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Jeff Baca Pick Designed For Depth as Perfect Scheme Fit

With the 196th pick—a pick acquired in a trade back in order to reacquire pick 229.

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Jeff Baca hails from a rising UCLA program ranked 37th in the country in rushing yards despite competing against the tough defenses of the PAC-12. Paving the way for fellow selection Jonathan Franklin, Baca figures to play inside at guard with the flexibility to swing outside at tackle, and has even taken snaps at center. Over his career, he's had 25 starts at guard and 20 at tackle.

Baca does best grading the road, pushing out with tenacity and drive throughout the play. He pops off the line quickly and can navigate traffic to get to the second level when he needs to make the block, making him a natural for some of the responsibilities endemic to zone running. He understands the play and is extremely aware. He stays within his assignment and reads the flow of the play quickly enough to move off double teams and secure the running lane. Unfortunately, without an enormous amount of strength, he will lose momentum driving in the run, despite the fact that he keeps his legs moving.

He plays with some sluggishness when moving laterally—important for the zone scheme—but still has good footwork, placing his feet precisely and with good angles to maintain acute leverage. He does lose this leverage, unfortunately, when he stands up high in the pocket (which he does with some regularity as a pass blocker and run blocker). He played high and stiff at the East-West game and potentially dropped his stock as a result.

Beyond that, his high degree of awareness gives him the capability to pick up stunts and blitzes at the line, also making him a potential prospect at center. He can adjust quickly and isn't often caught reaching for delayed blitzes or twisting defensive linemen. He keeps finding ways to get involved and will keep his head on a swivel in order to contribute. Despite this, he doesn't change directions well and is lacking the agility you might want to see in the upper-level guard prospects.

In both respects of the game, he maintains balance well and walls off defenders with his body, and specializes in stopping bull-rushers, both because he keeps a wide base and because he intuitively understands how to maintain his footwork through contact. That footwork is also useful when he pulls across the line, making him an ideal fit in the Vikings' scheme, where they run a combination of man blocking and zone blocking.

He shouldn't often be asked to protect the edge because he doesn't kick slide out well, but he is fairly quick (for a sixth-round pick) and knows where he needs to be. His long arms (over 34 inches) should also help.

He's a fairly typical late-round pick for the Vikings—an offensive lineman who plays mean and has drive, but needs to be coached up. His hand technique is poor and he needs to stay consistent with his pad level. His aggressiveness outpaces his strength, but he could still add even more muscle to his frame.

Interestingly, Baca missed playing in 2010 as a result of academic problems, which his coach has characterized as a result of the fact that he "got over his skis" by taking classes that were too high a level. There may be merit in this, as he made the honor roll three consecutive times after that as a political science major.

Despite what looked like limited athletic ability, Baca was a top performer at his position in the 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle, posting times of 7.26 seconds and 4.44 seconds respectively.

Baca displays potential and is a perfect scheme fit for the Vikings. He fulfills Frazier's desire for a swing linemen and could develop into a solid starter in several years.