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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Draft preview: Offensive line shouldn’t be ruled out with an eye beyond 2016

By Andrew Krammer

MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings addressed their top offseason priority in free agency by adding two experienced starters to the offensive line.

On the surface, they’d appear set with 15 offensive linemen on the pre-draft roster. Though look beyond this year and you’ll see the Vikings’ long-term plans are in flux. Less than half of the linemen — Alex Boone, Brandon Fusco, John Sullivan, T.J. Clemmings, Austin Shepherd, Isame Faciane and Zac Kerin — are under contract for 2017.

So even with a crowded room, the Vikings might not be done adding to the trenches.

Let’s assess why offensive line checks in as my No. 3 need for the Vikings.

No. 4: Even with Griffin addition, Vikings could bolster safety
No. 5: Vikings may add to ‘important’ spot on defensive line

Depth chart

OT Matt Kalil, 26
OT Andre Smith, 29
OT Phil Loadholt, 30
OT T.J. Clemmings, 24
OT Carter Bykowski, 25
OT Jeremiah Sirles, 24
OT Austin Shepherd, 23

G Alex Boone, 28
G Brandon Fusco, 27
G/C Joe Berger, 33
G/T Mike Harris, 27
G Isame Faciane, 24

C John Sullivan, 30
C Zac Kerin, 24
C Nick Easton, 23

Situation

You’ve probably read the Vikings are currently allocating the most 2016 cap dollars to the offensive line of any team in the league. They also have more O-linemen under contract than any other team, and few of them come with the cheap labor of rookie deals. Buoying the dollar commitment is left tackle Matt Kalil, who is guaranteed more than $11 million on a fifth-year option the Vikings exercised a year ago. It’s now the critical season in Minnesota for Kalil, the team’s fourth-overall pick in 2012. Joining him on one-year deals are tackles Andre Smith and Phil Loadholt, both figuring to lead the right tackle competition. Outside of newly-acquired guard Alex Boone, who will start at left guard, the interior holds similar question marks. Veteran center John Sullivan is returning from two back surgeries that forced him to miss the 2015 season. He’s backed up by Joe Berger, who turns 34 next month. And guard Brandon Fusco is transitioning back to the right side after an underwhelming year at left guard.

The Vikings achieved their goal of creating competition while keeping their long-term outlook flexible. So adding another piece, whether at center, guard or tackle, isn’t out of the question.

Below are three players the Vikings could add in this week’s draft.

Three to watch

1. OT Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M (6-6, 324)

A three-year starter at both right guard and right tackle for the Aggies. Massive build with 36-inch arms and 10 3/4-inch hands. Left school a year early. Part of a line of Texas A&M offensive linemen primed for the NFL, following in the footsteps of former teammates Cedric Ogbuehi, Jake Matthews and Luke Joeckel. Was assumed to fill in for Ogbuehi at left tackle, but stayed at right tackle last fall during his junior season. One of 30 pre-draft visitors for the Vikings. Concerns revolve around his technique, having not played in a pro-style offense during college. A potential first- or second-round pick.

“That’s most of what I’ve been doing, getting used to being in a three-point stance,” Ifedi said at the scouting combine. “In college, I probably had about 50 snaps out of a three-point stance. I’m getting used to it and will be used to it.”

2. C Nick Martin, Notre Dame (6-4, 299)

Setting up the former Golden Domer’s replacement with another? That might not be necessary, should Sullivan return to form and enjoy his age 31 season. Though if Sullivan’s back doesn’t respond the way they hope, they’re down to the 34-year-old Joe Berger with a couple other unproven players at center. Nick Martin is the brother of Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin, a 2014 first-round pick who immediately found NFL success at guard. Nick Martin bounced between guard and center for Notre Dame, most recently playing the 2015 season at center.

“We were all gun,” Martin said at the scouting combine. “I was able to do some [under-center] snaps at the Senior Bowl. It worked out fine. It wasn’t ab ig adjustment. Other than that, we still ran inside zone, outside zone, gap schemes. So when it comes down to it, it’s still football.”

3. OG Rees Odhiambo, Boise State (6-4, 314)

Has received a good deal of pre-draft interest from teams, including the Vikings, as they try to evaluate his medical situation. Odhiambo suffered a broken ankle in October. Also missed five games in his sophomore season due to injury. A three-year starter at both right tackle and, most recently, at left tackle for Boise State. Scouting reports claim he plays with strong technique and just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Might be undersized for a NFL tackle and could be moved inside.

The post Draft preview: Offensive line shouldn’t be ruled out with an eye beyond 2016 appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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