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PFF: Brian O’Neill among NFL’s most underutilized players

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But could that change before too much longer?

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

When the Minnesota Vikings used their second-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft on Pittsburgh offensive tackle Brian O’Neill, the prevailing wisdom was that they were getting a player with outstanding athletic ability (he started his college career as a tight end) that was going to take a while to adjust to the NFL game. However, the folks at Pro Football Focus feel that the Vikings haven’t used O’Neill the way that they should.

Over at ESPN, the folks from PFF have put together their list of the most underutilized players in the National Football League through the first six weeks of the season, and their selection for the offensive tackle position is O’Neill, who has generated a 70.2 PFF grade in just 191 offensive snaps.

O’Neill was pushed into starting action this past week due to injuries along the Vikings’ offensive line, a position he should likely hold down even when Riley Reiff is back and healthy. Rashod Hill, who moved over to fill in for the injured Reiff, opened up the right tackle spot for O’Neill, rewarding the Vikings with a 73.0 overall game grade (highest along the offensive line) and he is now their highest-graded offensive lineman on the season. In more of a plug-and-play role, O’Neill has logged 191 snaps on the season including 140 in pass protection, allowing 10 total pressures but no sacks on Kirk Cousins. For comparison, Hill has allowed 21 pressures including four sacks on his 231 snaps in pass protection.

It will be interesting to see how the Vikings do handle the situation once Reiff returns from his foot injury, whenever that is. Knowing what we know about this current Vikings’ coaching staff and how they generally do things, I’m going to guess that O’Neill will go back to the bench and Hill will slot back in at right tackle.

Is that what I’d do? No. . .I’d put Hill back on the bench as the swing tackle and let O’Neill keep the starting job. (Actually, I’d put Mike Remmers back at right tackle, but that’s not going to happen either and I’ve beaten that dead horse frequently enough, I think.) But it’s starting to look more and more like O’Neill could be a solid long-term piece for the Minnesota offensive line.

Another member of the Vikings gets an honorable mention in the piece, and that’s linebacker Ben Gedeon. Gedeon has 77.2 PFF grade, but has played just 81 snaps on defense through the first six games. With the Vikings, like most other teams, playing more and more nickel, it’s not surprising that Gedeon’s snap count is that low, but he’s made the most of the opportunities he’s had thus far.