The Minnesota Vikings hit quite the home run when they were able to trade up at the end of the first round in the 2014 NFL draft to pick up former Louisville standout Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32 overall. For the most part, he was considered the top quarterback prospect throughout the draft process. With such a big move, comes expectations.
Fans in Minnesota are going to want Bridgewater to start out of the gate. With that said, we can expect new Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer to do what’s best for his team and the young signal caller. If Zimmer comes to the conclusion that Bridgewater is the best option to lead the team heading into the 2014 season, he will start.
Here are five reasons why Bridgewater can be successful as a rookie starter in 2014.
1. Bridgewater’s Talent
Despite Bridgewater’s slide down draft boards leading up to the annual event in New York City, he is clearly the most-talented quarterback of the draft class. The former Louisville standout doesn’t just have the capability of making every throw on the football field, he can do so with ease. He can hit that 20-yard out from the right hash to the left sideline. He can throw a strike down the seam to the tight end. He can lob the ball in over the defender down the field on go routes. This is what made Bridgewater the consensus top quarterback before a late draft-season fall from grace.
eDraft’s Derrik Klassen had this to say about Bridgewater when drawing a comparison to Aaron Rodgers, who also suffered a draft-day fall when he came out.
Much like Rodgers, Bridgewater’s accuracy is generally outstanding, as is his pocket presence. To an extent, both can be mobile, but choose to be lethal with their arms instead. Bridgewater’s deep ball accuracy is not on the same level as Rodgers, but outside of that, the two are quite comparable.
While Rodgers was afforded the opportunity to sit behind Brett Favre, suggesting that Bridgewater possesses nearly the same skillset as Rodgers did when he came out of CAL is a pretty big endorsement of the rookie quarterback.
2. Matt Kalil at Left Tackle
One commonality for quarterbacks who struggle as rookies is that they normally don’t have a franchise left tackle protecting their blindside. This won’t be an issue for Bridgewater, who can rely on Kalil to give him support upfront. This will be needed with the pass-rush threats that the NFC North possesses at this point.
If Bridgewater is given a clean pocket to pass the ball, he will be able to use that pin-point accuracy to find the vast amount of weapons that Minnesota has in the passing game. In addition to this, you won’t see Bridgewater’s mechanics break down that often, which will further limit the mistakes he makes as a rookie.
3. Adrian Peterson
It surely helps to have the best running back of this generation behind you in the backfield. Unlike any other rookie quarterback in the recent history of the league outside of Russell Wilson in 2012, Bridgewater will be able to rely more on the running game to get things done on offense. This means that he can manage the game and won’t be asked to put the ball in the air 35-plus times per game on a consistent basis.
Peterson might be getting up there in age and have a lot of tread on those tires, but he is more than capable of 300-plus rush attempts throughout the duration of the season.
4. Cordarrelle Patterson and Co.
This second-year receiver is set to break out big time in 2014. When given an opportunity as a rookie, Patterson showed that he can be a big-time playmaker with the ball in his hands.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Patterson caught 63 percent of the balls thrown in his direction last season and only dropped five passes on 72 targets. Patterson picked up his production down the stretch, putting up 24 receptions in his final six games last season. If he can take that next step, especially down the field, Bridgewater will immediately find himself in tune with a true No. 1 receiver.
Outside of Patterson, the Vikings have some other solid options in the passing game. Greg Jennings will move to the slot when they go to a three-wide set, which will line him up against a lesser cornerback than what we have seen in the past. As the ultimate possession receiver, Jennings can provide Bridgewater with a consistent target on third down. Kyle Rudolph is yet another intriguing option here. The former Pro Bowler put up 30 receptions in an injury-plagued 2013 campaign that saw him suit up for just eight games. He’s a big-bodied option that, along with Jennings, can help out on third down.
5. Norv Turner
The original Quarterback Whisperer, Turner has worked wonders with some of the most-heralded young quarterbacks in the NFL throughout the years. Starting with Troy Aikman over a quarter century ago, Turner knows full well what it takes to help a quarterback be successful early in his career.
He has also worked with the likes of Alex Smith and Philip Rivers, among others. Before you crack jokes about Smith’s early-career struggles, it’s important to note that his best season prior to Jim Harbaugh taking over in San Francisco came with Turner as the 49ers offensive coordinator.
It’s not necessarily a sound decision to start a rookie quarterback in any situation. Common logic suggests that young quarterbacks are better off sitting a year or two before taking over.
With that said, situations arise every once in a while where a young quarterback has an ability to succeed out of the gate. We have seen this with Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck in recent seasons. Outside of Luck, there is one commonality between these quarterbacks. They have had solid supporting casts to rely on and didn’t need to be much more than game managers when all was said and done.
As you can see above, Bridgewater is in that type of situation. Should the Vikings decide that he gives them the best short-term chance at success while not impacting his progression as a quarterback long term, Bridgewater should be able to put up a pretty good rookie campaign.
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