Reasonable people would agree that offensive line is one of the biggest – if not the biggest – need of the Vikings this offseason. Iowa’s Brandon Scherff is universally regarded as the best lineman prospect in this year’s draft class, and there’s even a chance (albeit slim) he could fall to the Vikings at the 11th overall pick.
Like nearly everyone who covers the Vikings these days, I’ve listed offensive line as one of the team’s biggest areas of need this offseason. Finding said o-line help via free agency would be my first choice if I were the Vikings, and I’ve been saying for quite some time that they ought to figure out a way to get in on the competition to sign soon-to-be free agent Pro Bowl left tackle Mike Iupati of the 49ers. However, that would entail inking him to what is sure to be one of the richest contracts for a lineman in NFL history.
I’m not sure the Vikings would go to such lengths in free agency. Indeed, they might not have enough cap room to do so given all the other teams with more cap room that are sure to be in on the Iupati Sweepstakes.
A more likely scenario would be to spend a high draft pick – perhaps even their first-round pick – on an offensive lineman, as Joe Oberle also mentioned this week at Vikings Journal.
And any draft discussion about offensive lineman this offseason begins with Scherff, the All-American left tackle and winner of the 2014 Outland Trophy, given to college football’s top lineman.
Virtually everyone with a mock draft or big board has Scherff ranked as the best lineman in this draft class, and just about everyone has him penciled in to go between the fifth pick and the 10th pick. The Jets, Bears, Falcons, Giants and Rams are all candidates to draft Scherff before the Vikings would have a shot with the 11th pick.
But what if Scherff slides? What if the teams in front of the Vikings deem his arms too short, don’t like his pass blocking, have bigger positional needs identified or simply have him below some others on their war room draft boards? There’s a chance he could slide.
What would make the Vikings an ideal fit for Scherff is that he could be plugged immediately into the starting lineup at left guard. There seems to be a decent chance Vikings current left guard Charlie Johnson won’t be brought back next season, which would leave an opening between John Sullivan and Matt Kalil on that side of the line.
Scherff was a left tackle in college at Iowa, and most scouts suggest he could be a good to very good tackle at the NFL level, probably on the right side where he wouldn’t have to use his less-than elite pass protection skills against the quickest pass rushers opposing defenses have to offer (as left tackles do).
However, those same scouts will tell you that Scherff projects as an elite NFL guard.
At 6-4 ½ and 320 pounds, Scherff is built more like a guard than a tackle, which are usually taller with longer arms. Actually he’s built more like a bulldozer with a head on top, and he uses his massive frame to maul opposing defenders in the running game. His pass protection, as I stated, grades as the weaker of his skills; however, scouts suggest he is getting better in that regard.
Scherff gets his first-round projection from run blocking, whistle-to-whistle effort, great strength, toughness and a well-documented mean streak. Scouts say he is nasty; they call him an agitator – but one that doesn’t push it to the point of being penalized. In short, he’s the exact kind of brawler you want on your side of the line.
Oh, did I mention his strength? I did? Well, I’ll mention it again.
Watch this video of Scherff in the Iowa weight room hang cleaning 443 pounds.
That’s a big, strong dude.
You want comparisons? Veteran columnist Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal, who’s seen a lot of Big Ten football over the years, tweeted two weeks ago that Scherff was “the most dominant offensive tackle he’s seen in the Big Ten since the Badgers’ Joe Thomas.” For those of you who are unfamiliar, Thomas is a future Hall of Famer and has been to the Pro Bowl every year since being drafted third overall by the Browns in 2007. ESPN’s draft guru Todd McShay is comparing Scherff to Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin, who was named All-Pro as a rookie this season.
It’s unrealistic to think that Scherff will be as good as Thomas, especially if he winds up at tackle. However, he very well could become a perennial Pro Bowl guard. And if that isn’t precisely what the Vikings could use, I don’t know what is.
Go to VikingsJournal.com for a look at who the Vikings should be targeting in free agency.
Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at VikingsJournal.com, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at 1500ESPN.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.
You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell