The Pac 12 continues to serve as the training ground for the Vikings of 2014 and beyond. Their first pick on Thursday was UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr. Their first pick on Friday was Oregon State defensive end Scott Crichton. On Saturday, the third time was the charm, as the Vikings landed Stanford guard David Yankey.
Yankey was a dominant guard, earning All-America honors at both left guard and left tackle and he comes to the Vikings with the potential to compete immediately with Charlie Johnson and/or Brandon Fusco. Almost universally deemed the most dominant run blocker at the guard position in the 2014 draft, he has a bright future for a player drafted so late in the proceedings.
As would be expected, Yankey is thrilled about the prospect of blocking for Adrian Peterson, who is now getting old enough that current rookies have idolized him and watched in awe since their early high school days. Yankey is no exception.
"I'm excited," Yankey said. "I've watched that guy just explode on Sundays for the last (several) years and to get a chance to play for him, block for him and see him do some of that magical stuff in person is exciting."
It doesn't stop with Peterson. Yankey has been following the draft and the prospect of pass protecting for Teddy Bridgewater for years to come is something he's looking forward to as well, because he has been impressed with what he has seen in Bridgewater's growth as a player.
"I thought he was awesome," Yankey said. "He was a really, really good college quarterback and I'm excited to see what he does in the NFL."
A lot of the pre-draft buzz surrounding Yankey was that he would be drafted as early as late on Day 2, but Yankey took a cautious approach, saying that he was expecting to be drafted later than the analysts were projecting – a rarity for players waiting for their names to get called.
But a case could made that the Vikings potentially got a steal in Yankey by taking him in the fifth round.
Yankey started 40 games in his three seasons as a starter at Stanford. That included 14 starts at left tackle in 2012 following the graduation of Jonathan Martin. Not only did Yankey make a smooth transition, he dominated – earning All-America honors in 2012. In 2013, he moved back to left guard, where he was a unanimous All-America selection.
Over the last decade, Stanford has built a reputation for turning out offensive linemen that start on Sundays. Yankey, who was just 240 pounds as a high school junior, came to Stanford as a 295-pound true freshman after senior-year growth spurt. Yankey credited the coaching staff for developing him and other players to be NFL players.
"I think it's huge," Yankey said. "It's a big focus on technique and having that technical emphasis and running an offense that is a pro style gets you really prepared for the NFL."
While he has dominated the college game at both tackle and guard and has potentially been projected as having the skill set to be right tackle at the NFL level, it would appear the Vikings want him to focus on guard and be a position-flexible player who could play right tackle in a pinch.
"Most people project me primarily as a guard," Yankey said. "I can also play a little bit of tackle, so I think that versatility helps on game day – just plug-and-play wherever the team needs you, because you only get seven or eight offensive linemen dressed a game."
The Vikings have made taking Pac 12 players a recurring theme this draft, and with Yankey now teammates with former conference rivals Barr and Crichton, he's relishing the opportunity to work with them in practice and hopefully become a West Coast trio starting in the Midwest at the next level.
"I have tremendous respect for them," Crichton said. "I think they're both going to be really good. It's quite an exciting prospect to see so many guys from the Pac 12 all in one spot. It will be fun in practice grabbing at those guys in practice and seeing them shine on Sunday."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
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