Note: Until the 2017 NFL Draft starting April 27, we’ll take an exclusive look at the Vikings’ draft. We’ll combine some positions in order to address as many areas as possible. Check for a new post each day.
The Vikings’ need at tackle isn’t as pressing after adding two 28-year-old starters through free agency in Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers. That puts T.J. Clemmings in the background again, where he could benefit from time to figure things out.
Guard is a different matter. The Vikings cleaned house on the right side by releasing the last two Week 1 starters in Brandon Fusco and Mike Harris this offseason. Fusco, once penciled in as the long-term answer, disappointed in his two seasons after suffering a torn pectoral muscle at the start of 2014.
Jeremiah Sirles, at 6-foot-6, 315 pounds, will compete for the right guard spot after making a career-high 10 starts – mostly at tackle – last season. Sirles isn’t the most athletic, but played admirably and bounced around the lineup too much to get comfortable. He may gain from focusing on just one spot this offseason. Third-year guard/center Zac Kerin is another option, though he has yet to start an NFL game.
The Vikings did not add a guard or center in free agency, leaving open the possibility of drafting to both positions next week. Head coach Mike Zimmer said this offseason he has four of five starting spots figured out. They’ll have intriguing options in the upcoming draft to bolster that fifth spot at right guard.
Projected starters: LT Riley Reiff, LG Alex Boone, C Joe Berger, RG Jeremiah Sirles, RT Mike Remmers
Don’t forget about: Nick Easton. The third-year center started five straight games at the end of last season and could give Berger, who turns 35 in May, a run for the starting center spot. Easton played with confidence and intelligence during his fledgling starts, but was overpowered at times while run blocking and made a critical error on a botched snap at Lambeau. Will he take another step forward this season?
Level of need: High at guard. Moderate at tackle and center.
Five prospects to remember: Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana; Taylor Moton, OG/OT, Western Michigan; Pat Elflein, C/OG, Ohio State; Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh; Dion Dawkins, OG/OT, Temple
Our best guess: The Vikings stayed away as guards struck gold in free agency. Two tackles were added instead, positioning them to draft a top guard prospect as early as possible without a first-round pick. The Vikings will be on the clock with the 48th-overall selection, where a good value could be found in a player like Indiana’s Dan Feeney. Don’t be surprised if a couple interior linemen are drafted.