With the NFL Combine now complete, the fall out might have the Minnesota Vikings licking their chops. Could one of the NFL Draft’s top offensive line prospects fall to them at 18?
It only takes four days of testing and interviews to turn the NFL Draft world upside down. That’s what the NFL Combine does every year. Prospects either prove what scouts saw on tape or they completely flop. This year we saw a lot of defensive linemen watch their draft stock rise. That means some of the top offensive line prospects could slip, which plays into the hands of Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.
Last year, the Vikings made an expensive commitment to quarterback Kirk Cousins. They paid Cousins $84 million guaranteed to help the organization secure its first Super Bowl. In year one, things didn’t go as planned. A lot of people point the finger at Cousins. And while he wasn’t perfect, he did what he could despite playing behind a struggling offensive line.
The 2019 offseason is upon us; the new league year just a week away. Spielman is assuredly putting together his plan to improve the line in front of Cousins, one that gave up a league-high 227 quarterback pressures.
First and foremost, the linemen on the current roster must be evaluated. Riley Reiff didn’t play up to the $9+ million he made in 2018. Pat Elflein had his worst season as a pro coming off of surgeries after showing promise as a rookie in 2017. Mike Remmers is on the brink of being a cap casualty, a move that would free up over $4.5 million. And Tom Compton is an unrestricted free agent. Rookie Brian O’Neill was a lone bright spot at right tackle, showing the athleticism Spielman and the coaching staff saw when they selected him 62nd overall in the 2018 NFL Draft.
That group ended up starting the final 7 games of the season, and only three may be back. That means two spots need attention within the next couple of months.
The Vikings have options for the offensive line in free agency and the draft
The cap situation isn’t pretty for Minnesota. Currently, Spielman only has $5 million of cap space. With some cuts expected to come, he’ll need to address the offensive line in free agency. Trent Brown could be a candidate to come in and play tackle, moving Reiff to the guard position.
Looking past free agency, this year’s NFL Draft possesses plenty of talent on the offensive line to make Spielman, Mike Zimmer and Vikings fans hopeful. After the results of the NFL Combine this past weekend, some of those top offensive line prospects might fall; not due to poor performances but because of the talent shown at other positions.
Picking 18th overall, anywhere between 6-8 defensive linemen could be off the board. Factor in the trend of over-drafting quarterbacks, an additional 3-4 players could be gone. That means players such as Cody Ford and Jonah Williams could fall. That’s where Spielman would need to take advantage.
Only two months ago, Williams, who played left tackle at Alabama, was considered a top-5 pick. Measuring in with 34” arms he could easily fall to 18 as concerns that he can play tackle at the next level are raised. Regardless of where he plays, he’s an NFL-caliber offensive lineman. Spielman wouldn’t blink twice before calling the pick in.
The same goes for Ford. Even after measurables, teams still like him at guard at the next level. He’s another candidate to go 18.
Teams will now take the Combine results, revisit the tape, and restructure their big boards. Smoke screens will surface, and we’ll get a clearer picture of who teams like as pro days and visits are scheduled. In the meantime, pay attention to the whereabouts of Spielman, Zimmer, and scouts as we go through March and approach this year’s NFL Draft.