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Vikings Draft: Offensive Line

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Who are some offensive linemen that could intrigue the purple this April?

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Vikings have landed two of the biggest, and most expensive fish in the free agent pond so far, solidifying two key positions- QB and 3T DT- indications are that they may not be doing as much in free agency to bolster their offensive line:

Additionally, the Vikings best offensive lineman for the past several years, Joe Berger, has officially announced his retirement, leaving a vacancy at the starting right guard spot.

Given all that, let’s take a look at some of the guys the Vikings have shown interest in so far in the various pre-draft formats, from the East-West game and Senior Bowl, to the Combine, Pro Days, and private workouts. We all have our favorites, but I thought it would make more sense to profile the guys the Vikings are actually looking at to see who may be filling a spot on the Vikings roster later this year.

Offensive Line Draft Preview

I’ve read some comments from scouts and draft guys that there may be something of a reassessment when it comes to how high to draft an offensive tackle. A big part of that comes from the number of high pick OT busts going back to Matt Kalil- the #4 overall pick in 2012. Kalil never fulfilled his billing as a ‘plug and play’ left tackle that would solidify that spot for 10 years. The Vikings now have Riley Reiff, who was picked #23 overall that same year, and has also fallen a bit short of expectations.

The following year, 2013, OTs were taken #1 and #2 overall. Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel. Both busts. DJ Fluker was taken at #11. Another bust. Justin Pugh was taken at #19, and he worked out, sort of, but at guard.

In 2014, Greg Robinson was taken #2 overall. Total bust. Jake Matthews was taken #6, and he’s worked out okay. Taylor Lewan was taken at #11 and he’s worked out well. Ja’Wuan James was taken at #19 and been good.

In 2015, Brandon Scherff was taken #5 overall, and has played well- at guard. Ereck Flowers was taken #9, and was a total bust. Andrus Peat was taken #13, and was a total bust. Cedric Ogbuehi at #21 - another bust. DJ Humphries at #24 and is okay.

In 2016, Ronnie Stanley was taken #6, and been okay. Jack Conklin was taken at #8 and has been good. Laremy Tunsil at #13 and is struggling. Taylor Decker at #16 and is good. Germain Ifeadi at #31 and is a total bust.

In 2017, only two OTs were taken in the first round. Garrett Bolles at #20, and has been disappointing so far, and Ryan Ramczyk at #32 and has been good.

Looking back at this, and even considering only around half of even first-round picks pan out, this isn’t a good track record. This is causing some to reconsider how high they want to draft an offensive tackle. Offensive guard or center has always been a lower-grade draft position than offensive tackle.

Taking a look at this year’s crop of offensive linemen, the general view is that the top-tier offensive tackles are not as good overall, and the top rated offensive linemen is actually a guard- Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame.

All this prelude is to say that it may be that the Vikings are in position to draft a top offensive lineman- or even offensive tackle- at number 30. But so far it doesn’t look like they’ve shown any interest in them. They haven’t shown any interest in Mike McGlinchy, Brian O’ Neill, Kolton Miller, or Connor Williams- the four highest rated OTs by Drafttek. Nor have they shown any interest in the top 3 guards- Quenton Nelson, Isaiah Wynn, or Will Hernandez. Maybe they will in the near future, but so far it doesn’t look like they have much interest.

In the past, especially for a first-round pick, the Vikings will have met with the guy at least a couple times prior to drafting him. One recent exception was Dalvin Cook, who they didn’t meet with because they never thought he’d be there in the 2nd round for them last year. But normally they will have visits with a guy they end up drafting in the first round.

So, who are the Vikings showing some interest in? Let’s profile some of the guys. I have included links to their draft profiles in their names.

Billy Price (C/G) - Ohio State

NCAA Football: Cotton Bowl-Ohio State vs Southern California Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Vikings met with Price at the Combine and again at his Pro Day. The Vikings’ interest in Price makes some sense given they picked his OSU line-mate Pat Elflein last year in the 3rd round. And like Elflein, Price also has played both center and guard, and won the Rimington trophy as the best center last year. Price goes 6’4”, 312lbs, and reportedly has excellent core strength, and was expected to bench over 40 reps at the Combine, except he tore a pectoral muscle, so he wasn’t able to do much.

Price is known for his mean streak and gritty mentality, strength and explosiveness- to a fault sometimes according to scouts. But being a little more disciplined in his game is a relatively easy thing to coach at the next level, and he is seen as an immediate starter with Pro Bowl potential.

Plays like a Wildling at times with tremendous explosiveness, strength and, almost excessive initial charge. Price’s power and leverage give him a huge advantage over most centers in this draft. He should be able to come into the league and deal with NFL power right away. However, his impatience as a blocker and tendency to charge in head-first will be used against him by savvy NFL opponents if he doesn’t get it cleaned up. Price is an early starter with Pro Bowl potential. -Lance Zierlein

Price looks to go around the same place that Elflein did last year, and perhaps the Vikings could use either their late 2nd round pick to draft him, perhaps even moving down a bit and still being able to land him, or their 3rd round pick, possibly moving up. Drafttek has him ranked the #77 prospect overall.

Drafting Price would presumably bring some continuity over another interior offensive lineman, as Price and Elflein were together for a couple years at Ohio State. Additionally, as they’ve both played guard and center (along with Nick Easton) there could potentially be some experimentation with all three players to determine their best position, although I suspect Price would most likely fit as Joe Berger’s replacement at right guard.

Frank Ragnow (C/G) - Arkansas

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ragnow is a Twin Cities native the Vikings met with at the Combine. He’s a bit like Billy Price in that he’s played both center and right guard, most recently center. He had a season-ending ankle injury last season, and that limited him to just the benchpress at the Combine (26 reps).

It’s interesting the number of center/guard prospects (as opposed to just guard prospects), the Vikings are looking at pre-draft. Perhaps they’re not sold on Pat Elflein at center. His PFF draft profile suggested he’d be better at guard, and OL Coach Tony Sparano isn’t timid about shifting guys around, so it’s possible they could be looking for a center. On the other hand, centers (even those that play guard too) can sometimes be had a little later in the draft, which can create value in some cases.

Ragnow is listed as the #198 overall prospect, and #11 OG prospect. Here is a bottom line blurb on him:

Three-year starter and team captain who brings a desired level of physical demeanor to the field each game. Ragnow won’t wow you with foot quickness or athleticism, but he takes smart angles to his blocks and shouldn’t be limited by scheme. His size, power, and anchor is a big plus as is his ability to swing over to guard if needed. Ragnow could struggle to stay connected to blocks against athletic interior linemen with quick hands, but his baseline play is equal to a solid NFL starter. -Lance Zierlein

Overall that looks like the type of guy the Vikings would draft, but he could also be a ‘plan B’ to Price as well, or maybe more of a value pick at the right spot on day 3, who could compete for an interior line spot and potentially be the main backup there if he progresses well.

Scott Quessenberry C/G - UCLA

NCAA Football: Cactus Bowl-Kansas State vs UCLA Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Quessenberry is another center/guard prospect the Vikings met at the Combine - one of five center/guard prospects the Vikings are known to have met pre-draft- including 3 of the top 4 prospects at center.

Quessenberry has looked to be a later round prospect pre-draft, but Drafttek has him shooting up the draft rankings recently- moving up 96 spots to #68 overall (ahead of Billy Price) and the #5 OG/C prospect. I’m not sure the reason for such a big move- perhaps Combine results- but I’m a bit skeptical about such a late and big move for a center prospect, given he’s got plenty of tape. Anyway, here is the low-down on Quessenberry:

Burly, barrel-chested center who plays with good balance, body control and consistency. Quessenberry is average with his movements and isn’t all that powerful as a drive blocker, but he does generate some pop at the point of attack and he’s solid all the way around. He may offer guard flexibility as well which could mean an early stint as a backup with a role as eventual starter at center. -Lance Zierlein

Quessenberry also has experience playing left guard (Price and Ragnow played right guard). Overall though, I’m not sure I’d rank Quessenberry ahead of either Price or Ragnow, but the fact that the Vikings are looking this deep into guys who play center is interesting.

In addition to the above prospects, the Vikings have also had contact with Brian Allen, C, Michigan State, Dejon Allen, G, Hawaii, and Brad Lundblade, C, Oklahoma St. These latter three would be Day 3 prospects at best or UDFAs most likely.

Alex Cappa (OT) - Humbolt State

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

So far, this is the only offensive tackle the Vikings are known to have met with.

The Vikings had a private workout with Cappa, who was a man among boys as a left tackle in D-II at Humbolt State. He torqued, pancaked, and otherwise blew-up opposing defensive linemen and linebackers all the time. He goes 6’6”, 305lbs., had a good Combine performance, and, combating the perception he’s only done well against poor D-II competition, also did well at the Senior Bowl practices, which boosted his draft stock some. But overall, the main critique is that he hasn’t faced much NFL-quality competition. Here is a snapshot of his pros and cons:

Strengths

Overall length and thickness of lower half hit the mark. Plus athlete. Hips are loose and flexible. Has lateral quickness for reach and pull blocks. Has footwork to handle combination blocks with proper timing. Has agility to adjust blocks in space. Plays without a hitch when redirecting weight inside to capture stunting ends. Has power in hips to torque and turn defenders off their spots. Churns legs through contact and widens lanes. Fully functional as drive blocker and move blocker. Emphatic finisher snap after snap and his mean is always on. Has athletic talent to quick set. Continues to run feet and mirror edge rushers along the arc. Hands are violent and strong.

Weaknesses

Hasn’t faced NFL talent along the way. Needs to be more consistent with back-side angles as run blocker. At times, will default to pure mauling over technique. Pass slides are more segmented than fluid. May not gain enough ground to the edge to hold up as left tackle. Punch is a little delayed. Allows rushers to crowd his frame. Has some lean and head duck in his pass pro. Can be a little stiff-legged in his punch. Defenders with pop can bounce him back a step or two with their initial contact. Could struggle with bull-rushers. -Lance Zierlein

Here is some video of Cappa in action in D-II action.

Drafttek has Cappa ranked as the #289 overall prospect, and #17 OT prospect, even after moving up some in the pre-draft process. That makes him a Day 3 prospect, but could be a potential steal if he proves he can hold up against NFL competition- instead of just blowing up D-II defenders.

Drafting Cappa would bring some competition to Rashod Hill and Aviante Collins for the swing tackle spot, and depending on how he progresses, he has the potential to overtake them. Cappa has the skill set, build and overall athleticism to be a quality starter, but is something of a later-round flyer because he hasn’t faced top competition and how well he’ll hold up is the big question mark. I’d take the bet on him though, in hopes he could prove to be an improvement over current OTs on the Vikings roster.

No Contact with First-Round OL Prospects Yet

At this point the Vikings have not met with any of the potential first-round OL prospects in this year’s draft. That could be either because they’re not interested in them, don’t see them that high on their draft board, and/or they’re keeping their cards close to their chest in regard to these prospects. It may also be that they’re looking to address another position with their first-round pick this year. We’ll see.

Poll

Among the main OL draft prospects the Vikings have met with, who do you want the Vikings to draft most?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Billy Price
    (1858 votes)
  • 6%
    Frank Ragnow
    (138 votes)
  • 1%
    Scott Quessenberry
    (26 votes)
  • 7%
    Alex Cappa
    (164 votes)
2186 votes total Vote Now