Thursday, May. 13, 2021


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Don’t Wager Vikings Draft Trey Lance

 

It’s a wish that makes provincial Vikings fans salivate. Trey Lance to the Minnesota Vikings with the No. 14 selection in the first round of the April 29 NFL Draft.

Perfect.

Fans are always in search of the next quarterback hero. What could be better in these parts than drafting Lance, the Marshall, Minnesota native? Not only is he “one of us,” but his success story at North Dakota State caught this state by surprise and he has emerged as a national phenom. He wasn’t even a coveted quarterback out of high school, and he told NFL.com’s Chase Goodbread that Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck wanted him to play safety for the Golden Gophers.

As a redshirt sophomore last year, Lance announced his decision to enter the 2021 NFL Draft. He did so despite a short college career of only one full season—a headline making 2019 when he led the Bison to 16 consecutive wins and the FCS national title. He was honored with the Walter Payton Award as the top player in the FCS. He completed almost 67 percent of his passes, threw no interceptions and ran for over 1,000 yards.

A Minnesota homecoming sounds dreamy to many Vikings fans, but not so fast. While mock drafts predict a first round landing for the athletic, 6-4, 224-pound Lance, scouting authorities struggle to decide how early he should be selected and what kind of pro career awaits. Would it be a surprise to see Minnesota call his name at 14?

“Yes, I would be very surprised,” a former NFL executive told Sports Headliners this week. The authority, who chose to speak anonymously, said evaluators are unsure about Lance because of the lower level of competition he faced in college. “I think that’s the big question,” the source said.

The FCS isn’t the Big Ten, SEC or other Power Five FBS conferences. Still, no one has to look further than Carson Wentz to document a successful transition from North Dakota State to the NFL. The former Bison quarterback was the No. 2 overall selection in the first round of the 2016 draft and became a first-year starter for the Philadelphia Eagles. With five years on the Bison roster, he was far more experienced at NDSU than Lance.

Mike Zimmer

The Sports Headliners source can’t see Vikings GM Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer using their first round choice on a 20-year-old quarterback needing time to acclimate and improve in the pros. The two decision makers are on short-term contracts with ownership and are coming off a season when Minnesota didn’t make the playoffs. ”They need to win and I don’t think they want to take a developmental quarterback at this stage, unless it’s a third round type guy,” the authority said.

This will be a quarterback-heavy draft in the first round. Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones and Lance are quarterbacks that all could be off the board before the Vikings make their choice, leaving Minnesota able to choose from high quality talent that play other positions. “If there are four quarterbacks taken before the Vikings pick, that’s great for them, and even if a fifth guy slides in there in the top 13, that would be amazing,” the NFL expert said. “I remember being in a lot of draft rooms where we had a good quarterback already, and we’d be thinking, ‘Please (other teams) take a quarterback.’ “

The Vikings have 32-year-old Kirk Cousins as their starter and are contractually committed to him for two more seasons. Spielman might opt for a quarterback later in the draft, perhaps someone like Florida’s Kyle Trask who would be a developmental player. Drew Brees, Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson are recent examples of quarterbacks who were selected after the first round and became stars.

The Vikings drafted Iowa’s Nate Stanley during the seventh round in 2020 and management might like him as a developmental quarterback. Sean Mannion, the team’s main backup to Cousins in 2020, is unsigned but could be retained because he knows the system and doesn’t command an expensive contract like some NFL subs.

Zimmer indicated earlier this spring the Vikings have made sufficient personnel changes during the offseason to feel comfortable about taking the best player available in the first round. “I think that’s where you want to be,” the Sports Headliners source said. “You don’t want to be reaching for positions of need in the first round. That’s where you get in trouble.”

At No. 14 the Vikings could be looking at both the best player available and filling a need. There are quality offensive linemen in this draft and the Vikings, in need of help at tackle, might be able to select Rashawn Slater from Northwestern, or Alijah Vera-Tucker of USC.

Spielman has a history of trading draft choices and accumulating picks. It could be the Vikings will move down in the first round rather than up—if they move at all. Minnesota doesn’t have a second round selection. Spielman might decide there are so many quality players in this draft it’s advantageous to select later in the first round if he can deal his pick at No. 14 for a lower choice, plus acquire a second rounder.

Worth Noting

Gabe Kalscheur’s mom, LeeAnna Kalscheur, told Sports Headliners her son is still at the University of Minnesota pursuing his business major. He will start school in early June at Iowa State where he is joining the Cyclones basketball program.

She said Gabe and the family appreciate the past three seasons and relationships with the U including the new Gopher coaches, but her son wanted a fresh start in basketball and entered the transfer portal earlier this spring. Gabe knows the coaches at Iowa State from previous experiences and chose the Cyclones over offers from Big Ten, ACC and SEC schools.

LeeAnna and her husband plan to make regular trips to Ames. She joked with Gabe that he added considerable “commuting time” to see him play college basketball.

Chet Holmgren committed Monday to Gonzaga after delaying a college choice he could have made last fall. Wait-and-see is a smart approach for some prep recruits because things can change at programs like North Carolina where legendary coach Roy Williams retired this spring. The Tar Heels and Williams were on Holmgren’s list of possible colleges after ending his high school career at Minnehaha Academy this month as the nation’s No. 1 recruit.

Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez are presenting themselves as partners to reportedly pay $1.5 billion to buy the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx, but that may not mean equal investors. It’s believed billionaire Lore’s “pockets” are considerably deeper than those of Rodriguez, the baseball star turned businessman.

Speculation is Bob Kurtz, the Minnesota Wild’s radio play-by-play voice since the franchise’s inception in 2000, may retire after this season. If so, Joe O’Donnell, who does radio games for the Iowa Wild, could emerge as a Kurtz replacement.

The struggling Twins, who have lost eight of their last nine games, finish a series with the Oakland Athletics today and then play the Pittsburgh Pirates Friday at Target Field where Minnesota was an MLB-best 24-7 last season.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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