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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Root of the problem: Vikings haven’t really drafted O-linemen early

By Derek Wetmore

The Vikings had a rough game in the protection department Sunday, their first loss of the season.

Here’s one convenient excuse: They’ve had a busload of injuries. Matt Kalil, Andre Smith, Phil Loadholt and Mike Harris all have gotten hurt, to varying degrees, and the team cut John Sullivan in training camp after he was coming off a back surgery that cut short his season last year. Perfectly fair reasoning.

Here’s another thing that must be submitted to evidence: The Vikings, under Rick Spielman, basically never spend high draft picks on offensive linemen coming out of college. The positive side of this is Spielman and Co. have unearthed some really nice players in recent drafts: Danielle Hunter, Stefon Diggs, Anthony Barr, Xavier Rhodes andHarrison Smith. The downside is that they’re susceptible to what you saw Sunday.

Here’s an exhaustive list of the offensive linemen drafted in the any of the first three rounds since the 2006 draft: Matt Kalil (first round, 2012), Phil Loadholt (second round, 2009), Ryan Cook (second round, 2006.

That’s it.

To their credit, the Vikings have found some solid players in the later rounds. But the point is that they haven’t invested very much in terms of draft resources to fixing the problem that now threatens to unwind their very promising season.

Here’s a look at the OL they picked in those 11 drafts :

2006: Cook (2nd round)
2008: John Sullivan (6)
2009: Loadholt (2)
2010: Chris DeGeare (5),
2011: Brandon Fusco (6), Demarcus Love (6)
2012: Kalil (1)
2013: Jeff Baca (6), Travis Bond (7)
2014: David Yankey (5)
2015: T.J. Clemmings (4), Tyrus Thompson (6), Austin Shepherd (7)
2016: Willie Beavers (4, cut in training camp)

To fairly compare this across the league, we’d need to look at the rate at which every team drafted linemen early. We haven’t done that here. It also should be noted that if you have a guy you trust like John Sullivan across multiple years who still projects to have a few years left in his prime, the motivation to draft a center, for example, would not be as high as if you needed to fill the position.

Still, it looks here like the Vikings’ draft approach in the past decade has been to take draft fliers and count on their coaches — and the players available late in drafts — to mold a late-round pick into a serviceable starter or backup.

The post Root of the problem: Vikings haven’t really drafted O-linemen early appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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