The Vikings lost another starter on the offensive line Sunday when Jake Long tore his Achilles tendon. Long joined tackles Andre Smith and Matt Kalil on the injured reserve Tuesday forcing the Vikings to scramble once again to find more stability at the position.
While that might not happen this season, the Vikings will certainly consider using the draft to solidify their offensive line and more specifically left tackle.
Vikings beat writer Matt Vensel wrote Monday "the biggest knock on Spielman and his staff the past three years has been the Vikings’ reluctance to draft offensive linemen with premium picks coupled with their inability to develop late-rounders like they did in years past with guys like Matt Birk, John Sullivan and Brandon Fusco.”
The Vikings have drafted only two offensive linemen — tackles Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt — in the first three rounds since 2007.
So let’s assume the Vikings will use what premium picks they have left in the next draft to secure offensive linemen and consider what talent the very early 2017 mock drafts are predicting will be available.
The Vikings gave up their first-round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for quarterback Sam Bradford, so the elite options are likely out of reach. That includes Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson, Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk, and Ohio State guard Pat Elflein.
Like the Vikings, other teams including San Diego, Jacksonville and Chicago could use O-line reinforcements, which could bump Robinson into the Top 10 picks. But outside of this trio, most mock drafts expect the remaining offensive line talent to be drafted after the first round when the Vikings are back on the draft board.
Draft Wire has the Vikings selecting Notre Dame guard Quentin Nelson in the second round and Florida State tackle Roderick Johnson in the third round. Fansided guessed the Vikings will use one of their third-round picks on Pitt offensive tackle Adam Bisnowaty.
Eric Galko, draft analyst and owner/director of Optimum Scouting, considers the 2017 draft to be weak on quality O-linemen.
“Watching the Vikings this year, the offensive line has been a real frustrating area and the left tackle is going to be an issue moving forward,” Galko said. “But this is one of the weaker offensive tackle classes in recent history.
“Teams are hoping someone steps up.”
Some candidates that might fulfill this need, Galko mentioned, are Temple tackle Dion Dawkins, Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey, Johnson from Florida State, and Bucknell tackle Julie’n Davenport.
Galko argued the Vikings might be better off addressing the offensive line issues in free agency and get creative by possibly trading their second-round slot for more late-round picks.
“Overall, it’s a weak offensive line class and I don’t think they’ll be looking for a starter in this class, but maybe looking at Day 2 and Day 3 to add some depth. The be thing might be to find a guy in free agency.”
Here is a deeper look at five offensive linemen projected to be drafted in the second or third round and should be on the Vikings’ radar:
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin, 6-6, 314 pounds
The former NCAA Division III transfer has quickly proved he has a future in the NFL and could slip into the first round if he declares for the draft. The former UW-Stevens Point standout has used his athleticism to outperform many other highly touted offensive tackles in the Big Ten and around the country. He has even found his way onto several mid-season watch lists for postseason honors.
Dan Feeney, OL, Indiana, 6-4, 310 pounds
The guard earned first team All-America honors from several publications and was a first team All-Big Ten honoree, last season. Feeney did not allow a sack in 475 called pass attempts in 2015 and had only allowed one sack in three seasons before his senior year. He has been praised for succeeding with his simple approach combined with his strength and toughness.
Conor McDermott, OT, UCLA, 6-8, 310 pounds
McDermott, a 24-year-old redshirt senior, is athletic and continues to add weight to his tall frame in the second year as a starter at left tackle. His long arms and athleticism (former Mr. Basketball Tennessee) make him an effective blocker and quality pass protector. The Vikings have done well by drafting UCLA standouts (Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr) recently.
Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell, 6-7, 315 pounds
The FCS star has earned the respect of NFL scouts and national media. He was named a preseason All-American by Athlon Sports and is on the Walter Payton Award watch list. He has an 84-inch wingspan and is described as flexible, quick, intelligent and humble.
Mason Cole, OL, Michigan, 6-5, 305 pounds
Cole, a junior, has made 33 consecutive starts on the offensive line for Michigan and played 25 straight games at left tackle before switching to center in 2016. He was the first true freshman in Michigan history to a start season opener on the O-line.