Marco… Polo. Marco… Garoppolo.

Marco Polo was an Italian merchant traveler who found fame for his exploration and adventure. Polo’s critics claimed that he was somewhat of a wanderer—not always knowing exactly where he was headed.

 Finding that “Franchise” quarterback in the NFL Draft can be a hit-or-miss venture reminiscent of a Marco Polo expedition. And, it can also be blind chance, much like that silly childhood hide-and-seek pool game we all know and love.

Anyway, one Italian name attempting to navigate up NFL Draft boards is Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. At the moment, he is not projected as a first round pick, but teams in the top ten like Houston, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Oakland and Minnesota who might be shopping for a quarterback, could hold off on spending their first pick on a signal-caller in hopes of landing Garoppolo at the top of round two or three.

Gus Bradley and the Jacksonville coaching staff got a great opportunity to work with Jimmy Garoppolo at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Garoppolo had a solid week in Mobile after having an outstanding performance in the East West Shrine Game. Jag’s GM Dave Caldwell thinks the time spent with the senior all-stars has helped his staff sharpen their focus on draft preparation. Jaguar’s owner Shahid Khan has stated that his team might even draft more than one quarterback.

 In the 2011 draft, Jacksonville and Minnesota both missed the mark when they selected quarterbacks in the first round just three years ago. Blaine Gabbert the 10th overall pick for the Jaguars, and Christian Ponder the 12th pick for the Vikings are now… well… let’s just stick with the Marco Polo theme and say they are now just ships that have sailed off the map.

 Can the Vikings and the Jaguars afford to make the same mistake on a first round quarterback again this year? Or, maybe they will follow the two quarterback path the Redskins took in 2012, when Washington selected Robert Giffin III in the first round and Kirk Cousins in the 4th round. Is the idea of taking a swing twice and connecting once, better than a single swing with a potential miss?

In any rate, with the 39th and 40th picks in this year’s draft, the Jaguars and the Vikings respectfully are in prime position to begin the Garoppolo chatter.

 There’s a lot to like about Garoppolo. He is a mid-west guy who is no stranger to cold weather games. Garoppolo has a nice compact super quick release that looks smooth and effortless. He has good ball velocity and accuracy with enough arm strength to make all the NFL throws. Garoppolo has good footwork with active feet. Like Peyton Manning, he likes to keep his feet moving, but can also quickly set them to throw in a very balanced upright position.

 While the physical aspects of Garoppolo’s game is good enough to meet NFL standards, it’s his mental approach, leadership and quick decision making that sets him apart as one the better quarterback prospects in this draft. NFL scouts don’t measure the “it” factor at the scouting combine, but make no mistake, Garoppolo may not have as much “it” or “wow” as Johnny Football does, but he just might be the next runner-up in that category.

 It takes great leadership to change the culture of a losing football team. Eastern Illinois was 4-18 during Garoppolo’s freshman and sophomore years, but a 7-5 junior season along with a 12-2 senior campaign is a testament to his competitive fire and work ethic.

 His senior stats are off the charts. 5050 yards passing, 53 touchdowns with only 9 interception, and Garoppolo completed 66 % of his pass attempts. Maybe the most impressive stat is the fact he was only sacked 19 times.

Garoppolo’s has great mechanics and solid fundamentals. He is a coach-able leader that understands the value of team work. Garoppolo is a confident quarterback with a strong football IQ and is well liked by his teammates.

 Last season Norv Turner had some success with Brian Hoyer as his starting quarterback. Hoyer had two big wins against the Vikings and Bengals before he tore his ACL.

 Because Hoyer and Garoppolo have some similarities in physical size and style of play, Turner and Mike Zimmer might have a strong grade on Jimmy Garoppolo.

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Carl Knowles

Carl Knowles (Contributor) is a former member of the Professional Bowler Association and an avid lifelong Vikings fan. When he is not bowling you can find him on websites and forum pages sharing his creative insight and enthusiasm for the Minnesota Vikings any chance he gets. Carl was a Phoenix Institute of Technology and Purdue University standout who currently enjoys the challenge of being a graphic director in the printing business. You can follow him on twitter @carlknowles_vt.

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      1. With that said, Manziel could be the first QB drafted if reports are true that the Browns really want him.

        I’m hoping Manziel gets drafted in the top 4 picks!

        1. carl, that’s a good sales job on him, so i looked to see what’s wrong with him, and it appears he’s considered a bit small and didn’t have the level of competition that others had, so he’s pegged as second-round material. we might see a surprise and have a player fall into our lap, too. i don’t think those knocks disqualify a QB, but i just don’t want to see another reach

          1. Cal-
            Good point. You are correct about the knocks on Garoppolo.
            But here is the deal.-

            He measured in at just over 6-2 219 at the senior bowl.
            1/8 inch taller than Derek Carr. No body is talking about Carr being too small.

            It will be interesting to see what Bridgewater’s “official” measurements are at the combine. Some think he will be under 200lbs… He “might” even measure in under 6-3?

            When you compare the top quarterback this year… Garoppolo’s size isn’t really much of a factor in my opinion.

            And when you compare quality of competition… Louisville, UCF, Fresno State… It’s not like those team play a power house schedules either.

            My point is, the first round QBs (Bortles, Bridgewater, Carr) are more of a reach and risk than what Garoppolo would be later in the draft..


          2. He has small hands…least that’s what I hear. Wonder if he can skip a rock…

          3. No more reaches. If Vikes select a QB in the first round, they better be sure. I wonder tho, if maybe the Ponder thing scares them into not picking a good QB early. That would suck.
            Honestly…none of these guys impressed me. But, ya gotta pick one somewhere. Norm should be of some help there.

  1. I like Johnny Football. I watched A&Ms bowl game and the way he put the team on his shoulders and rallied them for the win impressed the hell out of me. He has the “it” factor.

    1. Until he takes a NFL hit like RG3 did and Johnny football will be Johnny roadkill.

  2. If Darrell Bevell was hired as head coach, than I might have Manziel higher on my list as a Viking fit.

    On Nov 23, I watched Johnny get beat by LSU and Zach Mettenberger. Manziel only completed 16 of 41 passes, 2 ints and 2 sacks.

    I have also seen Johnny do some unbelievable stuff. Unfortunately, in the NFL, I’m afraid he will experience a few more days like the LSU game.

    1. To be honest Carl, that bowl game is the only time I’ve watched him play so you could very well be right.

      1. Actually, most of the time I have watched him, I am amazed. The LSU games was his worst outing in the last 2 years. 1 bad game.

        The NFL is changing… a great pocket passer like Payton Manning couldn’t do much against Seattle’s great defense. That may not bode well for a guy like Zach Mettenberger.

        When the officials let the DBs play and get physical, it can really disrupt a pocket passing attack.

        A guy like Manziel, that can move around and make something happen could be a hot commodity come draft day. Houston Texans might take him at #1.

        I have heard stats that Manziel’s completion % when he stays in the pocket, is one of the highest among quarterbacks.

        Manziel will win points with me if he is willing to throw at the combine. I would like to see good foot work, quick throws, a strong arm and the ability to throw the ball into tight windows.

  3. Watching highlights of the top three QB’s,Bortles, Bridgewater and Johnny F. I thought, none of them are Brett Favre or Dan Marino. Then I thought, neither was Fran Tarkington. I think if we move up and get Johnny Football or Bridgewater, the fans will go nuts. It’s worth a shot. I’m not so excited about Bortles, tho I could wrong. To me, Bridgewater or Manziel would be exciting. Like getting Patterson. Go for it. I say move up if they can.

    1. I guess I am thinking a different strategy. I really do not think there are 3-4 QBs that are worthy in the first 8-10 picks. I would argue that there is none worth it in the top 5 picks. There are no Andrew Lucks this year that’s for sure. I would trade down (maybe 2 times) and get some extra picks and then go for a QB in the bottom of the 1st or top of the 2nd. If the NFL has changed as much as it is being talked about, then getting a mobile QB would be the way to go. A Garoppolo or Derek Carr who are mobile and have a short quick accurate release would fit the bill. Remember, Rick like to have 10 picks in the draft and we only have 8 so far.

  4. This is why I love the NFL draft season. There are so many opinions, strategies and and smoke screens, that I find so interesting. No opinions are wrong this time of year because anything is possible. When free agency starts, the needs of every team will change depending who they sign. That means the mocks drafts today are even more worthless.

    1. I guess that’s why it’s called a crapshoot. Just as well flip a coin at this point. Things will look a lot different after FA.

  5. In 2007 and 2008 Bill O’Brien the now head coach for the Texans was OC for Matt Cassel in New England.

    Could Cassel be headed to Houston??

  6. If Matt Schaub gets cut in Houston to free up cap space… Would Schaub be a good fit in Minnesota?

    1. I don’t think so Carl. Schaub looks pretty washed up to me. The qb from a team that finished 2-14 isn’t a very attractive option.

      1. Living down here close to Houston I have seen many Texans games. Trust me, we do not want him. At the first sign of a pass rush he lays down on the ground and goes into a fetal position. That is not being exaggerated either.

        1. Norse, I’ve told you a million times not to over exaggerate 🙂 You’re right, the few times I watched Schaub I saw the same thing. Also way too many errant throws.

  7. I just watched the Mike Zimmer press conference again and also his interview with NFLN.I definitely think that the Vikes have made the right call on Zim. This guys eats, breathes and lives for football. I did not get that impression when Frazier was the HC. Seemed to me he was more like a 8-4 guy.

  8. Looks like there will be another team looking to draft a QB or two. John Elway said he is looking to draft one QB for sure and said he may draft two QB’s. So now with the Broncos looking at QB or QB’s that could really mess up the Vikings QB draft plans. I watched the John Elway interview on tv when said this. He was asked if they had plans for moving on without Manning in the future.