The eighth pick in the draft is frustrating—typically franchises with the eighth pick haven’t solved their problems behind center but are left generally finding another position to strengthen with the hope that they can find a way to grab a quarterback next year.
In fact, in the last 40 years, quarterbacks have only been selected twice with the eighth pick (and recently, too: Ryan Tannehill and Jake Locker) and only six times with picks seven through nine.
Adding to that, the trade value of the eighth pick seems to fall below the type of cache that a team with a record typical of that order should command—St. Louis grabbed pick #8 and #71 for #16, #46, #78 and #222. Moving down eight spots to functionally grab a second-round pick is fairly disappointing given the haul that Washington had to give up in order to grab their quarterback (from St. Louis, interestingly enough).
Picks in this range have gone for about the same haul, which hasn’t been too tantalizing.
With that in mind, the Vikings are in a unique spot for having a pick in the ‘grey zone’ of good-but-not-great picks in that they might have a nearly perfect fit of a prospect fall to them. Projections from a number of experts have Minnesota selecting Derek Carr, the quarterback at Fresno State (although at least one prominent mock has presumptive top quarterback Teddy Bridgewater fall to them) as their future signal-caller.
While there are a variety of qualities that any offensive coordinator wants to see in a quarterback, there are specific qualities that Norv Turner may want out of his offense more than many offensive coordinators will want in theirs.
The ability to read a defense will remain a priority for any offensive coordinator, as will accuracy—that won’t change.
But for the Air Coryell that Norv Turner will run, there will be a few other qualities that are higher on the chart than they would otherwise be.
The most obvious (and arguably most misunderstood) is arm strength. Coryell quarterbacks need to put enough velocity on the ball to consistently create plays for receivers downfield with consistency and accuracy.
It is not just because the new Vikings quarterback will be asked to throw the ball deep—every quarterback in the league can throw the ball far enough for a deep-passing offense—but that they’ll be asked to do it with timing and frequency not found in other offenses.
The 50-yard passes that fans are so fond of seeing are exceedingly rare, with some offense having zero attempts throughout the year. Even offenses known for bombing it deep will attempt 50 yards in the air on the rarest of occasions.
Instead, arm strength in a deep game is more about consistency. Providing a tight spiral that slices through the air that’s predictable for receivers is crucial to opening up the field vertically.
Knowing where the ball is going to be and how to catch it will be more important for receivers than knowing the fact that the quarterback has the ability to get the ball downrange. Arm strength provides a unique talent for creating that kind of predictability that allows receivers to look at the last second for the ball instead of tracking it for ages while defensive backs are alerted to do the same.
It also means that the ball is unlikely to trail at the end of throws, catch currents in the air or find itself prey in 50-50 situations to enterprising defensive backs.
Relatedly, in the short passing game, ball velocity allows the quarterback to push the ball through tight passing windows, increase consistency on timing routes and prevent defenses from responding quickly before and after the catch.
An important quality for Don Coryell and his disciples, it’s lucky that the Vikings might be able to grab the best arm in the class among the more polished of the quarterbacking corps.