Vikings’ visits included two top tackles

While there are no sure things in this year’s draft, the Vikings were talking with a couple of offensive tackles that have question marks for different reasons.

The Vikings had plenty of informal meetings during the NFL Scouting Combine, but those included a couple of the top offensive tackles among them.

With Matt Kalil struggling with injuries that helped lead to sub-par, inconsistent seasons the last two years, the Vikings were covering their bases and getting to know a couple of offensive tackles that could be selected in the first two rounds of the 2015 NFL Draft. Both of them have interesting stories that will weigh on their draft status.

Cedric Ogbuehi suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in his bowl game that required surgery, but the 6-foot-5, 306-pounder said he will be ready by training camp. Even if that’s true, his injury is still a roll of the dice that NFL teams will have to consider when drafting him.

Ogbuehi decided to go back for his senior year at Texas A&M, despite a first-round grade from the advisory committee last year, and an insurance policy could help make up the difference if his injury causes him drop out of the first round.

He tried to put the best face on the situation when asked about his injury at the Combine.

“I’ll be back by training camp. It’s not a life or death injury,” he said. “Come back for next year ready to go again.”

T.J. Clemmings, who also met with the Vikings, is interesting because of his position switch midstream at Pittsburgh. After not living up to his standards on the defensive line, his coaches asked him about a switch to the offensive line. He proved not only willing, but very able.

“At the time, I wasn’t having the success I wanted on defense and offensive line was literally my last option,” Clemmings said. “I wanted to get back on the field. I wanted to start again. Just thinking about being on the field again, wherever that was, it made it feel right.

“All the techniques were difficult at first. It was more the terminology and learning the plays. Once I got that down, I focused a lot more on techniques and got those down as well.”

That switch proved to be the right move, as it put Clemmings in the conversation for a possible first-round pick. But it also means his techniques aren’t refined, maybe even “raw.” It’s a description that doesn’t irritate him at this juncture.

“It doesn’t bother me. If that is what they feel, then that’s fine,” the 6-foot-4½, 309-pounder said. “I only had two years on the offensive line under my belt and that’s not going to change from now to the draft. I need some work in some things and I am not afraid of that. I am ready to work on things that people feel I need to work on.”

Here is what draft analyst Dave-Te’ Thomas had to say about Ogbuehi and Clemmings after their senior seasons:

OGBUEHI, Cedric (OG) | Texas A&M | OT | rSr | 06:05.0 | 300
Prior to the 2014 season, Ogbuehi was a favorite to possibly be the top overall pick in the draft. It’s not like he had a bad senior campaign, but it is obvious that he was pulling a “Jadeveon Clowney” and just going through the paces. Some scouts thought that he was “playing it safe” so he would not get hurt and affect his draft stock. He would have still been a first-round talent if he had shown a much more determined attitude during the bowl season and then actually attended the Senior Bowl (rumors had circulating he was going to sit the game out) to upgrade his draft status, but he suffered an anterior cruciate tear in the Liberty Bowl vs. West Virginia that required surgery and keep him sidelined until at least the start of NFL training camp (some fear it could see him a PUP candidate for the entire year). The poor play in 2014 will certain see others leap-frog in front of him in the pecking order. The Rams still have interest in the Aggie and could take him after the opening round.

Hopefully, when he is healthy and reaches the pro ranks, he can reignite the fire he showed in 2013. That year, he showed excellent balance and change-of-direction flexibility, along with outstanding acceleration when working into the second level. Generally, he plays on his feet well, thanks to superb balance and shows the body control to play and adjust in space and pick up blocks on the move downfield. He can slide and readjust to mirror edge rushers in pass protection and also displays the lower body flexibility to drop his pads and anchor firmly vs. stunts and the bull rush. However, in 2014, he struggled with his hand placement and took too many passive swipes rather than punch with authority. Too often, he left his chest exposed, leading to defenders walking him back in the pocket, as he would counter by leaning into the opponent instead of anchoring to sustain (allowed four sacks and seven pressures in 2014).

Ogbuehi is a bit slow with his kick slide at times, and on others he seems to rush his retreat, which sees quite a few edge rushers just loop around him to pressure the pocket. With his athletic ability, you would hope that he would stay with his blocks longer. He will finish once engaged, but he does not play with great strength or leverage. He can move his feet and swing his hips to position and wall off, but would be even better if he can develop an aggressive nature. His problems occur because he has a tendency to play high in his stance, as this affects his equilibrium as the game progresses. Despite good timed speed, Ogbuehi appears a bit lethargic coming off the snap at times. He does not show the suddenness moving in space and would much rather use his reach to keep defenders at bay rather than fire off the snap and attack with aggression.

The Aggie has quick hands but lacks much impact with his punch. With his athletic frame and long arms, you would expect him to be quicker getting into position and stay on his blocks longer (more of a one-punch type). He is not the type that will stalk into the second level, or come off the snap with true aggression (seems to go through the motions). He has good lower body thickness but does not display the strong anchor to handle bull rushers. He is just too inconsistent trying to finish, as his anchor can’t generate the power needed to sustain. With his hip snap, he should be jolting defenders to get movement, but he loses quite a bit of his effectiveness by playing high in his stance.

CLEMMINGS, Trevor “TJ” | Pittsburgh | OT | Sr | 06:04.4 | 313
While left tackle is regarded as football’s “glamour” position on the front wall, you have to be impressed with the numbers that Clemmings produced this season at right tackle – 20 touchdown-resulting blocks to go with 79 knockdowns. Outside of having fits trying to contain Virginia Tech’s speed rusher Dadi Nicolas, the two-year offensive player earned winning grades for blocking consistency in each of the other 11 contests.

He did not begin playing football until his high school junior season, then saw action in eight games as a reserve defensive end before the Pitt coaches shifted him to the offensive line in 2013. That year, he responded with 66 knockdowns and 10 touchdown-resulting blocks. Even with just two seasons as a starter under his belt, he displays very good overall awareness, showing a clear understanding of his assignments. He does a better-than-average job of picking up blitzes and stunts.

He seems sluggish at times establishing his pass pro set and is at his best in shorter sets when he can lock on to defenders and ride them wide. He is technically sound in the run game and can be very efficient when working in limited space. He’s still inconsistent with his hand placement, but when he keeps them inside his frame, he gets very good success trying to steer and sustain. With his large wingspan, he’s become a highly efficient reach blocker and if he keeps those hands active, he has no problem fending defenders off his chest plate.

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