Tackle Brian O’Neill
Weight: 297 pounds
Hometown: Wilmington, Del.
Drafted: 62nd overall, as the Vikings’ earliest draft addition to the offensive line since Matt Kalil was taken fourth in 2012.
Current jersey: No. 75
What we’ve learned
O’Neill, the latest in his family to succeed athletically, was the 12th offensive lineman drafted by the end of the second round. O’Neill said he had heard he could be taken anywhere after the top 15 through the third round. While the Vikings were a possible landing spot, they weren’t atop his radar before the draft. “[Contact] wasn’t as deep as some other teams,” O’Neill said. “I met with them at the Senior Bowl and was able to have contact with them at the combine. I think they were able to get a good representation of who I am.”
In the family
O’Neill followed a lineage of athletic talent. His father was a running back at Dartmouth, mother a swimmer at Northeastern and brother a soccer player at Northwestern. Brian was Delaware’s Boys Basketball Player of the Year, a standout defensive end for his high school and committed to play tight end for Pittsburgh in 2014. After redshirting, he moved to tackle due to an injury on the line. He then made 37 consecutive starts at right and left tackle. “Being able to do your techniques consistently every time — that’s kind of the biggest difference,” O’Neill said. “Because you might be able to get away with some stuff at tight end.
An ‘athletic’ fit
For being 6-foot-7, O’Neill impressed the Vikings with his athleticism during both his time at Pittsburgh and the drills at the combine. He was the fastest O-lineman in Indianapolis (1.7 seconds in the 10-yard split) to pair with agility of the best three-cone drill (7.14) and a top 20-yard shuttle time (4.5). The Vikings need athletic linemen for their zone-blocking schemes, a resonating change from the man blocking under Norv Turner. “Whether that’s kicking out to a blitzing linebacker or blitzing d-back, I try to get there fast,” O’Neill said.
What we’re watching for
The Vikings brought strength coach Mark Uyeyama to the scouting combine in February to evaluate players’ body types, movement and potential for growth. They figure the latter importantly applies to O’Neill, who enters his fourth year playing the position. His 22 bench reps was 22nd out of 36 O-linemen benching at the combine. He could stand to get up to 300-305 pounds, O’Neill said. “He’s got to get stronger,” director of college scouting Jamaal Stephenson said after the draft. “That’s one of his weaknesses, but we feel like we can get that corrected easily.”
Settling into the position
O’Neill said some teams talked to him about possibly playing guard, but the Vikings are expected to begin him at right tackle. That’s where O’Neill made most of his college starts (24 of 37). It’s also where the Vikings could have a long-term need if Mike Remmers fills the right guard opening. O’Neill said he wants to refine “some little stuff with my feet” as the former tight end settles into playing tackle.
“We said the same thing when we took Danielle Hunter,” general manager Rick Spielman said, “that he had a lot of work to do.”