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Bleacher Report – Vikings

What we’ve learned about the rookies: OL Willie Beavers

By Andrew Krammer

The Vikings have one more week before Organized Team Activities kickstart the home stretch of the NFL offseason.

Easing into the organization, eight drafted rookies and more undrafted rookies spent the past couple weeks assimilating into the meeting rooms, on-field drills and strength programs. Competition will ramp up starting with the month-long ‘phase three’ of the offseason, which allows full team drills, but no live contact. The Vikings begin the first OTA on Tuesday, May 24.

Before that, let’s set the stage for some of the rookies with what we knew, what we’ve learned so far and what we’re watching for this summer.

Previously:

WR Laquon Treadwell
CB Mackensie Alexander

OL Willie Beavers

What we knew

Height: 6’4?

Weight: 324

Age: 22

Position: Offensive lineman

Hometown: Southfield, Mich.

College: Western Michigan

Drafted: 121st overall, becoming the first player drafted out of Western Michigan since 2012 and the earliest taken since Louis Delmas, a 2009 second-round pick.

What we’ve learned

First impression

Beavers said he hadn’t known any Vikings players prior to being picked in the fourth round, though he’ll have at least some familiarity with one of their division foes. He grew up a Detroit Lions fan and has trained in each of the last three summers with nine-year NFL defensive end Jason Jones, according to the Detroit News. The two attended the same high school, with Jones having spent the previous three seasons playing for the Lions.

He would’ve taken a step closer to Minnesota as Beavers initially committed to the University of Illinois (as a defensive lineman) in 2011, before they pulled the rug out from under him citing ‘over recruiting.’ So he stayed in state. Graduating high school and attending college in Michigan certainly set some deep roots, but Beavers said it’s a quick pivot.

“I’m not a Lions fan anymore,” Beavers said. “I’m a Vikings fan.”

Feeling out his position

Beavers started 40 consecutive games at left tackle for Western Michigan, though teams wanted to see how he’d fare at guard. He played at both tackle and guard during January’s Senior Bowl. The Vikings will start him out on the inside. They did the same with last year’s fourth-round pick, T.J. Clemmings, before moving him back out to tackle.

General manager Rick Spielman was quick to point to Beavers’ play last fall against Ohio State (Joey Bosa) and Michigan State.

“I watched him myself when I went through their game versus Michigan State,” Vikings director of college scouting Jamaal Stephenson said. “They have a pretty good front and he more than handled his own. We are very excited about adding him and we know he can play left tackle. He can also slide inside to guard and he can also maybe play right tackle.”

‘Dent people’

During the offseason, listen long enough around Winter Park and you’ll hear from many rungs of the ladder about their desire for cohesion and clear communication between the Vikings coaching and scouting staffs. Certain characteristics are prioritized at each position.

First-year offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who met with Beavers at the Senior Bowl and scouting combine, influenced the process with new search guidelines for offensive linemen.

“What he calls the ability to dent people when you hit them,” Spielman said. “There are some other guys that were [available in the fourth round] that were appealing, but because this guy has the size and athletic build and has the ability to dent people. You can see that when he hits you — he hits you.”

What we’re watching for

Staying inside?

Clemmings’ experiment at right guard didn’t last into training camp last season as the Vikings, like all NFL teams, feel out their new players while trying to plug key needs. This time, they’re able to rely on two veterans in Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris to presumably compete at right guard while Beavers settles into his new position behind the first team.

He’s a former defensive lineman who stuck as a long-term left tackle at Western Michigan, so Beavers is used to moving around the trenches. Though it’ll be worth seeing if he sticks at guard unlike the most recent college tackle before him.

‘Play strength issues’

Some of the first tasks for Beavers is to bulk up and work on his footwork, according to Stephenson, who likes his size but notes some “play strength issues” during his college days. Overall, the Vikings wanted to make their offensive line more imposing, both physically and mentally. That’s why they inked free-agent guard Alex Boone, who willed former teammates to be ‘savages.’

Beavers fits right into where much of the summer focus will fall, on whether or not the Vikings offensive line gets tougher under the fiery Sparano.

The post What we’ve learned about the rookies: OL Willie Beavers appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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