Jan 1, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Central Florida Knights quarterback Blake Bortles (5) against the Baylor Bears during the Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium. Central Florida defeated Baylor 52-42. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
As we continue through the whole increasingly tedious process of trying to work out the Vikings’ potential draft plans, one factor is consistently left out of the speculative picture: The TCF Bank Stadium factor.
It’s a question we should be asking more often. How will the Vikings’ two year exile to the outdoor confines of TCF influence their draft plans, and specifically their quarterback draft plans?
Are there certain quarterbacks who have to be automatically eliminated simply because of questions about their ability to perform in potentially adverse weather conditions?
Is it possible the Vikings have already identified one QB they must drop from their draft board for exactly this reason?
I ask because of something Greg Cosell wrote in his Wednesday Yahoo piece on Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles.
Cosell has come stomping into the picture the last couple days, throwing his considerable weight around and causing all sorts of re-assessment. Suddenly, Logan Thomas seems a more viable prospect, just because Greg Cosell compared him favorably to Cam Newton.
A similar re-evaluation may be coming for Bridgewater and Bortles after Cosell’s latest analysis. Especially Bortles, who unlike Bridgewater has maintained his perceived top 10 value throughout the process.
In his piece, Cosell raises serious questions about Bortles’ viability, and one paragraph in particular could be concerning to the Vikings and their fans.
Cosell takes apart Bortles’ throwing mechanics, and finds a major problem with the way Bortles grips the ball. Cosell says that Bortles squeezes the ball too hard and this causes him to lose velocity, especially on deep throws.
And, says Cosell, the issue gets worse when Bortles has to play in the cold.
“Study the SMU game late in the season, in Dallas,” Cosell explains. “It was 24 degrees, with the wind at 12 mph. Bortles had problems throwing the ball that day. It’s something you must carefully evaluate if you’re the Cleveland Browns or Minnesota Vikings (the Vikings will play the next two years outside at the University of Minnesota); not only their home games, but their divisional road opponents as well, which include cold weather cities like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago and Green Bay.”
Cosell also says that Bortles has issues with his lower body mechanics, but he believes the grip issue may be the bigger problem because it will be harder to fix.
Looking at Cosell’s dire warning about Bortles’ potential to struggle in cold weather, you can understand why the Vikings might be hesitant to rank Bortles as a first rounder.
The Vikings have seemingly shown less interest in Bortles than other prospects like Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr, but it’s dangerous to make a determination about their intentions based on those outward signs.
The Vikings could be steering clear of showing overt interest in Bortles as a way of masking their intentions. Or it could be that they have seen the same things Cosell sees, and don’t consider Bortles a viable option at #8.
Or it’s possible that Rick Spielman and company have already satisfied themselves about Bortles’ ability and don’t have a problem with his grip. If they’re already sold on him, there would be no need to have him into Winter Park for more workouts like Teddy Bridgewater.
Questions like the ones Cosell raises about Bortles are why the QB evaluation process is so insanely difficult. And this uncertainty is why I believe the Vikings may well forgo taking a quarterback in the first round.
The last thing Rick Spielman wants to do is make another franchise-crippling mistake like in 2011.