This is the seventh in a series of position previews for the 2021 NFL draft, which runs April 29-May 1. Today: offensive line.
THREE NAMES TO KNOW
T Rashawn Slater, Northwestern: The son of former Wolves guard Reggie Slater is seen as a top-15 pick by many analysts because of his footwork and a resume he built against pass rushers like Ohio State's Chase Young (the No. 2 pick last year by Washington). Slater is only 6-foot-3, which might lead him to play guard in the NFL, but the Vikings have spent plenty of time watching him before the draft, and could be interested in him for either the guard or tackle spots.
G Alijah Vera-Tucker, USC: At 6-foot-4 and 308 pounds, Vera-Tucker likely also is a bit undersized for what teams would want in a tackle. He's got the potential to be a sturdy guard in the NFL, though, after flashing strong pass-protection skills for the Trojans. Vera-Tucker might have some room to grow as a run blocker, and isn't quite as smooth in that area as Slater, but the Vikings need help with interior pass protection as well.
T Christian Darrisaw, Virginia Tech: An outstanding 2020 season helped him ascend the draft board, and his work as a zone blocker in a run-heavy Hokies offense could be especially interesting to the Vikings. Darrisaw excelled in pass protection last year, too; he didn't give up a hit or a sack on the quarterback, according to Pro Football Focus.
G Kendrick Green, Illinois: He played both guard and center in college, while working in an outside zone scheme similar to what the Vikings employ. His ability to reach linebackers and block downfield figures to interest them, though Green needs some work in pass protection. Still, he could be available to them in Round 3 or 4 if they decided to wait on addressing the offensive line until after the first round.
After years of not using high picks on offensive linemen, the Vikings have taken one in the first two rounds each of the past three years. They'll have that trio of linemen — Brian O'Neill, Garrett Bradbury and Ezra Cleveland — back in 2021, but they still need to figure out how they'll approach left tackle after cutting Riley Reiff to save cap space. They brought back starting guard Dakota Dozier, but he struggled mightily in pass protection, so it shouldn't be assumed he'll start. Mason Cole (acquired in a trade from the Cardinals) and third-year man Oli Udoh could compete for starting spots.
VIKINGS' LEVEL OF NEED
High: If O'Neill or Cleveland moves to left tackle, the Vikings need to find a starter on the right side of their offensive line. Otherwise, they're in the market for someone to protect Kirk Cousins' blind side, either through the draft, a trade, or picking up someone like Kansas City's Mitchell Schwartz or Eric Fisher off the free agent market later this year. In any case, the Vikings again have work to do on their offensive front before the start of training camp.