The Vikings owned a 13-point lead and the ball with just more than nine minutes to play against Arizona on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The offense was moving the ball, and the end of a four-game losing streak was in sight. Then the all-too-familiar woes of the offensive line stormed into the story line.
On the seventh play of the drive, quarterback Sam Bradford was hit from the right and nearly fumbled. Then the Cardinals attacked the even weaker left edge with speedy linebacker Chandler Jones, who beat tight end Kyle Rudolph and tackle T.J. Clemmings to hit Bradford from behind and force a fumble.
Arizona responded with a touchdown drive to pull within six points.
The Vikings defense secured the 30-24 victory, but Sunday’s game again revealed the problems the Vikings need to address on the offensive line.
In addition to free agency, the Vikings will certainly consider using the 2017 NFL draft to solidify their offensive line and, more specifically, the left tackle position.
However, they’ve drafted only two offensive linemen — tackles Matt Kalil and Phil Loadholt — in the first three rounds since 2007.
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.
Draft Wire has the Vikings selecting Notre Dame guard Quentin Nelson in the second round and Florida State tackle Roderick Johnson in the third. Fansided projects 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 thin on quality 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.”
Here is a deeper look at five offensive linemen projected to be drafted in the second or third round:
• Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin, 6-6, 314 pounds
It could be a stretch for the Vikings to reach Ramczyk if he declares for the draft after his junior season, but if he slips into the second round he will surely be on Rick Spielman’s radar. He has found his way onto several midseason watch lists for postseason honors.
• Dan Feeney, Indiana, 6-4, 310 pounds
He was first-team All-America in 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.
• Conor McDermott, UCLA, 6-8, 310 pounds
McDermott, a 24-year-old redshirt senior, is athletic and continues to add weight to his tall frame in his second year as a starting left tackle. His long arms and athleticism (former Mr. Basketball Tennessee) make him an effective blocker and pass protector.
• Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell, 6-7, 315 pounds
The FCS star has earned the respect of NFL scouts and national media. He was named a preseason All-America by Athlon Sports and is on the Walter Payton Award watch list. He has an 84-inch wingspan.
• Mason Cole, 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 offensive line.