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NFL DRAFT 2014: Quarterback-strapped Vikings could be wise to wait past opening round

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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - The Minnesota Vikings need a young quarterback to ride into the future, and with the eighth overall pick in this draft they'll have plenty available.

For all the headlines generated at the top of the class by Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater, though, the Vikings could find the guy who fits them the best after the first round.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman can't afford to miss again as he did with Christian Ponder three years ago. With Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Nick Foles as recent examples, teams have found successful starters on the second day of the draft. This year, for all the lingering uncertainty about Manziel, Bortles and Bridgewater, a relatively rich second tier gives the Vikings reason to wait. So does incumbent Matt Cassel, the veteran who re-signed.

Derek Carr, Jimmy Garoppolo and Zach Mettenberger likely will be waiting on Friday, perhaps for a call from Spielman.

"Rather than push quarterbacks up higher because of need, I think teams put them on their boards and stay true to their boards," said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who gave first, second or third-round grades to 10 quarterbacks, his most ever.

The Vikings will start with eight picks for the seven rounds, with the eighth, 40th, 72nd, 96th, 108th, 148th, 184th and 223rd overall selections. The extra third-rounder came from Seattle for Percy Harvin.

Here are five things to know about this year's Vikings outlook:

DON'T FORGET Defence: Hiring Mike Zimmer as head coach was the first move toward addressing a deficient defence. Committing dozens of millions of dollars to free agents was the next step. The draft will be just as important. Linebackers Anthony Barr and C.J. Mosley and cornerbacks Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard are possibilities for the first round if the Vikings wait for a quarterback, which could allow them to slide down a bit and collect an extra pick or two by trade.

THE QUARTERBACK EXPERT: New offensive co-ordinator Norv Turner has put together productive offences all over the league with all sorts of levels and types of talent, and Spielman and Zimmer have made clear their faith in Turner's opinion on this critical decision. The three of them and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, Norv's son, travelled together to various pro day workouts to evaluate the top prospects.

"There's a lot of guys that are polished and have been extremely well-coached and they're ready to go and you may not see a big upside," Turner said. "What you're looking for, to me, is guys that in two or three years can be a Pro Bowl-type calibre player."

ABSENCE OF EARLY-ROUND ARMS: The Vikings have a scant history of drafting and developing quarterbacks, with only three first-round selections (Ponder, Daunte Culpepper in 1999 and Tommy Kramer in 1977) and two second-round picks (Tarvaris Jackson in 2006 and Bill Cappleman in 1970) to show for this position. Yes, Fran Tarkenton was taken with the 29th overall selection in 1961, but back then that was the third round.

DEPTH NEEDED: After letting Toby Gerhart leave as a free agent, the Vikings will look hard at a rookie backup for Adrian Peterson. The Vikings took Gerhart with the 51st pick in 2010; they can certainly wait at least that long to grab a quality complement to the 29-year-old star. No running backs were taken in the first round in 2013, a trend likely to continue, with top prospects Carlos Hyde and Tre Mason widely projected as second-round picks. Terrance West and Ka'Deem Carey are two options for the Vikings in middle rounds.

NEW DYNAMIC: Zimmer, unlike many of his predecessors, was hired with clarity on who he reports to. Spielman's leave-no-stone-unturned style seeks consensus, though, and Zimmer's evaluation of the defensive players in particular will carry real clout.

"I don't hold my feelings back, you know, so I'm going to go ahead and say what I think," Zimmer said, adding: "Now there are some things I may be more an expert in, because that's what I do every day. But with Rick and the scouts, I've been extremely impressed with all of those guys.

"As far as the relationship, I know there's always questions, 'How you doing with the GM?' and all that stuff. Fantastic. He is a good guy. He's a little bit like me. He's a little bit sarcastic at times, and we give each other a hard time, but we really respect each other when we're there, and when we come out of the room, we're going to come out of the room together."

___

AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org

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