The Minnesota Vikings have made seven first-round selections in the last three years, and with the additions of Anthony Barr and Teddy Bridgewater last Thursday, they appear to have aced the first round of the NFL Draft yet again. Barr is still relatively raw and one-dimensional on the defensive side of the ball, but he grades out as an above-average athlete, and with an imposing physical statue at 6-foot-5, 255 pounds, he is ready to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL.
This is great news for a Vikings defense that ranked near the bottom of the league in all major categories, and also gave up numerous game-winning drives early in the season. The Vikings came into the draft with needs at linebacker and cornerback, so it’s no surprise they went with the more pressing need first, and got a talented speed rusher in Barr. He didn’t spend much time dropping into coverage at UCLA, however, and, as a result, is expected to play a Von Miller type role for the Vikings and lineup in numerous positions to primarily rush the passer.
Miller has been a star linebacker for the Denver Broncos since being drafted second overall in 2011, and although he was a more finished product than Barr when coming out of Texas A&M, he so far has totaled 35 sacks in just over two and a half seasons and is an impact player whenever on the field. The Vikings would be lucky to get this type of production out of Barr, but with how raw and physically dominant he is, it’s definitely within the realm of possibility and he will be a player to watch in 2014.
As for Bridgewater, the team’s designated franchise quarterback, general manager Rick Spielman made the right move by trading back into the first round to secure offensive coordinator Norv Turner‘s favorite quarterback. Bridgewater is the most NFL-ready quarterback in the 2014 class, and although the Vikings won’t need him to start right away, he very well could have a season similar to Russell Wilson in 2012, when he simply managed the offense and relied heavily on a solid rushing attack.
Although his stock began to slip as the draft approached, I remained sold that Bridgewater was the best quarterback in this class, and at pick number eight, or nine after the trade, he would have been a solid selection for the Vikings. He still has some work to do with his deep ball — an important aspect in Turner’s offensive scheme — which is primarily the reason he should begin the season on the bench and simply learn behind Matt Cassel.
Aside from the inconsistent accuracy on deep balls, Bridgewater is a relatively complete prospect who fell for the simple reason as to not having an elite trait, such as arm strength like Derek Carr. This shouldn’t hold him back, however, as players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have succeeded without great arm strength or foot speed, and with a strong offensive coaching staff and number one quarterback in Cassel, Bridgewater has all the pieces around him to succeed.