Vikings want to draft a rookie to start in 2011?

When the Vikings hired Bill Musgrave as their offensive coordinator in January, they knew one of his best attributes was working with quarterbacks. And in his most recent stop, he worked with a young signal caller that went on to win the 2008 NFL Rookie of the Year.

That “stop” was Atlanta and that “young signal caller” was Matt Ryan. Musgrave oversaw Ryan’s development with the Falcons as his quarterback coach and if beat writers Judd Zulgad and Tom Pelissero are right, he might have a similar opportunity to work with another rookie QB in Minnesota.

In his latest column for the Star Tribune, Zulgad writes that Vikings coach Leslie Frazier talked “extensively” about the quarterback position at the NFL coaches breakfast at the league meetings on Tuesday. Per Zulgad, Frazier “made it clear that his desire would be to draft someone and plug him in as the starter.”

In that same article, Zulgad also quoted Frazier saying that the Vikings would talk internally about different quarterback “scenarios,” which includes trading for Kevin Kolb. But if the team does want to draft a young signal caller, then there will be a couple of options at No. 12 overall.

The Panthers, Bills, Cardinals, 49ers, Titans, Redskins and possibly Bengals (depending on how the Carson Palmer situation plays out) are all in the market for a quarterback and all select before the Vikings do in the first round. Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert are expected to be off the board by the time Minnesota is on the clock, but Jake Locker and Ryan Mallett should be available. Other options include Christian Ponder (who is rising fast up draft boards), Ricky Stanzi, Andy Dalton, Colin Kaepernick and Greg McElroy.

To me, the most logical fit for the Vikings in the first round is Locker. His accuracy runs hot and cold, which is a concern given that Musgrave will run a version of the West Coast Offense and in that system, quarterbacks need to be accurate. But Locker has tremendous athletic ability (another attribute of some successful WCO quarterbacks such as Steve Young), can make all the throws when he sets his feet and stays balanced, and should be available at No. 12. Did he have a good senior year at Washington? No. But there’s plenty of evidence from his junior season to suggest that the kid can play.

If the Vikings choose to address their quarterback need later in the draft, then Ponder is a logical fit in the second round. Unlike Locker, his best attribute is his accuracy and he wouldn’t cost Minnesota a first round pick (or first round money). The problem is that he might not fall to the Vikings at No. 43 (there’s talk that he might go in the first now). Thus, if they pass on someone like Locker in the first they might get stuck (for lack of a better word) with later round options like Stanzi, Dalton or McElroy.

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