Kiper has handful of guards in top 2 rounds

If the Vikings don’t address guard in free agency, look for them to investigate the possibilities at the position in the first days of the draft. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has a handful of guards he puts in the top two rounds.

Offensive guard is a position of need for the Minnesota Vikings during the 2015 offseason. Last season, Brandon Fusco went down early and was placed on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle. Then both the aging Charlie Johnson and Vladimir Ducasse under-performed at left guard. Joe Berger had a good season filling in for Fusco at right guard, but at the age of 32 he might be served better as a back up than a starter.

The Vikings drafted David Yankey in the fifth round last year and many people felt like he would be able to come in and compete for a starting spot. That wasn’t the case. Throughout all the injuries on the offensive line, Yankey was never used on the field.

If the Vikings don’t bring in a starting-caliber guard in free agency to replace Johnson, who was released Friday, they probably will address the need in the draft. Brandon Scherff from Iowa is considered to be the best guard in the draft and he has the ability to play both guard and tackle. Where the Vikings pick at No. 11 might be a little too high to draft Scherff, though.

There has been a lot of talk that general manager Rick Spielman may want to trade down in the draft and acquire more picks. If he does that, and Scherff is not available where he trades to, La'el Collins from LSU could be a player to watch if guard is a high priority. Like Scherff, Collins has the ability to play both guard and tackle and he should be available later in the first round.

“I think you look at the guy who is most versatile in La’el Collins from LSU, and he will probably be there,” said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. “He can play left tackle, right tackle or guard. Has great versatility coming out of LSU … but I think that Collins would be the guy that provides you the kind of versatility that you’re talking about there. He can play pretty much four positions.”

There is also the possibility the Vikings choose to address one of their other needs in the first round, and instead wait to draft a guard. If they wait until the second round, there are three very good guards to pick from. But unlike Collins and Scherff, they are more prototypical guards that aren’t likely to relocate to tackle.

“(A.J.) Cann is a guy that has a second-round grade, for me he does,” Kiper said. “… Nobody early (from South Carolina) accept Cann, but I think he could go early to mid-second round for A.J. Cann.”

Cann may not be the first pure guard off the board, though. It could also be Laken Tomlinson from Duke, or Tre’ Jackson from Florida State. These three players are very similar and it will come down to which player is favored by which team.

“(Cann) may not be the first guard taken – it may be Laken Tomlinson from Duke – but he’s certainly going to be one of the top two, Tre’ Jackson from Florida State’s also in that mix,” Kiper said. “They got three guards that you pretty much put them in and flip them any which way you want. They’re pretty interchangeable. But he’s going to be, I think, a second-round pick.”

Last year, head coach Mike Zimmer said that the franchise belongs to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. And if he truly believes Bridgewater is a franchise quarterback, then his protection will need to be shored up. Bridgewater took a lot of sacks in 2014; so if the Vikings do not bring in a guard in free agency, look for them to address the position early in the draft.

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