Offensive Line Still A Priority for Vikings in 2019 NFL Draft

The Minnesota Vikings offensive line needs help.

More specially, both guard positions.

The current offensive line ranks 29th overall by pro football focus, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s been awhile since someone could say that the Minnesota Vikings offensive line was a position of strength.

In fact, the Vikings haven’t had a top 5 offensive line in the past 10 years.

Since 2009, the ranking of the Vikings o-line is as follows:

Year O-Line ranking (according to Pro Football Focus) Sack Allowed Passing Rank Rushing Rank
2009 25th 34 5th 32nd
2010 21st 36 13th 27th
2011 7th 49 16th 2nd
2012 9th 32 13th 6th
2013 6th 44 7th 6th
2014 21st 38 25th 17th
2015 14th 45 16th 7th
2016 30th 38 17th 31st
2017 22nd     27 6th 10th
2018 29th 40 13th 30th

When looking at the years of 2011, 12, and 13, the Vikings had arguably one of the best run blocking offensive lines in the NFL, and for good measure.

When you have a hall of fame (yes he’s a hall of famer) running back like Adrian Peterson in the backfield, you give him the rock. Pretty easy offense.

The Viking’s quarterback at the time was Christian Ponder, who not only never quite lived up to the expectations of a first-round, 12th overall selection that the Vikings took the Florida State product with, but also never threw above 3000 yards in a one full season as the starter for the Vikings.

Again, it’s not exactly all Ponder’s fault that he didn’t excliple 3000 yards passing because Peterson nearly broke the single season rushing record one year after major reconstructive ACL surgery.

The Vikings offensive line wasn’t built to throw the football 20-30 times a game. It was built to give Peterson the ball 15-30 times a game, so it wasn’t Ponders job for the most part to take over a game.

However, when the Vikings arguable the worst secondary in the NFL in 2011, it became apparent quickly that the Vikings were going to have to put up more than the 30 points that they the defense was allowing.

That didn’t happen.

The Zimmer Era

The Vikings finished 5-10-1 in 2013 and fired head coach Leslie Frasier.

After the hiring of Mike Zimmer, the defense became a priority. One year after the hiring of Zimmer, the Vikings defense ranked in the top 15 of the NFL in most defensive categories.

When Mike Zimmer came in and fixed the defense, that left only the offensive line to be repaired.

It’s been a rough road, as you can see from the rankings above that the Vikings have had one top 20 ranked offensive line in Zimmer’s tenure.

That’s not to say that the Vikings haven’t tried to address the issue. Since 2014, the Vikings have selected nine offensive lineman in recent drafts.

O-lineman drafted by the Vikings since Zimmer’s hiring in 2014:

Name College Position Drafted Currently
David Yankey Stanford Guard 5th Round: 145th overall (2014) Free Agent
T.J. Clemmings Pittsburgh Tackle 4th Round: 110th overall (2015) Free Agent
Tyrus Thompson Oklahoma Tackle 6th Round: 185th overall (2015) Free Agent
Austin Sheppard Alabama Tackle 7th Round: 228th overall (2015) Free Agent
Willie Beavers Western Michigan Guard 4th Round: 121st overall (2016) Chicago Bears practice squad
Pat Elflein Ohio State Center 3rd Round: 70th overall (2017) Starting Center
Danny Isidora Miami Guard 5th Round: 180th overall (2017) Reserve
Brian O’Neill Pittsburgh Tackle 2nd Round: 62nd overall (2018) Starting Right Tackle
Colby Gossett Appalachian State Guard 6th Round: 213th overall (2018) Vikings practice squad

The Vikings trades linebacker Gerald Hodges for guard Nick Easton and a 2016 6th round pick.

Easton developed rather quickly, and proved to be a solid guard for the Vikings in 2017 when the they made a fun to the NFC championship game.

Easton sustained a neck injury in training camp, and missed the entire 2018 season with the Vikings, and was sorely missed.

Easton left the Vikings in 2019, and signed a four-year deal with the Saints. The Vikings also released right guard Mike Remmers after the 2018 season.

That leaves two huge holes for the Vikings at both guard positions.

Aside from the Elflein, Isidora, O’Neill, and Gossett (practice squad) none of the other offensive lineman selected are currently with the Vikings.

There’s a pattern.

The vast majority of the Vikings offensive line selections have been selected in the fourth round or later.

Of the nine offensive line selections, only two were selected in the first three rounds of the draft. Oddly enough, those two offensive linemen have become starters for the Vikings.

Elflein has started 27 out of the 28 games that he has appeared in for the purple. O’Neill started 11 out of the 15 games that he has appeared in for the Vikings.

Elflein despite a strong rookie season (43.6 grade by PFF), Elflein took a major step back in his second season (41.9 in 2018) while battling ankle and shoulder injuries.

O’Neill on the other hand held one of the higher grades for the Vikings (63 overall) and went 531 snaps without allowing a single sack in his rookie season.

O’Neill, although selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft, was thought to need a year to develop. That wasn’t the case, and the Vikings hope that O’Neill will continue to develop.

The idea of the upcoming draft is simple for the Vikings. Draft offensive lineman early and often.

There a multitude of promising offensive lineman in this year’s draft, so the Vikings will have a change to improve their front five.

Like the defense, it all must be won in the trenches. It must start up front.

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