While the Minnesota Vikings have greatly improved since Mike Zimmer became the head coach in 2014, there are still plenty of holes that need to be filled. That is shown in the fact that in 12 national mock drafts looked at, eight different players were mocked to them with the 23rd pick in the draft. Five of which received just a single vote.
One of those players receiving a single vote was Kansas State Wildcats offensive guard Cody Whitehair, getting the Vikings’ selection in CBSSports’ mock draft by Dane Brugler. Zimmer has expressed the importance of versatility on multiple occasions and the 6-foot-3, 300-pound lineman fits that category perfectly. In his four years at Kansas State he spent time at right tackle, left guard and left tackle.
As a freshman, Whitehair earned an honorable mention All-Big 12 honor. He was then named to the second-team All-Big 12 during his sophomore and junior seasons. In his senior season he earned first-team All-Big 12 honors.
Whitehair is a hard-working player, the kind that coaches love on the lunch-pail offensive line. Not only that, he is a team-first type of player, which was displayed in the fact that he was willing to change his position whenever the coaches needed that.
Analysts believe he has great balance and composure and is almost always on the right assignment when the ball is snapped. When engaging with a defender, he has the ability to remain locked up and finish blocks, which comes from a strong core and a wide, strong base that he is able to maintain throughout the play.
Whitehair also has the athleticism and speed to get around the edge and find a defender to block when asked to pull. He has massive hands – 10 inches – that allow him to stick to defenders. He is also very consistent with his hand placement, which again makes him a very consistent blocker when engaging with defenders.
The biggest knock against Whitehair is his arm length. They measure just over 31 inches, which is shorter than that of the average interior offensive lineman. Also, because he moved around so much in college and spent limited time at guard, he may need to get extra work getting out of the three-point stance.
In then end, though, this pick makes a lot of sense for the Vikings. Offensive line was one of the biggest weaknesses of their team in 2015. If they were to draft an offensive lineman this offseason, though, they would need to decide what to do with the linemen already on the team.
Brandon Fusco was once considered to be one of the best linemen on the team but suffered a torn pectoral muscle that caused him to miss a majority of the 2014 season and was then asked to move from right guard to left guard in 2015 and it was clear he never became comfortable at the new position. Fusco is under contract through 2019, so if the Vikings did draft Whitehair they would have to decide what they wanted to do with Fusco.
The Vikings would also have to decide what they would want to do with Mike Harris. He was primarily an offensive tackle but took over as the team’s starting right guard last season and was arguably their best lineman throughout the season. However, he is a free agent this offseason and if the Vikings draft an interior lineman there is a possibility they choose to not re-sign him.
There are a lot of decisions that the Vikings would need to make if they drafted an offensive guard, but drafting one makes a lot of sense for a team that really struggled across the line in 2015.