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|
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:
|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.