NFL Draft Round 1: Minnesota selects QB Teddy Bridgewater - Fantasy Impact
Minnesota Vikings - #32 overall selection QB Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville)
For the 2nd straight year, the Vikings traded back into round 1 to upgrade the offense around the best RB in the league. Last year they nabbed WR/KR Cordarrelle Patterson at pick #29 and this season they traded two picks (40th and 108th) to secure their QB of the future in Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater with the last pick of the first round (sorry Texans). GM Rick Spielman will be hoping this selection works out better than 2011 first round bust Christian Ponder. Veteran Matt Cassel was serviceable in 2013 and figures to be under center week 1 against St Louis but Teddy Ballgame could obviously change all that in the preseason. Cassel was signed to a two year $10 million contract this offseason. Over nine games in 2013, the 31-year-old had a 60% completion percentage, mediocre TD: INT ratio of 11:9 while averaging 201 YPG in Minnesota's run heavy offense.
After a less than impressive Pro Day, Bridgewater fell from a consensus top 10 pick to borderline first round worthy amongst many draft experts. His slight frame is concerning (6-foot-2 , 214) but he never missed a game at Louisville despite multiple injuries and most label him as the most Pro ready prospect in this class. The three year starter went 27-8, completing 68% of his passes for 9,817 yards (8 YPA) and a 72:24 TD-to-INT ratio. His speed is adequate (4.8 forty), but Bridgewater prefers to stay in the pocket and pick defenses apart with his precision and ability to go through progressions. His deep arm needs some work but with AP in the backfield, Minnesota will be looking to concentrate on an intermediate passing game that keeps defenses honest. The Florida native will need to adjust to Arctic conditions as the Vikings will be playing the next two home seasons outside at the University of Minnesota while a new dome is constructed (opens in 2016).
With Cassel's knowledge of the offense, all signs point to him as the likely starter for the first month of the season, but Bridgewater could be given a shot sooner than many expect based on his experience in a a Pro Style system. Minnesota will look to diversify their offense to keep AP fresh and whichever QB is under center with benefit from playing behind a solid O-line ranked 6th overall by Pro Football Focus.
First year OC Norv Turner has been in the league for 23 years and is considered to be one of the better offensive minds in the game having worked most notably with Troy Aikman and Phillip Rivers. Over the years, Turner has favored a downfield passing game that focuses on a #1 wide receiver and tight end – good news for WR Cordarrelle Patterson and TE Kyle Rudolph. Vincent Jackson and Josh Gordon have enjoyed elite production under Norv Turner offenses which should vault Patterson onto many breakout lists for his sophomore season. Kyle Rudolph is also one to watch after an injury riddled 2013 season 9missed 8 games). The Notre Dame alum is just one season removed from a nine touchdown season and should be primed for a career year if he can stay on the field. Turner has also vowed to utilize Peterson more in open space which could result in a career best in receptions for the 29 year old future hall of famer. AP's career best catch total was 43 receptions in 2009 but with Turner's prior success with Tomlinson and Emmitt Smith – expect AP to approach the 60 catch mark in 2014 (especially with Toby Gerhart now in Jacksonville).
Fantasy Impact: Bridgewater's accuracy and familiarity with a Pro Style offense should enable Teddy Ball game to provide consistent QB2 numbers for fantasy owners. As a Vikings fan, I'm elated that Bridgewater was the pick as I see him settling into a starting role by the mid point in the season. His skill set should fit well into Norv Turner's system and AP could see more running lanes with better QB play. His accuracy and ability to read a defense consistently has been missing in the land of 10,000 lakes since Favre's magical run to the NFC title game after the 2009 season.
For fantasy purposes, Bridgewater is an underrated QB2 in redraft leagues and should be considered after the top half of the QBs are selected. Norv Turner has worked wonders in the past, and with defenses focused on stopping AP -- Bridgewater should face favorable 1 on 1 coverage where Patterson, Greg Jennings and Rudolph can excel. Patterson and Rudolph should be setup to impress in 2014 and Greg Jennings makes for a serviceable WR3/4. Patterson's ADP has already skyrocketed (ADP- WR17) and he could be overvalued on draft day despite the upside potential. The history of TE success in Turner's offense and Rudolph's ability to excel in the red zone give him a chance to flirt with top 5 production - decent value at his current ADP (TE9).