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Breaking Down Brian O’Neill

A look at the big offensive tackle

Miami v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

For the second time this draft, the Vikings did not trade their pick. Once again Rick Spielman sat tight and took his pick - Brian O’Neill OT from Pittsburgh.

Not surprising the Vikings picked an offensive lineman, after not doing so with their first pick.

Brian O’Neill played both tackle positions in college, after playing TE initially his freshman year. Drafttek had him as #40 on their draft board, PFF had him as their #6 ranked tackle.

Analyzing Brian O’Neill

O’Neill has the prototypical size and length for a left tackle in the NFL, and the desired athleticism. He tied for the highest pass blocking efficiency, as measured by PFF, in 2016, and was ranked third in that measure in 2017.

But his draft stock dropped after a mixed performance at the Senior Bowl (winning only 27% of his 1-on-1 reps), and a lack of core strength criticism among scouts. The one thing I would point out about his Senior Bowl performance was that in 8 of the 11 one-on-one reps he had that week, he was playing right tackle, not left tackle where he played all of last season. At left tackle he won 2 of 3 reps, or 67%, which is much better, if a very tiny sample size.

O’Neill has only played offensive tackle for three seasons at Pittsburgh (two at right tackle, one at left tackle), so in addition to adding core strength, he’ll need to improve his technique and consistency before he is ready to be a starter in the NFL.

That being te case, I don’t see him as a starter this year for the Vikings. A more likely scenario, if he can improve his strength and consistency, is that he becomes the eventual replacement of Riley Reiff, as soon as it’s feasible to get out of his big contract.

What’s more likely this year, is that O’Neill could see some spot duty as an extra tackle, or blocking tight end (and defenses will have to keep in mind his trick play ability as a former tight-end), as he develops his strength and technique at left tackle.

In time I could see him as an excellent tackle moving outside to block defenders in space on outside runs. He’s shown the ability and athleticism to get out quickly and take out defenders down field, which could open up big runs for Dalvin Cook down the road. Similarly, he could be good in the screen game, for the same reasons.

But for now, I hope the Vikings have an accelerated program ready for him to add strength and a little bulk, while getting plenty of coaching and reps this off-season and training camp to improve his technique and consistency, and prepare him for NFL competition.