My rundown through the entire first round of the NFL draft continues as I examine the Minnesota Vikings who hold the #8 pick in the first round.
The Pick: Johnny Manziel – QB – Texas A&M
Due to the previous pick by TampaBay, Johnny Manziel is the only quarterback with a first round grade left on the board. He has his issues either with questions about his height (6’0″) or attitude but the facts remain that he is probably the most natural playmaker at that position in the 2014 class. He has huge hands, terrific mobility and a better arm than people think. If he can improve his pocket presence, which is the biggest knock on him, then he could become the next Russell Wilson for whoever takes him.
Why: Mike Zimmer needs a playmaker at that position
The Minnesota Vikings were a mess at quarterback last season. Three different players including Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman all started at least one game for them. That can’t continue if the team wishes to reverse their fortunes. New head coach Mike Zimmer came in as a former defensive coordinator, which means it would be best for him to go get his quarterback as soon as possible to he can start rebuilding one of the worst defenses in the league. Manziel is the kind of player that would function well under Zimmer. He’s excellent at making plays with his feet, moving the chains and keeping the defense off the field.
Argument: Anthony Barr and Kony Ealy are still available
In all honesty the Minnesota Vikings front office is in a pickel here. A lot of fans are really hoping the team trades down here, which is not out of the question but that would be difficult given their position. At the same time, their needs on defense are equally prevalent. The pass rush is a primary issue. UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr and Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy are both still on the board. Zimmer has a history of running both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, so he would have a good understanding of how to get the most out of either player. Barr is the more natural linebacker who can move around and attack from different directions while Ealy is that consistent edge rusher who forces teams to focus on him.
Counter-argument: Manziel too valuable and NFL free agency can fix rush
It’s a compelling case but the fact is the Minnesota Vikings won’t have a better chance to add somebody who is better than the cast of quarterbacks they already have. Johnny Manziel is better than all of them. His natural instinct and athleticism, not to mention underrated leadership are top notch. Besides, the Vikings have a rather large sum of cap space heading into free agency. They could solve their pass rush problem even before they reach the NFL draft.
That is why I would take Johnny Manziel if I were in charge. What are your thoughts?