This is the sixth in a series of position previews for the 2022 NFL draft, which runs Thursday through Saturday. Today: offensive linemen.
THREE NAMES TO KNOW
C Tyler Linderbaum, Iowa: If the Vikings decided to take an interior linemen in the middle of the first round three years after they selected Garrett Bradbury, they could likely do worse than Linderbaum, the latest pro-ready prospect from Iowa — a school that has turned out plenty of offensive linemen. He's a former wrestler who uses his hand strength to defeat blockers, and he has the athleticism to play in a zone scheme. He's likely projected as a center, which would force the Vikings into a decision on Bradbury, but in the event they saw an interior lineman as being worth a first-round draft pick, Linderbaum makes some sense.
G Zion Johnson, Boston College: He will likely be a first-round pick, thanks to his consistency and playing strength that might make him one of the easiest prospects to project in this draft. Johnson wouldn't be the most athletic guard on the Vikings line, and he could be challenged by teams that throw stunts and twists at him, but he might provide an immediate answer at the guard position the Vikings are still trying to fill.
G Kenyon Green, Texas A&M: Green started at guard and tackle in college, and he has the frame to work at either spot in the NFL. He is probably best slated to play guard, where his size (6-4, 323 pounds) and agility would make him a natural fit, but he could be a swing tackle if necessary. He might need to improve his hand-fighting skills in the NFL, but his explosiveness and frame mean he won't get bullied by big defensive tackles the way some Vikings interior linemen have in recent years.
G Cole Strange, Tennessee-Chattanooga: The athletic lineman met with the Vikings twice before the draft, and he could be worth their attention on Friday night's Day 2. He's got a quick first step that should help him with athletic defensive tackles in the NFL, and though he'll have to add some size to his frame while working on his technique in pass protection, he could be the type of player that learns behind Jesse Davis or Chris Reed this year before taking a starting spot in 2023 or 2024.
New GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O'Connell get to try their hand at the problem that plagued Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer as much as any other. The Vikings feel good about holdovers such as right tackle Brian O'Neill and left guard Ezra Cleveland, and left tackle Christian Darrisaw stands to improve in Year 2 after dealing with a groin injury for the first half of his rookie season. But Bradbury faces a pivotal fourth year, and he could have his fifth-year option declined this spring. The Vikings also need to identify a right guard, and will have a competition for the spot after signing Davis and Reed to affordable deals this spring.
VIKINGS' LEVEL OF NEED
Moderate: It's probably not as dire an issue as it's been in the past, thanks to the potential for growth from players such as Cleveland and Darrisaw, but the Vikings still figure to be in the market for another player or two. They need a guard, could use a swing tackle and hope Darrisaw develops to the point they are not in the left tackle market again for a long time. New offensive line coach Chris Kuper, who played eight years in the league, could get a chance to work with a rookie guard prospect if the Vikings decide to take one on the first two days of the draft.