The Minnesota Vikings lost two of their starting offensive linemen before the start of the season last year. Center John Sullivan was placed on the injured reserve/designated to return after having surgery on a herniated disc in his back, but suffered a setback midway through the season that required a second surgery, which kept him out for the entirety of the season.
The other starting offensive lineman was Phil Loadholt, who tore his Achilles tendon during the preseason. He was placed on the injured reserve after that, which was his second time being placed on injured reserve in two years.
Both players are now 30 years old, so there is a lot of speculation surrounding their ability to bounce back to full NFL health. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said both of them have been rehabbing at the team’s practice facility every day, but admitted that he did not know whether or not they would be ready for organized team activities in May.
“We’re just monitoring their rehab,” Spielman said. “I don’t want to put a timeframe on them on when or when not. They had significant injuries. I know they’re working extremely hard to get back, but I’ll wait. I’m not a doctor – although I do tell the scouts down there that I can make medical decisions. We’ll have to wait and see until the doctors fully clear them. I know they’re working extremely hard to get back as quick as they can. But a date or time, I do not know that.”
With the health of two players the Vikings view as starters along their offensive line in question, it is fairly safe to presume that they will draft at least one offensive linemn this year. Spielman said that they have already finished evaluating the offensive side of the ball for this year’s draft and one thing that stood out was the depth along the offensive line.
“I think it’ll be a pretty deep class. You’re looking at all these (offensive tackles) and are they potential swing guys inside that can play guard. He’s playing left tackle in college; can he be a right tackle? There were tackles at the Senior Bowl where we got exposure to them as guards,” he said. “ … We’re going through all of that right now and project guys that can do both. The more position flexibility they have, the more valuable a guy is.”
When the word “depth” is thrown around, it usually means that the position will be addressed later on in the draft, which has been the Vikings’ strategy in recent years – load up with offensive linemen later in the draft and bring in a couple lower-tier players throughout the season in hopes one or two will develop into a solid player.
Spielman appears to be setting the tone here, as he repeatedly mentioned the amount of time it takes to develop offensive lineman in the NFL these days. But if the team is not happy with the way Loadholt and Sullivan are progressing do not be surprised if they address the offensive line early in the draft.