Debating The Vikings Offensive Line And The NFL Draft

Posted by cjsiewert on February 26, 2010 – 8:48 am

The NFL Scouting Combine is now in full swing and the event allows us the opportunity to begin speculating how NFL teams will use the draft to improve their roster.

No position on any team is exempt from being addressed via draft picks, including the left side of the Vikings offensive line. On one hand, the Purple featured 2 Pro Bowlers in that spot during 2009 season. On the other hand, though, one could raise concern in light of LG Steve Hutchinson’s nagging injuries last season and the choices LT Bryant McKinnie made in the week leading up to the Pro Bowl.

If your focus tends to drift toward the negative, perhaps you view OL as a need for the Vikings heading into the 2010 NFL Draft.

But I don’t see the need at all.

Admittedly, McKinnie has dealt with off-field transgressions, but on the field the mammoth LT has been an effective player for the Vikings during his entire career. McKinnie has paved the way for All-Pro RB Adrian Peterson to rush for over 1,000 yards in each of the last 3 seasons and he did the same for Chester Taylor back in 2006.

As far as the LG position goes, the Vikings haven’t had a worry since Hutchinson arrived in 2006 and they likely won’t have to worry about that spot for another 4-5 seasons.

Hutchinson has been arguably the best player at his position in the NFL since he entered the league in 2001. He’s a 7-time Pro Bowler who has blocked for a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his 9 NFL seasons – Shaun Alexander from 2001-05, Taylor in 2006 and Peterson from 2007-09.

After talking with fellow writer Mike Wobschall, it’s agreed that McKinnie and Hutchinson are still playing very well and aren’t soon approaching a drop-off.

As a result, don’t count on the Vikings using an early-round pick to address either position along the left side of their offensive line.

Posted in All, CJ Siewert, Mike Wobschall | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Debating The Vikings Offensive Line And The NFL Draft”

  1. By medicineball on Feb 26, 2010 | Reply

    Reviewing the other players, John Sullivan was good at making line calls and good in pass protection. He could improve in run-blocking and generally just get better. If he could pull better, for example, that would be a step up in his game.

    Phil Loadholt had a really good year for a rookie. Now the question is whether he can perform as well, or better, next year. Julius Peppers will probably sign with the Bears or Eagles, and along with all of the other fierce pass rushers on the schedule, there will be no shortage of challenges in 2010. Another challenge for Loadholt will be improving in run-blocking.

    Artis Hicks was the reliable “6th man” of the line.

    Anthony Herrera has been a good player for the Vikings. His fiery nature is a key component of the offensive line. He gives everything he has in every play.

    But Herrera wasn’t as effective as the Vikings needed in 2009. In the second Bears game, for example, Tommie Harris used him as a swinging gate. The Vikings are supposed to be a running team, but after Steve Hutchinson sustained his shoulder injury mid-season, the offensive line was not able to open many holes. Peterson almost led the league in negative rushing plays. The Vikings faced many 3rd and longs because they could not run the ball consistently for even three or four yards. The running back would get to the line and there would be no hole. The weak link, to this simple fan, appears to be Herrera. He seems to be getting “old” all too quickly.

    In defense of Herrera, he was placed between two new starters in 2009. Thus, he might deserve a pass. Every Viking offensive lineman sustained an injury during the season, and that hurt their play. Better football minds can make a better judgment.

    In this fan’s opinion, the offensive line must improve. It just wasn’t a Super Bowl quality offensive line, as we saw from the pounding Brett Favre took in the Saints game. The major need this offseason is to improve at right guard, and possibly center.

    Could Jon Cooper or Ryan Cook win a spot at right guard in training camp this year? I wonder about that. In training camp, Jon Cooper could challenge Sullivan at center.

    Who can the Vikings draft to play right guard?

    Mike Johnson is an All-American guard from Alabama that the Vikings should consider drafting. He played in the zone-blocking scheme in college at Alabama. calls Johnson “the best zone-blocking guard in the draft.” He opened gaping holes against Texas during the BCS Championship Game. Johnson is mentally quick enough for zone-blocking, getting a 4.0 GPA in high school and getting good test scores. While Johnson is tall at 6’6, that is an OK size for a zone-blocking guard. He did not give up any sacks in 2009. The Vikings’ only chance to draft Mike Johnson will be in the 1st round.

    Mike Johnson could probably out-compete Herrera for the right guard starting job in 2010. Later, he could become the heir-apparent to Hutchinson at left guard.

    Another guard prospect would be Thomas Austin of Clemson. He blocked for C.J. Spiller in the zone-blocking scheme. Shawn Lauvao from Arizona State zone-blocked. Finally, there is Ciron Black from LSU. He will transition to guard in the NFL. He would have to learn to zone-block, but he could become very good at it. He had good enough feet to play left tackle at LSU in the SEC, and was named SEC lineman of the year in 2009.

    In drafting a guard we should try to find one who plays with the same intensity, fire, and passion that Anthony Herrera plays with. Herrera has set a high standard for intensity of play.

    It makes me sick to my stomach as a Vikings fan to call out Anthony Herrera, because he embodies the effort that a Viking should give. But the Vikings need better production from the right guard next year. In my ideal scenario, Herrera improves as a player and keeps his job, but if Herrera has reached his talent ceiling, then the Vikings must look to the draft. That would be a somber decision to make, but maybe even then Herrera could stick with the team in a backup role.

  2. By Daniel on Apr 6, 2011 | Reply

    That was not a bad article on the production of hutch, and mckinnie. I like mckinnie and hutch, both are great lineman, but still old and on the decline, as well as herrera. Herrera was a Big problem on the right side when we made a good run in 2009. We still need to move on if we are to get younger, and no doubt our line has good players, we still need to get younger. Last year Mckinnie did not look good. Remember the game against Peppers? Man he lit him up. Can anyone tell me the allowed sacks mckinnie gave up? If we did get a QB this year and even If Mckinnie stays, he will be gone soon. This is the perfect year to trade him and draft who I see as a pro bowl Tackle in Castonzo. What if we got our pick back in the third round and maybe more to trade for mckinnie. He does have value but regressing without a doubt. I see the over all outlook on that senario as a giant plus in our rebuilding of the line. We must get younger. And addressing the O-line and D-line in two, should be a big priority. We need to stop putting a patch on things. LIKE OUR STADIUM! ” Can’t stress enough the importance of the line. Look how long it’s took for KC to repair a once Great line. They are just now realizing thier line needs the right young players. They got rid of gonzalaz with moiakie ( sorry, can’t spell) and thier rookie did very well in his place and has tons of room to grow. There are some great QBs NEXT YEAR!!!!! Fix the old line first!

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