and can result in the team taking a significant step back.
Again, Smith is unlikely to drop as to No. 23 or 25 as Florio suggests, but if he somehow does, it is an opportunity the Vikings should consider. The ideal scenario is for Ponder to step up and unequivocally become the franchise quarterback for years to come, but having a solid long-term backup plan can’t hurt.