You could make a case the Vikings drafted three players in this draft with first round talent — cornerback Trae Waynes in the first, linebacker Eric Kendricks in the second and offensive lineman T.J. Clemmings in the fourth round.
Clemmings was a borderline first round talent, but he slid due to medical concerns of a stress fracture in his foot. The Vikings weren’t worried about the injury and opted to draft him with the 110th overall pick.
The injury concern is noteworthy, but we’ll put that off to the side for just a moment. Clemmings has only spent two seasons at offensive line, so what exactly are the Vikings getting from the Pittsburgh product?
Well, for one, Clemmings is a big, athletic lineman. He’s moves extremely well at 6-5 and 309 pounds. It’s impressive how quickly he’s able to swing out to his right to block on bubble screens or get to the second level to block a linebacker on run plays. Well, he doesn’t just block linebackers. Clemmings essentially tosses them out of the way. You can tell he played defense previously by how aggressive he got as a lineman at times.
The impressive part about his aggressiveness was that Clemmings only had one holding penalty last year, per Scout.com. He fared well as a run blocker and did a good job creating a lane even if he didn’t exactly get good contact on the defender initially. The biggest thing that stood out was how often Clemmings racked up pancakes both in pass and run situations last year.
Though I’m not as harsh on Clemmings’ pass protection, he did lack consistency in that area. Similar to Danielle Hunter, a lot of that just has to do with inexperience and technique issues. Clemmings needs to take advantage of his 35-inch arms and maintain his balance with his footwork. In this example, Clemmings got too wide and the defender worked his inside shoulder to knock him down and get the sack.
Clemmings has never played on the left side either, and I don’t think it’s as easy as many think to throw a raw talent on the left side and expect similar results. He’d be a liability on the left side in pass protection given how uncoordinated Clemmings looked at times protecting from the right side.
But the biggest headache was the pre-snap flags. Clemmings had seven false start penalties last year, per Scout.com. That’s inexcusable.
Clemmings might be my favorite Vikings’ draft pick this year. I love how he plays with an edge on the offensive line and how aggressive he can get, though you’d want to see it on a regular basis. He’s an extremely good talent and the Vikings got him in a great spot where there won’t be pressure to produce immediately as a Day 1 or even Day 2 pick.
But he does have the ability to start right away. Considering the Vikings have worked Fusco at left guard during OTAs, that speaks highly to what the organization thinks about Clemmings’ ability to start at right guard immeidatley. Clemmings also has the capability, if he continues to develop, to be an option at left tackle down the road if Matt Kalil doesn’t improve.
This is all dependent on Clemmings staying healthy, however. The severity of the stress fracture has been downplayed by Clemmings and the Vikings since he was selected, but it was significant enough to scare some teams away. We can’t just dismiss the latter. Though he never missed a game at right tackle for Pittsburgh in two seasons, the bigger concern has been about Clemmings’ longevity in the NFL.
We’ll find out in the next few years which side was right, but I wouldn’t hold this pick against the Vikings even if Clemmings flopped. It was a good value pick for a great talent.
That, at least, is very clear.