If you’re an NFL team, do you really like the quarterbacks available in this weekend’s draft? Do you really, really like them, enough to spend a high pick on one and make him your franchise guy?
Or do you like Teddy Bridgewater better?
As they make their draft plans now, teams would be smart to factor in the possibility of Bridgewater being available next offseason. Clearly, it’s a lot to factor in, a serious risk to weigh, a dangerous gamble to take.
But the Vikings have sent the league a fairly clear signal by hedging their bet on Bridgewater. ESPN reported Wednesday morning that the Vikings likely won’t pick up the fifth-year option for the 2018 season by next Tuesday’s deadline.
MORE: SN's latest Mock Draft
That doesn't preclude the Vikings from re-signing Bridgewater before then. But clearly, if they felt better about his recovery from his extremely serious knee injury, he would have gotten the benefit of the doubt. Teams have given players with far less job security, the security of that fifth year before (see: Robert Griffin III, Washington, in 2014 for the 2015 season).
The Vikings didn’t trade a first-round pick to the Eagles last year to get Sam Bradford strictly out of desperation. They suspected then that Bridgewater’s return was far from guaranteed for 2017 … or 2018 … or, for their purposes, ever. In terms of 2017, they may be right.
Bradford is their guy, for now, and they're proceeding as such. Even if Bridgewater is really back at full strength in 2018, who’s to say where the Vikings and Bradford will be then?
That’s where teams have to stroke their chins about this year’s draft ... and next year’s, to be honest.
No matter what shenanigans teams are pulling with their picks, especially at the top, if everyone agreed the quarterbacks this year were sure things, there would be no shenanigans. The Browns, 49ers and Bears would know who they want and what they’re willing to do to get him.
But they’re not doing that for Mitchell Trubisky, DeShaun Watson, DeShone Kizer, Patrick Mahomes, Davis Webb or any of the other names bubbling here and there. Not the way teams lasered in on Jared Goff and Carson Wentz, for just the most recent examples.
And smart teams are not falling for the “next year’s monster quarterback class" claim, either.
Heck, Bridgewater was the obvious, clear-cut, no-brainer No. 1 quarterback going into his final college season, and a year later, he barely got into the first round (for reasons it’s better not to go into, except that he was picked after Johnny Manziel).
Nothing is a sure thing, not among the quarterback prospects, and definitely not a year in advance.
Bridgewater might be a far, far better option in 2018. Better than the 2018 class.
Better than the 2017 class, too.
If Bridgewater's knee is fine and he’s back to what he was before he tore it up, he’d be a legitimate, experienced, division-winning starter, albeit a rusty one with a major health question mark.
That’s still fewer question marks than those about this quarterback crop in the draft this weekend.
This isn’t looking like a class that will leave teams with regrets for passing on them. There are already teams regretting passing on the first version of Bridgewater.
They could really regret passing on the second version — and a bold team could reap the reward.