This offseason, offensive guard is expected to be one of the positions the Minnesota Vikings will look to improve. Last year, the position suffered multiple injuries over the course of the year, which was part of the reason for the inconsistent play. But Charlie Johnson is getting older and it is possible the Vikings part ways with him. Vladimir Ducasse is a free agent and will likely not be brought back, and Joe Berger is also a free agent but could very well be brought back because he is versatile and a solid back up.
Right now, the only solid starting option is Brandon Fusco, and even he has question marks after a season that was cut short due to a pectoral injury. There are also some young guards on the Vikings’ roster in David Yankey and Austin Wentworth. The problem is that they weren’t able to crack the starting lineup last year even with all the injuries on the offensive line.
Fortunately for the Vikings, there are some talented prospects at the guard position in the 2015 draft, and there are multiple who have the ability to play both guard and tackle. That versatility can come in handy to teams when injuries take place, and will make the players more attractive to teams looking to draft them.
The player on the top of most draft boards for offensive guards is Iowa’s Brandon Scherff. He is even listed as the best offensive lineman in the draft by some experts, including Scout.com draft analyst Dave-Te Thomas. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock believes Scherff’s best spot is at guard.
“As far as offensive line is concerned, I have Brandon Scherff as my top offensive lineman,” Mayock said on a conference call. “I have him as an inside player.
“Again, I believe (Scherff) can play outside. However, I think his best position, because of his power, his toughness, his football sense, is inside. I think he’s an All-Pro guard. But that doesn’t mean he can’t play tackle in the NFL.”
Some other players who are currently graded as first-round talents that can play both guard and tackle are La'el Collins from LSU and Andrus Peat from Stanford. But unlike Scherff, they will likely be projected as more of a tackle with the possible exception of Collins.
The Vikings pick at No. 11 in the first round and that is likely to be a little too high to draft Scherff because guard is not as coveted a position. So if the Vikings don’t move back in the first round they could look to address the position in a later round.
One of the players that they could look to target in the second round could be Tre Jackson from Florida State.
“Tre Jackson is my No. 5 interior offensive lineman. I have him in the second round, liked what I saw at the Senior Bowl. Most of the Florida State guys kind of pegged out of it at the end. I understand it’s a long season. But this kid came to the Senior Bowl ready to play,” Mayock said. “I think the fact that he showed up and he showed up with an attitude helped a lot with the NFL scouts. Solid second-round pick.”
Josue Matias is another guard coming out of Florida State, but he is thought to be more of a borderline third- or fourth-round prospect.
In 2013, the Detroit Lions drafted an offensive guard by the name of Larry Warford in the third round. In his first two seasons in the NFL he has proven to be a very dependable offensive lineman. Laken Tomlinson, a guard out of Duke, is being compared to Warford, and is thought to be a player that will be drafted in the second round who can come in and start.
“Yeah, the Warford kid was fun to watch coming out of college, and a guy that’s similar to him that I like a lot who I think is a second-round pick, some teams have third-round grades, I tend to like him more, his name is Laken Tomlinson from Duke,” Mayock said. “This is a big, square, tough guy, smart as can be. Gets movement in the run game, surprisingly quick in short areas. I think he really helped himself at the Senior Bowl. I think a lot of the doubters as far as his athleticism and ability to pass block went, ooh, he’s blocking some of the best defensive linemen in the country, so I think he’s a really good player.”
Another player to keep in eye on in the middle rounds that the Vikings could look to target would be A.J. Cann from South Carolina, whom Mayock sees as a very similar player to Tomlinson. Another one could be John Miller from Louisville, whom Mayock projects as a third-round value. Then there is Jarvis Harrison, a player that many people feel underachieved in college and will likely go in the third or fourth round.
There is still the possibility that the Vikings will address the offensive guard position in free agency, or they might think Yankey or Wentworth can step up and fill that starting role. If neither of those turn out to be true, however, look for the Vikings to target one of these players come draft day.
Guard prospects plentiful in second day
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