The Minnesota Vikings are on the verge of a crucial offseason. With several familiar faces that could be walking out the door, Minnesota will have to decide which direction they want to go after a Super Bowl window appears to be closing.
At quarterback, Kirk Cousins is entering the final year of his contract at the same time the 2020 draft class is ripe with talent. In the first article in a series of potential draft targets, we took a look at Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to see if he's a fit in the Vikings system and if Minnesota should move up to get him.
Why the Vikings should draft Tagovailoa
Anybody who watched the playoffs can see the advantages a team has when they have a quarterback that can improvise. As the games get tighter, the more dynamic quarterbacks seem more capable of marching further into the playoffs. Prime example: the Kansas City Chiefs, who drafted Patrick Mahomes even with Alex Smith on the roster, and that move paid off with a Super Bowl victory.
That trend alone should make Tagovailoa appealing to the Vikings even if they have to trade up to get him.
The key behind Tagovailoa's success has been his accuracy. Playing in the defensive landscape of the SEC, Tagovailoa completed 69.3 percent of his passes including a career-high 71.4 percent in his final season with the Crimson Tide.
With an arm that has more accuracy than arm strength, Tagovailoa still was a big-play machine in part due to the elite wide receiver trio Alabama had on the field with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and Devonta Smith. Regardless, Tagovailoa threw for 87 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 32 games with the Crimson Tide.
But the biggest advantage that Tagovailoa has over Cousins is his ability to improvise and keep plays going. His mobility was a big factor in Tuscaloosa, extending plays and even making big plays with his legs as he rushed for 340 yards and nine touchdowns over the past three years.
An efficient quarterback that can make the occasional play for the Vikings would be perfect as they look to solidify their offensive line and make teams pay for when they stack the box against Dalvin Cook. With a strong stable of passing weapons that includes Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, the transition could be seamless if the Vikings decided to take the plunge.
Why the Vikings should not draft Tagovailoa
While Tagovailoa has been electric on the field, he's had issues staying on it over the past two seasons. His 2018 season posted Heisman-worthy numbers (3,966 yards, 43 TD, 6 INT), but could have been even better if he wasn't hampered by a high-ankle sprain that required surgery.
Even last season, the ankle woes popped up again before Tagovailoa took a major blow against Ole Miss, suffering a concussion, broken nose and a dislocated hip.
The good news is that Tagovailoa's recovery has gone well and many still expect him to be a top pick in the upcoming draft. The bad news is that there's still plenty of risk, especially with a team that has a shoddy offensive line, like the Vikings.
Currently, Tagovailoa isn't expected to fall past the fifth pick in the draft, and the Detroit Lions have already let it be known that the third overall pick is available for teams that want to trade up.
With absolutely no chance of landing him 25th overall, the Vikings would have to pull off a trade, which would come at a supreme cost.
Back in 2018, the Chicago Bears traded two third-rounders and a fourth-rounder just to move up one spot to select Mitchell Trubisky third overall, but with a projected jump of 22 spots, the Vikings deal may be closer to what the Chiefs gave to the Buffalo Bills (two first-round picks and a third-round pick) in order to draft Mahomes.
With the Lions unlikely to want to trade themselves into having to stop Tagovailoa for the next decade in the NFC North, the price might also be significantly higher, which might not be worth the overall risk.
What should the Vikings do?
The option of drafting Tagovailoa is the classic case of high-risk, high-reward for the Vikings. With his lengthy injury history, there should be some pause for forking over the farm to get him on a team that has aspirations of competing in 2020 but has major holes to fill in order to do so.
That being said, this is a team that has struggled to find a franchise QB since Fran Tarkenton retired. While Cousins is good, the Vikings might need to keep an eye to the future and see if this avenue is a realistic one.
If they're able to pull it off, the Vikings could have Tagovailoa learn under Cousins for a season, allowing his hip to heal and turning him loose in 2021. It just depends if the Vikings are willing to pay the price to make that happen.