The Minnesota Vikings have a problem with the interior of their offensive line. The positive is that they have gotten very good play out of their right guard the last two seasons. The negatives are that player has been the best offensive lineman on the team and it has been two different players. Also, the center spot is a huge question mark going forward.
Starting with the guard spots, the Vikings hope massive free agent signee Alex Boone will solidify the left side. His presence allows the Vikings to move Brandon Fusco back to the right side, where he played the four seasons before last. Fusco and last season’s starting right guard Mike Harris will battle for that spot.
On paper, the guard spots suddenly look a lot better than they had been in previous seasons. Individually all three could be starters on a fair amount of teams in the NFL. They have three capable starters, but no depth behind them. At this point, the second reserves would be last season’s starting center Joe Berger or tackle/guard Jeremiah Sirles.
On to the center issue. John Sullivan missed all of last season with a back issue. There are feelings that his career may be over. Should he make a full recovery, he should get the first opportunity to get the starting job back. Should it be the end, then Berger would likely take on the role.
Behind Berger are former undrafted free agents Zac Kerin and Nick Easton. A lot of people in the NFL believe Kerin will be a long time starting center in the NFL. This will be his third-year in the league and needs to make the move now. If Sullivan is not healthy and Kerin does not beat out Berger, it may never happen for him. Easton was acquired in a mid-season trade from the San Francisco 49ers. He had a very good preseason a year ago, but could not get on the field in the regular season.
Need level: High
Here are the top five interior offensive linemen as well as an underrated, overrated and sleeper prospect. (Positions based on NFL.com’s list)
No. 1 – Ryan Kelly, Alabama. He is just a very good football player. He didn’t post the eye-popping numbers at the combine, but the tape doesn’t lie. He has the toughness and football-IQ as well as enough strength and athleticism to be a dominant center in the NFL.
No. 2 – Cody Whitehair, Kansas State. He has the strength and technique that makes him one of the safest picks in the draft. He is a versatile lineman with experience at tackle, but projects to start immediately at guard.
No. 3 – Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M. He certainly looks the part at 6-feet-6-inches tall and 324-pounds. He has been projected by some as a tackle, but playing inside is a quicker to get on the field sooner for many prospects.
No. 4 – Rees Odhiambo, Boise State. He is a gritty and tough lineman with tackle experience in college. Good footwork and coachability could lead to a tryout at tackle, but his strength and nastiness could be a better fit inside. Injuries in college are hurting his draft stock.
No. 5 – Nick Martin, Notre Dame. He is a leader along the offensive line with the smarts and strength to be a starter in the middle. He has limited athleticism after suffering a knee injury in 2013, but can play either guard or center.
Overrated – Joshua Garnett, Stanford. He is strong and physical, but lacks athleticism. He is a very good run blocker, but not pass blocker. Some believe he can come in a start right away, but his struggles in pass protection make him a better situational blocker.
Underrated – Joe Dahl, Washington State. He is a physical, tough and mean road grader. He has enough athleticism to succeed in the NFL. Dahl is not a finished product, due to the Cougars’ offensive system and injuries, but will be an NFL starter.
Sleeper – Vi Teofilo, Arizona State. He is a hard working, small-area blocker. He is not a great athlete nor possesses exceptional strength, but has the tools to be a quality backup. Proving he can play center or tackle in a pinch will certainly help him develop as an NFL lineman.