In the end, the Minnesota Vikings didn't have to choose between help for the league's worst scoring defense and a potential future franchise quarterback in Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft.
They got both, thanks to general manager Rick Spielman trading back into the first round for the third consecutive year. With UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr at No. 9 and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32, Spielman has now taken seven first-rounders since assuming final say over personnel in 2012.
"It was a great day for the Minnesota Vikings," Spielman said.
The day started with the Vikings so set on Barr that they were willing to trade down one spot with Cleveland, which took Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8. After stockpiling an extra fifth-round pick from the Browns, the Vikings grabbed Barr, a raw 6-foot-5, 255-pounder with an unusually high ceiling, according to the Vikings.
"You can't coach what this guy has," Spielman said. "This is the same conversation we had last year with Cordarrelle Patterson. He has a very high ceiling."
Patterson, the receiver/returner whom the Vikings traded back into the first round to grab last year, became an All-Pro and record-setting kick returner and a promising receiver as a rookie. As for Barr, the Vikings envision even more of a role for a defense that ranked last in the league in points allowed last season.
Barr, who was converted from fullback to linebacker just two years ago, projects as the starting strong-side linebacker and special weapon for head coach Mike Zimmer, the defensive mastermind who is transforming Leslie Frazier's reactionary Cover 2-based scheme into an aggressive pressure defense.
"He's like a fawn learning all these things," said Zimmer, referring to the fact Barr has played only two years of linebacker after switching from running back. "I've never had a linebacker that has the size and the speed and all the things this guy has."
That's saying something considering Zimmer consistently coached top-10 defenses in 14 seasons as an NFL defensive coordinator in Dallas, Atlanta and Cincinnati.
Spielman compared Barr to former Dolphin defensive end Jason Taylor, a potential future Hall of Famer. Director of College Scouting Scott Studwell compared him to former Vikings defensive end Chris Doleman, a Hall of Famer. And Zimmer compared Barr's role in the Vikings' defense to how Denver uses Von Miller, the 2011 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
"The strong-side linebacker is a pressure position in our defense," Zimmer said. "But he also can cover."
Barr satisfied the Vikings on game film. And he absolutely blew them away during his pro day, running a 4.47 and posting a better three-cone agility time than any of the cornerbacks at the Scouting Combine, according to Spielman.
"He can rush the passer, but with his speed, we won't have any trouble covering down the seam either," Spielman said. "He can turn his hips and move. And at his size, it makes it harder for the quarterback to fit the ball down the seam."
The Vikings' day appeared over after the ninth pick. But appearances are deceiving with Trader Rick.
Reports surfaced that the Vikings tried to trade up to the No. 22 pick to take Johnny Manziel. Spielman would neither confirm, nor deny. But Spielman and Zimmer certainly sounded as though Bridgewater was their preferred quarterback all along, particularly by offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who was entrusted with a pivotal role in identifying a potential future franchise quarterback this offseason.
A team source told NFLDraftScout.com that Turner was the driving force behind the move to get Bridgewater.
"Everywhere Teddy has been, he's won," Zimmer said. "There's something about him."
That's why the Vikings pulled the trigger on a trade with Seattle at No. 32. They gave up picks in the second (40th) and fourth (108th) rounds to move up eight spots and also secure the fifth-year option available on first-round picks per the collective bargaining agreement.
Although anything is possible, the initial plan is for Bridgewater to sit behind starter Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder, who failed as a franchise quarterback hopeful after being the 12th pick in 2011. Ponder's contract is up after this season.
"He's got time to develop," Spielman said of Bridgewater. "We're very comfortable with Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder. We don't want to force a guy to play if he's not ready."
A year ago, Bridgewater was considered the likely No. 1 overall pick. But a poor pro day helped facilitate a tumble down the draft board. The Vikings were concerned enough to schedule a personal workout with him in April in Florida.
"He did much better," Spielman said. "You could see as Norv was coaching him up in just that short amount of time that he was getting better."
Bridgewater had made headlines for not wearing his customary glove during his woeful pro day.
"I don't know if it helped or not in his personal workout," said Zimmer, "but he wore his glove."