Some of the worst NFL draft decisions are the ones teams didn’t make. The Minnesota Vikings will travel to Chicago to take on Justin Fields and the Bears on Monday night. Minnesota was rumored to have interest in Fields leading into the draft and nearly had him fall into their lap. What could’ve been a perfect matchup will now become a grudge match.
The Vikings had Fields on their radar from all indications before Chicago jumped in front to snatch him up at the No. 11-overall slot. Minnesota was patiently waiting at No. 14. ESPN’s Courtney Cronin documented the hoops the Vikings were considering jumping through to potentially move up.
On Thursday, (Rick) Spielman said the Vikings tried to trade up from their position at No. 14 but declined to specify which player they were targeting. Sources told ESPN that Minnesota had an eye on Northwestern offensive tackle Rashawn Slater and tried to move up to land him before he went to the Los Angeles Chargers at 13.
The Vikings were also preparing to take Fields given the way the board was falling.
As Minnesota watched Carolina and Denver pass on Fields at Nos. 8 and 9, their distant dream suddenly felt like it could become a reality. With Vikings ownership in the main draft room, front-office personnel worked the phones and tried to see where they might have to move up to land Fields.
Ultimately, Minnesota moved back from No. 14 after the Bears leapfrogged to No. 11 to take Fields. While Fields hasn’t lit the league on fire as a rookie, surrounding circumstances have played a huge part. Matt Nagy has been a disaster. Chicago probably regrets bringing him back for another year after he was held over the fire pit at the end of last season. The scheme on offense has been brutal to watch unfold every week.
As far as weapons go, Chicago pales in comparison to Minnesota. A young QB’s success partly hinges on the situation around him. Mac Jones is flourishing in New England. Would he be doing the same if he were in Jacksonville? Probably not.
Conversely, Trevor Lawrence has been underwhelming as a rookie with the Jaguars. What would he look like if he were with the Patriots? A hell of a lot different. Perhaps if Fields were in Minnesota, he’d be sitting behind Cousins for now. But once he finally got under center, the results would likely be a lot different.
Fields may still pan out in Chicago. It’s premature to make those judgments. But wondering what he could look like in purple and gold could give some nightmares.
Those nightmares may have slithered through Spielman’s mind the night that Round 1 concluded. Per Cronin’s ESPN report, the Vikings were caught off guard when the Bears traded up to select Fields.
The Vikings were stunned, and this one really stung. They wanted one of the top quarterbacks, but they weren’t desperate enough to give up that kind of draft capital for a player who would be sitting behind Cousins for at least a year.
But Fields was the guy for Minnesota, and the team was prepared to take him if he had been there at No. 14 and begin a process of shifting course.
Cousins has played well, but it hasn’t translated to many wins for the Vikings. While it isn’t all his fault, it is becoming more apparent that Cousins won’t lead the Vikings to the promised land. Could Fields have been that guy? Who knows. However, settling for Kellen Mond in the third round isn’t the answer.
At some point, Minnesota will have to pull the trigger on a quarterback in the top end of the draft. Either that or find someone established through free agency. There’s a chance there’s a full-on blowup after this season if things don’t turn around in a significant way over the next few weeks. That could mean Mike Zimmer. It could mean Spielman or Cousins. Or maybe a combination of the three is shown the door. With no contingency plan at quarterback, it could leave the Vikings in a desperate situation.
Maybe Fields isn’t a franchise quarterback, and the Bears will regret making the selection down the road. At least they stepped up and took the shot. By all accounts, the Vikings were enamored with Fields. They loved the idea of getting him in the first round. They opted against it because of the asking price to move up, which may be a decision they live to regret. They’ll get an up-close and personal look at what could’ve been on Monday night.