When the Vikings drafted Brian O’Neill in the second round back in April, the view from most draft analysts was that he needed to add strength and some bulk before being NFL-ready, and needed some time to improve his technique as well- having been a converted tight-end with only three years experience as an offensive linemen at Pitt.
In my draft break-down of O’Neill, I figured the Vikings would give him a year as a backup to improve his strength and technique before having him compete for a starting job. But over the course of training camp and pre-season, O’Neill looked to be progressing faster than that. He remained inconsistent, but it was becoming clear that at some point in the not too distant future, he would surpass Rashod Hill in overall performance.
That time has arrived.
Against the Cardinals on Sunday, O’Neill got his first start at right tackle, as Rashod Hill moved over to left tackle to replace the injured Riley Reiff. O’Neill had gotten 120 snaps at right tackle prior to that as well, and looked to be holding his own. On Sunday, O’Neill was the highest graded offensive lineman for the Vikings, according to Pro Football Focus, and is also now the highest graded offensive lineman on the season so far, narrowly edging out Riley Reiff.
O’Neill has also outperformed Rashod Hill in all but one game Hill has played since becoming a starter for the Vikings.
More than that, O’Neill has generally been improving as he get more reps, while Hill has declined as the season has progressed.
All that being the case, it makes sense for the Vikings to elevate Brian O’Neill to become the permanent starter at right tackle, and when Riley Reiff returns from his injury, designate Rashod Hill as the new swing tackle.
Doing so should help take some of the pressure off of Kirk Cousins, and may also help the Vikings running game too. And for a Vikings offensive line that has ranked near the bottom of the league so far this season, an upgrade at right tackle is more than welcome.