No first-round pick, no problem at right guard?
The Vikings watched last year as two NFC North rivals found promising offensive linemen in the NFL Draft’s second round. The Packers (Jason Spriggs, 48th overall) and the Bears (Cody Whitehair, 56th overall) found fits even after last year’s first round saw a run on O-linemen with seven drafted.
At least at tackle, this year’s draft is not considered as deep as 2016. But the upcoming 2017 class boasts a handful of interior offensive linemen who could be the Vikings’ next starting right guard. As our Mark Craig outlined, that’s where the O-line needs the most attention after Minnesota added two tackles in free agency.
“We still have to figure out the guard position, the right guard, and I think I know what the center’s going to be,” head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters at the NFL owners meetings last month.
As guards were getting rich, the Vikings stayed out of the free agency bidding following the releases of Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris this offseason. Their sights are likely set on the draft with the first selection scheduled for 48th overall.
So let’s take inventory on some of the top prospects who could be available in the draft’s second day. Internally, the Vikings want to try Jeremiah Sirles (6-6, 315) at right guard, per Zimmer, after he made 10 starts last year at both tackle and guard. Veteran center/guard Joe Berger (6-5, 305) is also an option.
Joining them in the competition could be…
Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky (6-4, 309)
Lamp, a four-year starter at left tackle for the Hilltoppers, might not be available by the time the Vikings pick at No. 48, but his college production could entice a team like Minnesota to move up for him. Lamp made 42 consecutive starts before missing back-to-back games as a senior. He drew good reviews after moving to guard during the Senior Bowl in January. A standout athlete, Lamp lit up the scouting combine with top marks in the 40-yard dash, bench, broad jump and three-cone drill. His arm length (32 1/4″), three inches shorter than Alabama tackle Cam Robinson (35 1/2″), might lead NFL teams to keep him at guard. He still fared well at left tackle when Western Kentucky played Alabama in September.
“Yeah, I think I can play tackle,” Lamp told reporters at the NFL scouting combine. “Everybody says the Alabama front, all three of those guys are going to get drafted in the first round. So if I can block those guys, why couldn’t I block anybody?”
Dan Feeney, Indiana (6-4, 305)
A four-year starter and team captain for the Hoosiers, Feeney became just the third IU player in school history to be named a first-team All-American in consecutive seasons. Feeney allowed just two sacks in 45 career games for the Hoosiers, according to the Indy Star, with most of those starts coming at right guard. Shifted to right tackle when injuries thinned Indiana’s line. Played out of a predominately spread offense under former Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson.
“I can adapt to anything,” Feeney told reporters at the NFL scouting combine. “We ran power at Indiana. We ran zone at Indiana. We ran [isolation]. So, I can adapt to anything. I got a good solid base of pro-style and spread.”
Pat Elflein, Ohio State (6-3, 303)
After being named a second-team All-American at right guard in 2015, the Buckeyes needed Elflein to move to center as a senior. He underwent shoulder surgery last spring and still earned first-team All-American honors, as a center, boasting the versatility coveted by the Vikings and other NFL teams. Started 40 straight games for Ohio State after earning a starting guard spot at the end of the 2013 season.
“I tell them I’d play either, obviously,” Elflein told reporters at the NFL scouting combine. “Told them I have experience starting at right, left guard and center and that I’m able to play all three and switch around and be versatile. I feel like that’s a good marketing tool for me.”
Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh (6-5, 300)
Johnson became a fixture at left guard for the Panthers after being recruited as a five-star tackle. Started 39 consecutive games there over the past three seasons. Earned first-team All-ACC honors as a senior. Praised by draft analysts for his athleticism and intelligence. Missed the Senior Bowl due to an ankle injury suffered in Pitt’s bowl game, but told reporters at the NFL scouting combine he’s healthy. Put up top marks in the vertical and broad jump. Weighed in at 300 pounds after playing 10-15 pounds heavier in college.
“I am not too concerned about the weight right now,” Johnson said. “My thing is going to try to put weight on during the summer. So, I’m about 300 right now and I’m cool with that weight.”
Dion Dawkins, Temple (6-4, 314)
A three-year starter at left tackle in Temple’s pro-style offense, Dawkins reportedly impressed at the Senior Bowl in his transition to guard where he might be best suited to play in the NFL. Started 40 games at left tackle. Boasts a big (35″ arms) and powerful (26 bench reps) frame. He was arrested in 2015 along with a teammate for a fight outside of a Philadelphia bar, but both avoided trial and suspension by entering a diversionary program.
“Nobody’s perfect. Things happen, whether you’re guilty or not,” Dawkins told reporters at the NFL scouting combine. “I was at the wrong place at the wrong time and I had to deal with the consequences. … When football was taken away from me, I see life in a totally different view now.”