Vikings by position, Day 1: Three starting jobs in question on o-line
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Each weekday until the NFL Draft begins on April 26, Tom Pelissero is breaking down the Minnesota Vikings' roster by position, based on observations of games and practice, weekly tape studies and interviews with NFL coaches and scouts.
On the roster (11)
Sullivan (6-foot-4, 301 pounds) made huge strides in a mostly healthy fourth season, received a $5 million bonus on his five-year, $25 million contract extension in December and is locked in at center. Loadholt (6-8, 343) was typically inconsistent in his third season at right tackle, but he's coming on as a run blocker and the Vikings are banking on him taking another step forward in a contract year. Everything else is up in the air. After giving up eight sacks and 49 total QB pressures last season, Johnson (6-4, 305) probably is headed for left guard once the Vikings land their upgrade at left tackle. He's athletic and plays with balance in space, but some scouts question whether he's strong or explosive enough to start inside. A $2.95 million base salary (plus a $50,000 workout bonus and $250,000 in incentives) makes Johnson nearly impossible to keep if he's not starting. The other favorite at guard likely is Schwartz (6-6, 331), who got a $150,000 bonus on a one-year deal that maxes out at $1.5 million after sitting out last season following hip surgery. He's only 25 and started 16 games in 2010 with Carolina, where now-Vikings line coach Jeff Davidson was coordinator. Fusco (6-4, 306) played 25 snaps at right guard as a rookie, held up OK and will get a shot to win a job, too. He has a nasty streak the Vikings have yet to see from DeGeare (6-4, 325), who showed up to camp overweight last year and ended up spending the whole season on the practice squad. Berger (6-5, 315) may be on the odd man out, but he's a valuable three-position backup. He's due a $1 million base salary plus $75,000 in bonuses and won't trigger any of his $750,000 in incentives unless he plays 65% of the snaps. Brown (6-5, 310) re-signed for one year and $540,000 after playing 45 snaps last season, plus a bunch on special teams. His hopes for making the roster may hinge on beating out Love (6-4, 315), who didn't dress at all as a rookie but progressed in practice and figures as the swing tackle. Lewis (6-5, 295) is a practice-squad holdover. Valdez (6-6, 324) signed a futures deal in January after three years on and off Atlanta's practice squad. Kooistra (6-6, 335) sat out last season because of a spinal-cord injury and may not play again.
If the Vikings keep the No. 3 overall pick, the prohibitive favorite is Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil (6-6 5/8, 306), a polished pass protector who has the length (34½-inch arms), athleticism (4.65 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle, 7.33 seconds in the 3-cone drill at the combine) and pedigree (son of onetime NFL draft pick Frank Kalil, brother of Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil) to be a star. Left tackle is a core position that must be addressed, and there is no consensus on the draft's second-best option, since some believe Iowa's Reilly Reiff (6-5¾, 313) is destined for the right side or perhaps even guard. Any trade that pushes the Vikings past No. 5 probably would take Kalil out of the picture. Are they really willing to take that chance on a young quarterback's blindside? If they do take Kalil, the Vikings wouldn't devote much more of their resources (if any) on this group, perhaps targeting another developmental player in the late rounds.
Last 10 drafts
• 2011: Love (sixth round, 168th overall); Fusco (sixth, 172nd).
• 2010: DeGeare (fifth, 161st).
• 2009: Loadholt (second, 54th).
• 2008: Sullivan (sixth, 187th).
• 2007: None.
• 2006: Ryan Cook (second, 51st).
• 2005: Marcus Johnson (second, 49th).
• 2004: Nat Dorsey (fourth, 115th).
• 2003: None.
• 2002: Bryant McKinnie (first, seventh); Edward Ta'amu (fourth, 132nd); Chad Beasley (seventh, 218th).
The Vikings hosted Kalil at their Top 30 event this month. According to various reports, the Vikings also have visited with Tom Compton (South Dakota), Jonathan Martin (Stanford) and Amini Silatolu (Midwestern State).
• Mel Kiper, ESPN: Tackles -- 1. Kalil. 2. Reiff. 3. Bobby Massie, Mississippi. 4. Martin. 5. Mike Adams, Ohio State. Guards -- 1. David DeCastro, Stanford. 2. Cordy Glenn, Georgia. 3. Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin. 4. Brandon Brooks, Miami (Ohio). 5. James Brown, Troy. Centers -- 1. Peter Konz, Wisconsin. 2. Ben Jones, Georgia. 3. David Molk, Michigan. 4. Philip Blake, Baylor. 5. Garth Gerhart, Arizona State.
• Mike Mayock, NFL Network: Tackles -- 1. Kalil. 2. Reiff. 3. Adams. 4. Martin. 5. Glenn. Guards -- 1. DeCastro. 2. Zeitler. 3. Silatolu. 4. Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State. 5. Brooks. Centers -- 1. Konz. 2. Blake. 3. Jones. 4. Molk. 5. Michael Brewster, Ohio State.
• Shawn Zobel, DraftHeadquarters.com: Tackles -- 1. Kalil. 2. Reiff. 3. Martin. 4. Glenn. 5. Adams. Guards -- 1. DeCastro. 2. Osemele. 3. Zeitler. 4. Silatolu. 5. Brooks. Centers -- 1. Konz. 2. Brewster. 3. Jones. 4. Molk. 5. Blake.