Looking For O-Line Gems On the Day 3 Scrap Heap

Photo Credit: Justin Ford (USA TODAY Sports)

One popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The Minnesota Vikings’ track record of using Day 3 picks on interior offensive linemen and hoping to field a competent offensive line might fit that definition.

However, with the 2021 NFL Draft fast approaching, there is little indication the Vikings intend to invest any meaningful resources into their offensive line. Rather than hold out hope that they trade up to land a sliding Penei Sewell, per Mel Kiper Jr.’s most recent mock ($), I went digging through the Day 3 options to see what the Vikings might have to work with.

What I found did not exactly bolster my optimism for what Minnesota might trot out in front of Kirk Cousins this year. But based on a couple of mock draft scenarios, the cupboard wasn’t entirely bare.

The following players are the best landing spots for Rick Spielman’s Day 3 darts:

Kendrick Green, Illinois

The Illini’s first offensive All-American in a decade, Green was so honored with a spot on USA Today’s second team following his standout 2020 campaign. Green was also a consensus first-team All-Big Ten performer and the third-highest-rated guard by Pro Football Focus.

Recruited as a defensive tackle, Green transitioned to the other side of the ball and started his final 33 games at Illinois at either center or guard. Green still has some nuances to pick up, having only played on the offensive line for three years, but that also means exponentially more room for improvement.

Green has good size at 6’4″, 315 lbs, with what The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs refers to as a “boxy build,” plus more than enough core strength to allow him to stand up oncoming rushers and prevent penetration.

Anchor box: checked.

NFL Draft analyst Lance Zierlein calls him a “natural fit for teams heavy into outside zone” — which, obviously, the Vikings are. Crabbs also noted his footwork, though he expressed concern that Green too frequently ended up on the ground at the end of plays. It’s something we’ve seen from current Vikings linemen, so while it’s certainly not ideal, it doesn’t feel like a reason to cross Green off the draft list.

Hey, at this point we’re more than 20 players deep into the offensive line pool; there’s a reason banking on these picks for help hasn’t worked out. But Green’s combination of athleticism, ability, and upside beckon with that same old siren call of “This time it’ll work.”

Maybe. Why not give it a shot?

David Moore, Grambling

Moore’s 2020 fall season was postponed, so he spent his time training with former NFL lineman Bruce Matthews. Moore accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he shook off the rust and was voted the American team’s top offensive lineman by the defensive linemen he faced all week in practice.

At 6’1″ and 350 lbs, Moore has plenty of anchor to stymie bull-rush attempts. He also possesses above-average athleticism, with the quickness and agility to reach downfield targets in a zone scheme. Jordan Reid of The Draft Network also notes that Moore has a “well-developed understanding of angles” when blocking at the second level, as well as a familiarity with the zone scheme and a solid football IQ.

Moore already has his degree and declared for the draft rather than return for Grambling’s spring season. His success at the Senior Bowl suggests he made the right decision. While he may measure up shorter than the typical NFL guard — not to mention heavier than the typical Vikings lineman — he brings plenty of assets to the table to warrant a Day 3 look as a potential solution to Minnesota’s perennial guard problems.

Royce Newman, Ole Miss

Newman’s 6’5″, 306 lb frame is more of a classic fit for the Vikings’ offensive line blueprint, and he also checks all the usual boxes for the type of late-round lineman Minnesota brings to camp. Drae Harris of The Draft Network identifies Newman as “more positional blocker than vertical mover,” possessing the athleticism and nimble footwork that makes him a better fit for a zone scheme. Zierlein concurs, identifying Newman’s movement skills and positional versatility as some of his best attributes.

Newman spent 2019 at left guard for Ole Miss, surrendering just one sack in 416 pass-blocking snaps per PFF. He swapped to right tackle for the 2020 season, though almost universally scouting reports project him to play guard in the NFL due primarily to shorter-than-average arms and sub-par hand usage.

Those traits aren’t likely to be as costly inside, where the Vikings need the most immediate help. And since Day 3 picks tend to be more developmental, at least for most teams, they could see if Newman can be coached up with his handwork and provide occasional reps at tackle.

Hey, it’s not like the Vikings fielded a top-30 guard on the left side last season. Heck, Dru Samia barely snuck into the top 130 guards per PFF grades. And while I’m not a fan of the “it can’t get any worse” approach the Vikings seem to be taking to their interior line — it can always get worse if the battle plan calls for plugging in guards from the Day 3 scrap heap — I’d be at least a little more optimistic if one (or more) of those guards were Green, Moore, or Newman.

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