For only the fourth time in team history the Minnesota Vikings took a QB in the first round of the draft. How soon until former Louisville star Teddy Bridgewater starts his first game? He is +1000 on NFL odds to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
(Hand) Size Matters
Would Minnesota have taken Central Florida's Blake Bortles with the No. 8 overall pick in the draft? Jaguars officials believe the Vikings would have and think that because Bortles was snapped up by Jacksonville at No. 3 overall, Minnesota then didn't mind trading back one more spot because their guy wasn't there. Instead of potentially reaching for Johnny Manziel or Bridgewater at No. 9, Minnesota improved its defense with UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr.
Smartly, the Vikings got aggressive at the end of the first round. They were well aware that Houston had the first pick of Round 2 and that the Texans badly needed a quarterback. So Minnesota gave Seattle its second-round pick, No. 40 overall, and a fourth-round selection, No. 108 overall, to move back into Round 1 and select Bridgewater.
When the 2013 college season began, Bridgewater was seen a possible No. 1 overall pick. He didn't do much to change that idea. The junior from Miami set career highs in completions (303), completion percentage (71.0), yards (3,970), touchdowns (31) and fewest interceptions (four); although Bortles beat him out for the American Athletic Conference Player of the Year Award. It was at Bridgewater's Pro Day that scouts really started tearing him apart. Bridgewater plays with gloves on but decided not to use them at his Pro Day, which was apparently subpar. That sent him skidding down draft boards. Bridgewater said the reason he chose not to wear the gloves was because he had been training for more than three weeks in the Florida heat without them prior to his workout.
For some reason, scouts also are worried about Bridgewater's performance in cold weather. According to ESPN, Bridgewater's completion percentage in games that started with temperatures at 50 degrees or higher is eight points higher (71 percent) than at temperatures of 49 or lower. Growing up in Miami and then playing at Louisville, Bridgewater doesn't have a lot of experience cold weather. Also, his hand size is a below-average 9.25 inches and cold weather footballs are tougher to grip. ESPN reports the average hand size for all quarterbacks measured at the combine since 2008 is 9.55 inches. Andrew Luck's are bigger than 10 inches. So are Russell Wilson's.
The Vikings play outdoors this season (and 2015) and could have perhaps five cold-weather games as four of Minnesota's final six are at home; the two road games at Detroit (indoors) and Miami. They also travel to Chicago on Nov. 16. Trips to Buffalo and Green Bay are in October so it still might be fairly nice then.
While the Browns have said Manziel is their backup heading into the season and the Jaguars don't want to play Bortles at all, Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer has no problem playing his rookie if he's better than Matt Cassel, the likely starter, and 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder. Zimmer said Bridgewater will get first-team reps during the team's OTAs. The next begin May 28.
Cassel is a serviceable player who got a two-year, $10 million extension to return this offseason. He played in nine games last year, completing 60.2 percent of his passes for 1,807 yards, 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a rating of 81.6 that was 25th in the NFL but also much better than, say, Joe Flacco's. Ponder also played in nine games, completing 63.6 percent of his passes for 1,648 yards, seven touchdowns and nine interceptions for a rating of 77.9. He still might not be a lost cause at age 26, but this will be Ponder's his final season in purple unless he's traded or cut before it starts. The Vikings declined to pick up his 2015 option. No shock there since it was for $9.68 million. He did play well at times in 2012 when the Vikings made the playoffs.
NFL free picks: Minnesota is +2000 to win the NFC North at sportsbooks and that's not a good bet. Neither is Bridgewater for Rookie of the Year. Minnesota QBs will largely be handing off to Adrian Peterson. How soon could Bridgewater start? Perhaps Week 6 at home against Detroit. The Vikings could easily be 0-5 entering that game (open at St. Louis as 6-point dogs on NFL odds, then vs. New England, at New Orleans, vs. Atlanta and at Green Bay). At that point, it's time to start looking ahead and most likely the team would want Bridgewater to debut at home.