Vikings trade back into first round (again), get QB of future (again) in Bridgewater
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Teddy Bridgewater had a feeling.
Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer and the Minnesota Vikings felt it, too.
After meeting with Bridgewater at least four times during the pre-draft process, Spielman made another late first-round move and made Bridgewater a member of the Vikings with the 32nd overall pick in Thursday’s first round of the NFL Draft.
For the third year in a row, Spielman traded into the end of the first round. This time, Minnesota gave up a second-rounder (No. 40 overall) and a fourth-rounder (No. 108) to the Seattle Seahawks for the right to make Bridgewater a first-round selection and a member of the Vikings.
"I feel honored," Bridgewater said. "I felt very comfortable working out for those guys. I felt that our relationship that we built leading up to this entire process helped get me to this point, this far. I look forward to doing great things with this team and eventually competing down the long run."
Bridgewater was considered one of the top quarterbacks in the draft along with Central Florida’s Blake Bortles and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. Then a tough performance at the Louisville Pro Day, in which Bridgewater decided not to wear a glove after wearing one all season, started to affect his draft status.
Bortles went No. 3 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Minnesota passed on the chance to select Manziel at No. 9 overall, instead going defense first with UCLA pass-rushing linebacker Anthony Barr.
But as the night went on, Spielman went back into the action late as he’s done three straight years to grab Bridgewater.
"The other thing that we felt was very, very important was debating whether you sit and wait, or do you go ahead and get a guy up there on your board who you really like at that position, and felt just going to make that move up to 32nd was very important," Spielman said. "The other thing that comes into play is that fifth-year option, because now you’ve got a quarterback in the first, OK, you’re going to have the opportunity to have that fifth-year option, which is a key part of it, as well."
Spielman traded up in 2012 to select Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith. Last year, Spielman didn’t stand pat after picking defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. He traded four picks for the right to select receiver Cordarrelle Patterson.
"This is what the draft is all about," Spielman said. "It’s a thrill to watch our team play, but this is a chance every year, what we’ve done in free agency, and now this is a chance to put the final pieces together on making significant moves to help you improve your ball club. So, I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be able to be a part of this draft and to do the things we’ve been able to do the last couple of years."
Spielman and the Vikings were open about their plan to draft another quarterback this year after Christian Ponder proved to not be the answer as the 2011 first-round pick.
Minnesota passed once on Manziel but was still interested in the player who won the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner as a freshman.
FOX Sports’ Jay Glazer reported the Vikings tried to trade back into the first round with the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 22 to select Manziel. Curiously, Cleveland also was on the phone with Philadelphia and according to Glazer outbid Minnesota for the right to jump to the pick, where the Browns selected Manziel.
Cleveland gave up the No. 26 overall pick to the Eagles and included a third-round pick, No. 83 overall. Spielman called the reports about trading up for Manziel "speculation."
"We always are pretty aggressive just calling around, just to see if there’s a potential moving up back in the first," Spielman said. "We were able to find a trade partner and we were fortunate enough to get two No. 1s again this year."
With Bortles and Manziel off the board, Spielman and the Vikings turned their attention to Bridgewater and decided to make the move into the back end of the first round to select the quarterback instead of waiting until their second-round pick Friday.
Houston owns the first pick in the second round and could be looking for a quarterback, so Spielman didn’t take any chances.
Bridgewater was the consensus top signal-caller during the season when he threw for 3,970 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions while playing in a pro-style offense at Louisville.
"He just seems to have that knack when he’s in pressure situations in a game being able to come through it," Spielman said. "We did a very analytical study on all these quarterbacks. One of the things that really stuck out to us, of all the quarterbacks, he was the best against the blitz. So he’s very cool and calm under pressure. He has mobility in the pocket to make plays."
However, Bridgewater started to get dissected during the evaluation period and was knocked for his slight frame (6-foot-2, 212 pounds).
Then, scouts really began to question his worthiness of a top pick after his Pro Day. Bridgewater, who wore a glove at Louisville, ditched the glove for his Pro Day workout and struggled with accuracy, one of his best attributes. Bridgewater completed 70.96 percent of his passes last year with the Cardinals.
"It was a decision that I made the way I was training prior to the Pro Day," Bridgewater said. "But I walked away from the Pro Day, I learned a valuable lesson to just continue to do what got you here and do what you’re comfortable doing."
However, Minnesota wasn’t concerned with Bridgewater’s Pro Day after returning to Louisville and working out Bridgewater privately.
Bridgewater wore his gloves for the private workout and Vikings offensive Norv Turner worked with Bridgewater.
"These guys went down there for a private workout and they came back and they were drooling when they came back," said Zimmer, who didn’t attend the private workout.
Zimmer added: "Norv really, really liked Teddy Bridgewater. He’s talked to me several times about it, the potential that he has to be a great quarterback in the NFL. I don’t want to speak for Rick, but we wouldn’t have moved up just to get anybody."
The Vikings now have their future at the position and Bridgewater will be able to sit and learn from offensive coordinator Norv Turner while Matt Cassel starts for Minnesota. Ponder, who didn’t have his fifth-year option picked up, is still on the roster as well. Cassel re-signed with the Vikings prior to free agency to return as the team’s starter.
"He’s got time," Spielman said. "We’re very comfortable with Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. Teddy will come in and he has plenty of time to sit there and develop. One of the things we wanted to do if we got another quarterback is not force him in before he’s ready to play."
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