Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
Was there any unit more scrutinized in the 2016-17 NFL season than the Minnesota Vikings offensive line?
Decimated by injuries, the Vikings O-line became a turnstile for opposing defenses, seemingly escorting defenders to quarterback Sam Bradford at times. Such a performance will not be accepted next season as the Vikings aim to improve their offensive front and better protect Bradford (or Teddy Bridgewater if healthy and deemed starter). There were questions surrounding the unit when the season completed, but after Friday's release of Mike Harris and Brandon Fusco, the Vikings appear ready to completely rebuild their offensive line.
Now there is only one question: Where does the building begin?
The Vikings will likely look towards the Draft in April to find their potential building block for their renovated offensive line.
After a trade for Bradford sent their 2017 first-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Vikings must now wait and see which offensive linemen are available to them come round two. Provided of course that Minnesota does not trade up into the first round, something General Manager Rick Spielman has proven he is not afraid to do.
For the sake of this article, we'll simply assume that the Vikings stay where they are and their first selection is made in the second round. If that is the case, Minnesota would still have some very viable prospects to choose from.
Alabama Tackle Cam Robinson is considered the prize offensive lineman of the draft and will easily be a top-15 or top-20 selection. Wisconsin Tackle Ryan Ramcyzk is also considered to be a first-round talent after a stellar season with the Badgers. Ramcyzk is coming off a torn labrum in the offseason and, should that lead to concerns with NFL GM's, he might very well be available in the second round, however that seems unlikely and he will likely come off the board in the first. Aside from Robinson and Ramcyzk though, there are no surefire first-rounders meaning Minnesota has a few intriguing options.
Tackle Garett Bolles (Utah)
Minnesota could look at a guy such as Bolles as he has been graded with first-round talent, but the first-team All-Pac-12 tackle played only one season at Utah and previously played junior college football. Also of note, Bolles will turn 25 years old after the Draft, making him significantly older than most rookies.
Given his inexperience, there is potential for him to fall to the second or even third round, but with certain first round skills, the Vikings could get a top talent with a slightly lesser draft choice.
Tackle/Guard Taylor Moton (Western Michigan)
The Vikings have an inside source with Moton as new Gophers' head coach P.J. Fleck coached the 6'5, 330 pound lineman for the past few seasons at Western Michigan, making him a very intriguing prospect.
Moton played at the Senior Bowl and played very well, proving that he could fit at either the guard or tackle position while showing off his strength and run-blocking abilities. He doesn't seem to be a guy that will play a ton right away, but with a season of learning and adjusting to the league, Moton could be a solid offensive lineman in the NFL.
Moton is projected to be chosen anywhere from the second to the fourth round.
Tackle David Sharpe (Florida)
Sharpe is an interesting prospect for the Vikings to look at. Many scouts believe that the Gators tackle should have returned for his senior season to improve his pass protection and drop some weight, but Sharpe chose to enter the draft instead.
While his run-blocking skills are very good and rank out with some of the best tackles in the draft, his pass-blocking still needs some work as evidenced by his struggles with some of the top pass rushers in his conference.
Sharpe could see some playing time right away if he is willing to move inside to the guard position but if a team keeps him at the tackle position, he'll likely struggle early on while he adjusts to the increased speed and physicality of the NFL.
Tackle Julie'n Davenport (Bucknell)
Davenport is one of my favorite prospects in the upcoming draft strictly because of the lack of certainty as to where he'll be chosen.
The Bucknell tackle had a stellar season in which he displayed his size and athleticism that lead many to believe he could be a starting tackle in the NFL. Then he appeared in the Senior Bowl.
Struggling against top competition at the Senior Bowl, Davenport's lack of strength was exposed and such has given many scouts thoughts about the 6'6 tackle needing a season to develop before seeing the field in the NFL.
It is likely that a guy like Davenport would be drafted higher and boast a higher grade if he played at a more renowned school but given that he played at Bucknell and had some struggles at the Senior Bowl, Davenport is now likely to be chosen anywhere from the third to the fifth round.
Recognizing that the Vikings don't have the desire or ability to wait a year for a tackle to develop, Davenport will likely not fit Minnesota's draft criteria, but Davenport has immense upside and, should Minnesota decide they can take a more patient route, Davenport could be a sneaky good selection for the Vikings.