It’s too early for us to start doing the Mock Draft Database for 2019, but it is mock draft season, and one of the foremost authorities on this sort of thing has posted his first mock of the offseason. In that draft, he has the Minnesota Vikings addressing their greatest positional need, but doing so in an interesting fashion that I’m not quite sure makes sense.
Mel Kiper. . .dramatic pause. . .draft expert has put his first mock draft up on ESPN (behind the great E$PN paywall, naturally), and does have the Vikings grabbing an offensive lineman. His selection for the Vikings is Greg Little, the massive tackle from the University of Mississippi.
Here’s what Kiper has to say about the selection:
There’s a case to be made that Little is the best true left tackle in this class. He’s certainly the most talented. The former five-star high school prospect was inconsistent at times in college, but he should take off in an NFL strength and conditioning program. Coach Mike Zimmer loves guys who get after quarterbacks too, so that’s going to be in consideration here.
Little is the fourth offensive lineman off the board in Kiper’s mock, behind Jonah Williams of Alabama (#5 to Tampa Bay), Cody Ford of Oklahoma (#7 to Jacksonville), and Jawaan Taylor of Florida (#11 to Cincinnati). Little is also the last offensive lineman that Kiper has coming off the board in the first round, meaning that he doesn’t see any of the remaining interior linemen of being worthy of a first-round pick at the present time.
While Little has all of the physical tools to be an outstanding left tackle, it does leave the question of what the Vikings would do with their current left tackle.
Riley Reiff, who will be going into the third year of his contract, is one of the few Vikings’ offensive linemen that’s probably safe in a roster spot next season. Part of the reason for that is the way his contract is structured. If the Vikings were to release him, they would save $5.1 million, but would also have to eat $6.6 million in dead money from what’s left on his deal. That’s a net loss for the Vikings, which is not exactly cost-effective or anything like that. It’s certainly different from the situation the Vikings have with Mike Remmers, who signed a five-year deal the same year that Reiff signed his. Cutting Remmers loose would incur a $1.8 million dead money hit, but would save the team about $4.5 million.
Little projects as a left tackle at the NFL level, and as a first-round pick, he would almost certainly be expected to contribute right away. Moving Reiff to right tackle wouldn’t appear to be an option, either, as that spot is occupied by Brian O’Neill, a developing talent in his own right.
I’m not savvy enough on the topic of offensive line play to know whether or not Reiff might be suited for a move to guard. I know that the attempt to move Remmers to guard has largely failed, and the Vikings might be hesitant to try that sort of thing with Reiff. The other option, keeping Reiff around as a (very) expensive backup option isn’t exactly optimal, either.
We’re still in the process of breaking down where different offensive linemen should be slotted and things of that nature on the draft board, but at least Mel Kiper has the Vikings addressing the offensive line need with their first selection.