At the start of the mock draft season, I (only half) jokingly conducted a seven-round Minnesota Vikings mock in which every selection was spent on an offensive lineman. Let’s go full circle on the bit and close down the run-up to this year’s draft with another mock identifying a potential fit for the Vikings with each of their 10* selections.
*Feels like I need to time-stamp that number because you know Rick Spielman will either turn those 10 into something between four and 20 selections by the time Mr. Irrelevant’s name is called on Saturday.
For this exercise, I used the Pro Football Network mock draft simulator, in part because I hadn’t used it yet this mock season and didn’t have an idea of how to game the draft board based on what rankings were feeding it.
Without further ado, a lineman for every Vikings selection.
Round 1, Pick 14: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT/OG, USC
If the Vikings believe Ezra Cleveland’s best position long-term is guard, Christian Darrisaw was still on the board, and they could go that direction. But AVT is a standout tackle in his own right who could be kicked inside to guard if the plan is to move Cleveland outside. I’ve already discussed why Vera-Tucker is my draft crush for this year, and I’m already having the internal debate about paying up for expedited shipping on my AVT jersey if he’s the Purple’s pick Thursday night.
Round 3, Pick 78: Brady Christensen, OT, BYU
Should the Vikings not address their offensive line at 14, my new personal definition of pain will be watching offensive linemen disappear from the “available players” queue until Minnesota is back on the clock. It wasn’t nearly as painful in this exercise as we already have AVT in hand, especially since Christensen slipped through Round 2 and into the Vikings’ lap.
Once again, the debate came down to what position is in Ezra’s future. I leaned towards the versatile Christensen here over guard Ben Cleveland, who went four picks later, primarily because there were more guard options likely to be around in a dozen picks than there were legitimate tackle options.
Round 3, Pick 90: Kendrick Green, IOL, Illinois
Walker Little was a consideration, and if the Vikings view both Ezra and AVT as guards, he’s the better pick as he has starting left tackle upside. And Deonte Brown also entered the conversation as a potential starting left guard. Ultimately Green got the nod based on scheme fit and position versatility. Mike Zimmer will like the pick because he’s a top-end run blocker who’s perfectly suited for the outside zone. His stock has risen since we identified him as a potential Day 3 grab for the Vikings.
Round 4, Pick 119: D’ante Smith, OT, Eastern Carolina
Smith’s Relative Athletic Score is a little underwhelming when compared to what the Vikings tend to look for, but scouting reports don’t ding him for a lack of athleticism when it comes to the actual playing of the football, so I’m on board. Plenty of length, might need time as a developmental player to get up to NFL-caliber bulk. Anyone have Ben Bartch’s smoothie recipe?
Round 4, Pick 125: Trey Hill, IOL, Georgia
Experience at both center and guard in the SEC trumps a RAS score that probably eliminates him from the Vikings’ draft board. But athletic, undersized guards aren’t exactly working out, so maybe a different approach is in order. Hill moves well enough to function in a zone system, and the interior options are thinning quickly.
Round 4, Pick 134: Alaric Jackson, OT, Iowa
Few college programs turn out NFL-ready offensive linemen like the Hawkeyes do. Jackson might not be one of their prize pupils, but he made 42 starts at left tackle there, so that says something about his ability. There’s also the potential for a kick inside to guard if his technique and footwork get cleaned up.
At this point, we’re not necessarily looking for immediate help. But if you have to plug in an untested late-round selection, an Iowa alum at least doesn’t arrive at the party empty-handed.
Round 4, Pick 143: David Moore, IOL, Grambling
Another player identified earlier as a Day 3 prospect, Moore has a bit more bulk than the Vikings are accustomed to at guard, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He still has quality feet, if not the RAS score to match. But I gotta be honest: At this point, even I’m reaching a round or two for linemen I like who fit Minnesota’s needs. It’s like some team drafted nothing but linemen early on and drained the talent pool.
Round 5, Pick 157: Robert Hainsey, IOL, Notre Dame
Hainsey just makes the 8.00 RAS cut line for typical Vikings prospects, and his experience is at tackle even though he’s projected to be a better NFL fit inside. The Vikings love their Golden Domers, and at this juncture, you could do worse than grabbing a multi-year starter from one of college football’s top offensive line programs.
Round 5, Pick 168: Cole Van Lanen, OT, Wisconsin
With alumnus from Iowa, Notre Dame, and Wisconsin, we’ve pretty much hit the trifecta of non-SEC schools with a legitimate claim to be called OLU (as in Offensive Line University). Van Lanen has an RAS that’s probably higher than what you actually get on the field, as most scouting reports move him inside to guard to hide limitations. He has good hands, which will help inside as well.
At this point in the proceedings, he’s worth a flier.
Round 6, Pick 199: Brenden James, OT, Nebraska
Position versatility, big-school experience, and a Relative Athletic Score on the plus side of the Vikings’ preferences; that’s a Day 3 dart I can get behind throwing.
Of course, the Vikings aren’t going to take an offensive lineman with every pick, and of course, I’m going to complain when they don’t. The key will be using enough early-draft capital to find immediate help for both of their offensive line holes. That way, the dart throws at the back end can be groomed instead of tossed into the fire before they’re ready.
Hey, a guy can dream.