How did the quarterbacks do for the Minnesota Vikings during the 2016 season? Here’s a look at them and give grades as well as a look ahead to 2017 season.
When it comes to the NFL, nobody is under a microscope more than the quarterbacks. The guys who throw the football for the Minnesota Vikings were a hot topic of discussion, since a lot happened at the position throughout the season.
For the purpose of this evaluation, 4 quarterbacks will be looked at: Taylor Heinicke, Teddy Bridgewater, Shaun Hill, and Sam Bradford. Each one has a unique path they took in 2016 and a different projection going forward.
For each quarterback, a brief analysis will be given along with a look ahead to what is in store for them during the 2017 season. Included at the bottom of each will be a grade. This grade is for the overall performance of the player during the season, and does not represent their future potential or past achievements.
Let’s get started with a quarterback who entered the 2016 NFL season with his foot in a cast: Taylor Heinicke!
Sep 3, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Taylor Heinicke (6) passes against theTennessee Titans during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
The Minnesota Vikings were hoping to make Heinicke their backup to Teddy Bridgewater during the 2016 season, but that plan fell apart after an offseason injury put the young quarterback on the shelf through preseason and into the regular season.
Heinicke has shown some flashes of potential in the past, but not being able to evaluate him in the preseason makes it difficult to gauge any kind of development he may have made in the offseason or even after his activation.
Fans will want to keep an eye on Heinicke though, because he is likely the one who will be pegged as the replacement for Shaun Hill when he moves on from the Vikings. But, of course, he will need to earn that promotion with great play during the 2017 preseason and training camp.
Hopefully, Heinicke can stay healthy this offseason so he can show what he’s got when training camp rolls around. It would be great to see him in action again to get some fresh game footage to evaluate.
Dec 1, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) looks on prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Coming out of college, Bridgewater was praised for his accuracy and ability to buy time using his feet to let his receivers get open. In his first two seasons in the NFL, those skills were put on display and it appeared as though the Vikings may have found a quarterback who could lead them to victory.
Sadly, a major knee injury to Bridgewater during the preseason put him on the shelf. He would miss the entire 2016 season and there is still some worry he could be forced to sit out some, if not all, of the 2017 season.
Bridgewater has shown the ability to make quick, accurate passes, but does have weaknesses. The most glaring of those is his ability to pass the ball deep. Plus, when you add in the knee injury which may have an impact on his ability to move around the pocket, the future for the young quarterback is cloudy.
Ending the year with no statistics, the hope is that Bridgewater can return to the Vikings for the 2017 season and sit behind Sam Bradford until he is completely healthy. Then, the team will have bigger decisions to make.
Aug 22, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill (13) passes against the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Since Shaun Hill will be 37 years old by the time the 2017 season rolls around, the main question going around about him is his longevity. Eventually, he will want to hang up his cleats and call it a career.
However, he did see action in 3 games this season, including one start in week 1 against the Titans. During that game, he completed only 54.5% of his passes, threw for under 250 yards, and failed to throw a touchdown. The statistics from the other two games don’t look great either, as he was just 1 for 2 in passing for a total of 6 yards.
Hill isn’t the kind of guy that the Minnesota Vikings want to rest their hopes on, but he can step in when needed to play a game or some snaps and not make a lot of costly mistakes to hurt the team.
The future Hill has with the team likely rests of the health of Teddy Bridgewater and the potential the Vikings see in Taylor Heinicke to serve as a backup or QB3. But based on last year’s performances, it might be best to explore their options going forward.
Dec 1, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford (8) passes in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
When Teddy Bridgewater went down with his knee injury, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman made the bold move of sending draft picks (including the team’s first round pick in 2017) to the Philadelphia Eagles to get Sam Bradford.
At the time, that move was both criticized and praised. A first round pick is a lot to give up, but the Vikings were able to get a solid quarterback to lead the way during the season and not throw in the towel in the year due to one single injury.
Bradford impressed the most in his timing and accuracy. His broke the NFL record for completion percentage in a season and added a deep ball component to the Minnesota offense that had been lacking under Bridgewater.
However, Bradford struggled to convert third downs and didn’t show the kind of mobility to avoid pressure that was needed considering the state of the offensive line. Yet, the quarterback stood in there and made throws, helping to solidify Stefon Diggs as well as turn Adam Thielen into a fantasy football player to watch.
Completing 71.6% of his passes for 3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns, and only 5 interceptions is enough to make him the default starter for the 2017 season.
Jun 15, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (5) and quarterback Taylor Heinicke (6) react after practice during mini camp. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Overall quarterback evaluation
In the grand picture of things, the Minnesota Vikings made the right move in making the trade for Sam Bradford. The team was coming off an encouraging season that ended in disappointment, but was poised to contend for the division and the playoffs once again.
With Sam Bradford at the helm, the team actually had a chance at going further than the Wild Card round of the playoffs, but injuries around him on offense made it difficult for the quarterback to live up to his full potential this season.
Next year should be a bit different. The Vikings focus should be improving the offensive line in the offseason, as well as figuring out what to do with free agent wide receivers and running back Adrian Peterson, all of which could have a major impact on the team’s offense.
But, at least for now, it looks like the plan for Minnesota should be to have Sam Bradford as the team’s starting quarterback for 2017. The quarterbacks behind him should be Teddy Bridgewater and Taylor Heinicke, but if Bridgewater is still unable to go or something happens with Heinicke, veteran Shaun Hill is a decent option to manage a game or two.
What did you think of the performances of these quarterbacks? Are the grades fair? Do you project a different group of passers for the team during the 2017 NFL season? Let us know in the comments below. Up next in this series, the Minnesota Vikings running backs will be evaluated.