The Minnesota Vikings offensive line struggled throughout the 2015 season and there are a lot of questions surrounding it this offseason, especially regarding the guard positions. Will the team re-sign Mike Harris and keep him at right guard, or do they move in a different direction? And, do they keep Brandon Fusco at left guard where he struggled last season, or move him back to the right side?
If the team does decide to bring in new players to compete for a starting spot, where do they look – free agency or the NFL draft? The Vikings have spent late-round draft picks on the offensive line the past two years, but those haven’t done much for the team apart from giving them some depth. This may be the season they look to address the need early in the draft.
When looking at 12 national mock drafts, there are a couple experts that see the Vikings taking an offensive lineman at No. 23 overall. One on CBSSports.com has them taking Kansas State guard Cody Whitehair, while there is one other offensive guard selected to go along with him.
Stanford’s Joshua Garnett was the other guard to receive a single mock to the Vikings, by USA Today, and like the Whitehair pick this one could be very beneficial for the Vikings.
Garnett is 6-foot-4, 317 pounds and just received the Outland Trophy his senior year, which goes out to the nation’s top interior lineman. He is a big, powerful player that plays with a certain nastiness that coaches love to see out of their offensive lineman.
He is often able to utilize his superb core and lower body strength to control defenders at the point of attack. The senior guard has very good hand placement and will rarely get beat off the ball, according to analysts, allowing him to gain the advantage early on and open up lanes for the players behind him.
Garnett excels in run blocking and is able to take the correct lanes nearly every time when moving into the second level. If he gets a head full of steam while running downhill, the players he targets rarely stand a chance of remaining upright. The problem, though, is he will look to maul an opponent too often and forget to bring his feet under him and secure the block.
You can see him get lazy with his mechanics from time to time, according to analysts, as he will try to out-muscle his opponents instead of combining his strength with proper footwork. It will be something he needs to work on at the next level, but with the proper coaching it should be fixable.
Another area that Garnett has struggled in is pass protection, but there have been signs of improvement. He would struggle recognizing twists and stunts early on, causing him to be late blocking them. That would then lead to him either trying to block defenders with out-stretched arms or sort of hugging them in an attempt to protect his quarterback.
In the end, though, he could be a great addition to any NFL team, especially a run-first team such as the Vikings. Garnett should be able to open plenty of holes for Adrian Peterson to run through, and his ability to get up to the second level quickly would be great against the amount of eight-man fronts the Vikings see on a regular basis.