The 2015 NFL Draft has been in the books for a little more than a week, which apparently means it's time for our first 2016 Mock Draft, this one coming from ESPN's Todd McShay.
McShay has the Minnesota Vikings addressing the offensive line in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, tabbing Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley with their first-round selection. The mock draft is behind the E$PN In$ider paywall, but here's a look at what he has to say about the selection.
Stanley has very good size for the offensive tackle position at 6-6, 315, and he brings with him the versatility of having played a full season at right tackle and another at left tackle. The Vikings could be looking for offensive line help next offseason.
McShay has Stanley as the second offensive tackle off the board, behind Laremy Tunsil of Ole Miss.
The part that a lot of people are probably going to take issue with. . .and well they should. . .is where in the draft the Vikings are selecting. McShay has based his draft order on Football Outsiders' (very early) projected records for 2015. Said projections have the Vikings finishing with a 6-10 record and selecting at #10 overall.
Frankly, I think the #10 overall pick is about ten spots higher than the Vikings will actually be selecting in 2016. However, it should be noted that no team in these projections is worse than 5-11 (with three teams sharing that mark) and only four teams projected to be better than 10-6. The Vikings are one of seven teams that are in a cluster at 6-10 in these projections.
Despite the fact that I'm biased. . .and, rest assured, I am. . .I have a hard time envisioning that a team with an improving young quarterback, a rapidly improving defense that has a year with this system under their belts, and possibly welcoming back one of the best running backs in the National Football League is somehow going to be one game worse than they were in 2014. I mean, sure, the Vikings could end up suffering a rash of injuries and perform below expectations, but I'm pretty sure those projections aren't based on that.
That said, the pick of an offensive tackle seems to be a solid one on the surface. The Vikings appear to have patched most of their holes on defense, but face the prospect of having plenty of issues at the tackle spot. Things will obviously depend on how Phil Loadholt returns from injury and Matt Kalil returns from. . .well, not being very good, I guess. The Vikings took T.J. Clemmings in the fourth round of this year's draft, and the thinking is that he can probably slot into one of the tackle spots at some point. But that doesn't mean that the Vikings won't need one more.
We're still a full year away from the 2016 NFL Draft, but there's one look at where the Vikings might be directing their attention next season.