The Minnesota Vikings endured the kind of loss that no team should ever have to experience last season. One that expands beyond the gridiron. A loss that cut so deep, its wake was felt after the season as much as it was before. I'm talking of course about the loss of offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who tragically passed away before the start of the 2018 NFL season.
The Vikings offensive line struggled, understandably so. The team yielded 13 additional sacks of their quarterbacks in 2018 than they did in 2017 and 8 less games of 100+ yards rushing this past year as well.
With an unexpected loss before training camp, the Vikings line was compromised and it cost this team a chance at the playoffs. Of course, at the end of the day, the loss of Sparano was much more devastating. But the Vikings will look to turn their eyes forward in 2019 and, hopefully, honor Sparano with their play next season.
Some of that growth and development will need to come from fresh talent. The Vikings like center Pat Elflein. But how much? Is it enough to warrant drafting guard specific players? We'll explore their options here and now. Here are three candidates to help the Vikings overhaul their interior offensive line group.
Garrett Bradbury, North Carolina State
What's the best way to put this? Bradbury is....good. And he's also an ideal fit for Minnesota's new rushing concepts in outside zone. That is, after all, exactly why the Vikings went out and added Gary Kubiak to their coaching staff. But...(there's always a but)...Bradbury and Elflein are a little redundant. And I've been told the Vikings like Elflein and they like him at Center. So do you draft Bradbury and if so who do you move to Guard? Does that become too much of the same thing? It's a legit dilemma and the one reason I'm hung up on this marriage.
But Bradbury is clearly a great scheme fit for Minnesota's rushing offense and if they're receptive to moving Elflein to guard, this is the move.
Erik McCoy, Texas A&M
Okay so take Garrett Bradbury, pull up his player sliders and bump his agility and lateral mobility down 10% and jack up his anchor and hand strength by 10% and congratulations, you've now got yourself Erik McCoy! The greater anchor and hand power offer me more hope that if the Vikings are resided to keeping Elflein at center, McCoy can be a step in the right direction at the guard spot. McCoy was a pleasant surprise on tape, he's pretty clean in a lot of different areas and he's absolutely devastating when he's climbing onto the second level.
With strong hands, McCoy can still manipulate defensive bodies along the line of scrimmage and help create creases for RB Dalvin Cook.
Nate Davis, Charlotte
So you want a mid-round option, you say? Give me Nate Davis all day, every day. Davis played a lot of tackle in college, but he projects better inside and I love his work in the ground game. Go turn on Charlotte vs. Tennessee and watch Davis kick guys' butts all over the field: he's going to be very good when he doesn't have to protect the edge.
Davis may require some patience, which makes him less attractive for an immediate fill of this need up front. But Davis has the skills to be a weapon in the run game and he's very potent in his ability to grab and steer defenders.