Should the Vikings look to this spring’s NFL Draft to rebuild at offensive tackle, one analyst doesn’t see many top options.
“It’s not a great year at all,” ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said. “Probably a mediocre year for offensive tackles in general.”
A consistent failure to protect the edges for quarterback Sam Bradford and a limited run game partially stemmed from the Vikings losing both starting tackles to injury by the season’s fifth game.
Moving forward, the Vikings can restart with only a few tackles – T.J. Clemmings, Willie Beavers and Rashod Hill — currently under contract for the 2017 season. Four in Matt Kalil, Andre Smith, Jake Long and Jeremiah Sirles are pending free agents.
And Kiper doesn’t see many tackles flying off draft boards before the Vikings’ first scheduled pick in the second round. Minnesota’s 14th-overall selection sits with the Eagles after the September trade to acquire Bradford.
“The first round is only going to have, I think, three offensive tackles,” Kiper said. “That would be Cam Robinson, Alabama, Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin, and Garett Bolles from Utah.”
The lack of top options, in Kiper’s assessment, stands in contrast to last year’s draft when three tackles were selected within the first 13 picks – and five overall in the first round. Five tackles were also taken in 2015′s first round.
If the Vikings stand pat and don’t jump back into the first round, which is doable with five picks between rounds two and four, Kiper pinpointed a few potential second-round and third-round picks along the offensive line in Temple’s Dion Dawkins, Western Michigan’s Taylor Moton and Troy’s Antonio Garcia.
Moton started at both right tackle and right guard for Western Michigan under newly-hired Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck.
“I think those three Dawkins, Moton and Garcia would be in that second and third round area who could be really nice players,” Kiper said. “I think Moton’s versatility really is a plus and I thought Dawkins and Garcia graded out well.”
As the Vikings approach a crossroads with star Adrian Peterson, who is under contract for an unrealistic $18 million, they’ll also need help at running back where recent standouts from Arizona’s David Johnson to Chicago’s Jordan Howard were taken with mid-round picks.
“There’s great depth at running back pretty much every year,” Kiper said. “None of the final four teams in the NFL right now have a running back on the field who went in the first round that’s making a key contribution. Of the 12 playoff teams, 11 of them didn’t have a running back that went in the first round.”