NFL Football

With O-line still in flux, Vikings have clear need in draft

(AP Photo)

By DAVE CAMPBELL

AP Pro Football Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The Minnesota Vikings will be constructing a new front five yet again this year.

Perhaps this will be the spring they can finally plant a couple of seeds for stability.

The Vikings have consistently fielded one of the NFL's best defenses since coach Mike Zimmer took over in 2014. In the two seasons when they won the NFC North title, 2015 and 2017, they scored plenty of points, too.

Whether a product of allocating resources elsewhere on the roster, misjudging ability, or experiencing plain old bad luck, though, there has been no position more problematic for the Vikings than the offensive line.

For the fifth straight year, they'll return no more than three of five primary starters from the previous season. Just like from 2017 to 2018, the Vikings will have two new starting guards, having released Mike Remmers to create salary cap space and let Tom Compton leave as a free agent last month.

Josh Kline, a free agent signee from Tennessee, can likely claim one starting guard spot. Left tackle Riley Reiff has been considered by the coaching staff for a new role inside, a move likely only to be made if the Vikings use their first-round draft pick on a top-tier tackle.

Pat Elflein has shown some promise over the past two years as the man in the middle, but if there's an early round center favored by the front office and coaching staff, the Vikings wouldn't hesitate to move him to guard, either.

They don't have to be picky about the specific position fit, then. Adding a starter, any starter, for the offensive line next week would work.

In their first season with Kirk Cousins at quarterback, the Vikings fell from 10th to 19th in points and 11th to 20th in yards, and the performance up front was at the top of the culprit list.

After retaining offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski, hiring Gary Kubiak as an offensive adviser and bringing in one of his longtime sidekicks, Rick Dennison, to coach the offensive line and coordinate the running game, Zimmer has another idea in mind for that critical improvement up front.

"I do think we probably have to get a little bit better there, but I also think part of coaching is helping these guys get better as well," Zimmer said. "I think scheme can help. I think plays that you call can help."

Here are some key angles to follow for the Vikings next week:

TOP PROSPECTS

With the 18th overall pick in the first round, the Vikings ought to have plenty of the top offensive line prospects to pick from, including Oklahoma tackle Cody Ford, Washington State tackle Andre Dillard and North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury.

ABOUT LAST YEAR

The Vikings appeared primed to take advantage of a strong class of interior offensive linemen last year, but they deemed cornerback Mike Hughes too tantalizing to pass up in the first round despite the depth they had at that position at the time.

Four of the first seven picks of the second round last season were, naturally, centers or guards. Later in that round, the Vikings took Brian O'Neill, who wound up as the starting right tackle in a promising rookie year.

"Everybody gets upset if we don't take this position in this round. Well, if that guy doesn't fit what we do, why pick him?" Zimmer said, adding: "You can move up probably and get the exact that you want, but the capital that you have to give up is pretty steep, especially when you're moving in the first round."

LOOKING BACK

The Vikings simply haven't committed much draft capital to the offensive line, long predating the current regime. Since taking Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel with the 19th overall pick in 1988, the Vikings have only used a first-round selection on one of the sport's least glamorous positions three times in the past 30 years: Matt Kalil (2012), Bryant McKinnie (2002) and Todd Steussie (1994).

ANOTHER COOK FOR THE KITCHEN

If the Vikings can finally have running back Dalvin Cook healthy for a full season, with knee and hamstring trouble having limited him to just 15 of 32 games over his first two years, their offense will get a big lift.

They'll need a complement, though, after letting Latavius Murray leave as a free agent. Ameer Abdullah was re-signed, but don't rule out the possibility of the Vikings taking a running back in the middle rounds.

"It's controlling the game. It's the mentality, the physicality. If you look at the teams playing really good on offense this year, the final four teams, they ran the ball," Zimmer said. "Everybody says this is passing, this and that, but the good offenses run the football."

---

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Updated April 18, 2019

Sports Data API Powered by STATS © 2019 by STATS.
Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.

Teams Score Time
NCAA FB
Duke   Sat 4:00pm
North Carolina  
Teams Score Time
SMU   Thu 7:30pm
Houston  
Appalachian State   Sat 12:00pm
South Alabama  
Iowa   Sat 12:00pm
Northwestern  
Miami   Sat 12:00pm
Pittsburgh  
Oklahoma   Sat 12:00pm
Kansas State  
Wisconsin   Sat 12:00pm
Ohio State  
Auburn   Sat 3:30pm
LSU  
Maryland   Sat 3:30pm
Minnesota  
Oklahoma State   Sat 3:30pm
Iowa State  
Penn State   Sat 3:30pm
Michigan State  
Syracuse   Sat 3:30pm
Florida State  
Texas   Sat 3:30pm
TCU  
Virginia   Sat 3:30pm
Louisville  
Duke   Sat 4:00pm
North Carolina  
Arkansas   Sat 7:00pm
Alabama  
Arizona State   Sat 7:30pm
UCLA  
Boston College   Sat 7:30pm
Clemson  
Notre Dame   Sat 7:30pm
Michigan  
California   Sat 10:00pm
Utah  
Washington State   Sat 10:30pm
Oregon  
Teams Score Time
Interleague
Washington 5 9th
Houston 4
Washington   8:07pm
Houston  
Teams Score Time
New Orleans 122 F/OT
Toronto 130
Los Angeles 54 00:00 Half
Los Angeles 62
Chicago   7:00pm
Charlotte  
Cleveland   7:00pm
Orlando  
Detroit   7:00pm
Indiana  
Boston   7:30pm
Philadelphia  
Memphis   7:30pm
Miami  
Minnesota   7:30pm
Brooklyn  
New York   8:30pm
San Antonio  
Washington   8:30pm
Dallas  
Oklahoma City   9:00pm
Utah  
Denver   10:00pm
Portland  
Sacramento   10:00pm
Phoenix  
Teams Score Time
Washington   Thu 8:20pm
Minnesota  
Teams Score Time
Arizona 3 F/OT
New York 2
Pittsburgh 2 F
Florida 4
San Jose 3 F/OT
Buffalo 4
Toronto 2 F
Boston 4
Vancouver 5 F
Detroit 2
Anaheim 1 F
Nashville 6
Edmonton 0 F
Minnesota 3
Los Angeles 3 F
Winnipeg 2
Vegas 2 F/SO
Chicago 1
Washington 5 01:18 3rd
Calgary 2
Detroit   7:30pm
Ottawa  
Pittsburgh   8:00pm
Tampa Bay  
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES AT KANSAS
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 11 Denny Hamlin 23
2 9 Chase Elliott 14
3 18 Kyle Busch 18
4 1 Kurt Busch 15
5 24 William Byron 25
6 19 Martin Truex Jr 11
7 20 Erik Jones 20
8 14 Clint Bowyer 21
9 4 Kevin Harvick 40
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES AT KANSAS
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 19 Brandon Jones 2
2 2 Tyler Reddick 4
3 98 Chase Briscoe 11
4 1 Michael Annett 38
5 7 Justin Allgaier 7
6 51 Jeremy Clements 6
7 11 Justin Haley 12
8 23 John Hunter Nemechek 15
9 39 Ryan Sieg 13
NASCAR GANDER OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES AT TALLADEGA
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 20 Spencer Boyd 25
2 4 Todd Gilliland 6
3 51 Riley Herbst 7
4 24 Brett Moffitt 8
5 52 Stewart Friesen 10
6 16 Austin Hill 13
7 17 Tyler Ankrum 2
8 88 Matt Crafton 1
9 2 Sheldon Creed 5