The Vikings Offensive Line is Young, Has a Lot to Prove
Unless something unexpected happens, the Vikings will (from left to right) have Christian Darrisaw, Ezra Cleveland, Garrett Bradbury, Wyatt Davis, and Brian O’Neill as their five starters along the offensive line. Rashod Hill is the main tackle depth, and Mason Cole has the edge along the interior. After those players, it’s wide open. There’s going to be reasonably intense competition for the depth spots.
The Near Guarantees
There are only six players who fall into this category: Darrisaw, Cleveland, Bradbury, Davis, O’Neill, and Hill. Unless there is a totally unexpected development, those six linemen will be in Minnesota.
O’Neill, as we’ve written about, is the best player in this group. His playing time has increased every year, a trend that corresponds with his overall play. Expect an extension for around 4-years, $40 million.
We can expect O’Neill to be great, but we should be hoping that Bradbury makes the biggest improvement. His ability to truly elevate into a top-tier center will be massively important. He’s now among the veterans of the group and he is a former first-round pick. It’s time to see him take that step. The video below is really impressive; he gets his backside in between the DT and the RB, thereby opening a lane for his player. Not many centers are able to move like Bradbury. What we really need to see is better pass protection.
Cleveland, in all likelihood, will be starting alongside Bradbury. Instead of RG, though, Cleveland looks like the team’s long-term LG. In theory, Cleveland should improve here. It’s a position that more naturally complements what he did in college since he was a LT. Much has been written about the two rookies, but the real key to this offensive line may be Cleveland and Bradbury.
The rookies, of course, certainly look like they’ll have a sizeable impact. We wrote about Darrisaw’s best and worst case scenarios recently, and Wyatt Davis has a similarly wide range of outcomes. Fans shouldn’t be altogether surprised if one or both ends up replaced by a veteran at some point.
The True Competition
There’s a fair amount of depth offensive linemen in Minnesota. At tackle, there is Oli Udoh, Blake Brandel, and Evin Ksiezarczyk (Hill is also a depth player, but we’ve already discussed him). Along the interior, there is Mason Cole, Dru Samia, Zack Bailey, Kyle Hinton, and Cohl Cabral. Only three or four of these players are going to make the roster.
Vikings fans are going to hate this, but Dozier is likely going to be in the team’s offensive line room. He’s a veteran player who the coaches admire for his versatility and workmanlike approach. If he is a backup who offers depth at multiple spots, I can get on board with Dozier, especially since he quite possibly has the best name for any offensive lineman in the NFL.
After that, expect to see Mason Cole on the final roster. They traded a sixth for him, and we all know how much Spielman values his late-round picks. He was a third-round pick in the 2018 draft. Take a look at his tough rep against Dalvin Tomlinson, Minnesota’s main free agent acquisition (alongside Patrick Peterson):
From there, it’s the battle of unproven players. Udoh has always received praise for his size and potential. Brandel has a reputation as a technically-sound tackle, whereas Hinton is an upside athlete. In all likelihood, it’s now time to move on from Samia. There was opportunity for him to seize the starting job in Minnesota, but he was dreadful. The Vikings should likely move on unless there is a noticeable improvement in the offseason workouts.
The Vikings Offensive Line
I think the Vikings will keep ten players for the offensive line. As I mentioned above, the five starters will be Darrisaw, Cleveland, Bradbury, Davis, and O’Neill. After those players, I’m including five backups: Udoh, Hill, Dozier, Hinton, and Cole. The most notable cut, at least in my estimation, is Samia, who was a fourth-rounder just a couple seasons ago.
Have a different opinion? Let me hear about it. The defensive projections begin next week.