The Minnesota Vikings find themselves currently with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft scheduled for April.
While mock draft season can create speculation of which players could fall to the middle of the first round, one draft expert sees the 14th pick as an opportunity for the Vikings to plan for the future and trade up to No. 10 to take a quarterback.
“I think they’ve got to look at a quarterback,” Draftcountdown.com’s Scott Wright told the Pioneer Press’ Charley Walters. “I think you look at what the Chiefs did when they drafted Patrick Mahomes. They had Alex Smith, a good veteran quarterback, but they used the 10th pick on Mahomes — they traded up to do it, gave up quite a bit — and let him sit for a year.”
The Kansas City Chiefs gambled on Mahomes, a projected second-round pick, at 10th overall in 2017 by trading their first-round pick (No. 27), a third-rounder and their 2018 first-rounder at the time that a 32-year-old Alex Smith with quarterback of the team.
NFL.com graded the move a B-plus, citing a “risk factor” for Mahomes freewheeling willingness to make throw the ball from any angle — a risk that has already paid dividends for Kansas City.
Who could come in and be the “Mahomes” to 32-year-old Kirk Cousins?
“The guy I think that fits perfect for the Vikings in that regard is Trey Lance,” Wright added.
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Lance’s Minnesota Roots
Lance, a Marshall, Minn., native climbed draft boards after earning the NCAA’s Division I Championship Game Most Outstanding Player award after leading the Bison to an undefeated season and FCS national championship as a redshirt freshman.
The 6-foot-3, dual-threat QB completed 192 of 287 (66.9 percent) for 2,786 yards, 28 TDs and 0 interceptions and also took 169 carries for 1,100 yards (6.5 average) and 14 TDs. Lance has been deemed a good fit for Minnesota’s zone running, play-action offense, given his ability athleticism that could be used to create outside of the pocket.
Lance played one game this season before opting out due to COVID-19. He showed some inexperience, throwing the first pick of his young career in the only game he played this season in a de-facto audition for the draft, but led the Bison to a 39-28 comeback victory over Central Arkansas, totaling five touchdowns in the win. Lance missing his sophomore year is a strong enough case to stash him for several seasons as the 20-year-old quarterback is still in the infancy of his career.
“It would be a great situation for both player and team because Lance needs some development,” Wright said. “He could sit and learn for a while. I think that would be the ideal dream scenario. To me, that should be the priority. There’s going to be three, four first-round quarterbacks probably in the top half of the first round.”
Lance is also represented by the same talent agency as rookie Justin Jefferson.
Vikings’ Fate With Cousins Will be Sealed Soon
Cousins is already guaranteed his 2021 salary and will see the final guaranteed $35 million of his deal secured on March 20 if he remains on the roster. That’s likely the plan as Minnesota has yet to spend any valuable draft assets on a suitable replacement.
Getting a replacement in the buidling should be a priority, but it may also tank the Vikings’ chances at making a deep playoff run in the next two years. It’ll likely cost Minnesota their No. 14 overall pick, a future first-rounder and a second- or third-round pick, Wright said.
The Vikings currently have no second-round picks and a pair of third-rounders that will likely be needed to bolster either the offensive line or defensive line.
Is Minnesota prepared to make another run, or will it defer its future to the development of a rookie quarterback by trading up? The Vikings’ decision on draft day will be telling of how the organization views both Cousins and Zimmer’s ability to reshape his defense.
Lance has fallen to No. 15 in some mock drafts, but the chance to draft a franchise quarterback is priceless and will likely warrant trading up, leaving two years of development before the Vikings would need to move on from Cousins.
That time could also be spent developing the defense and freeing up cap space to sign veteran players when it is Lance’s time to start.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.