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Updated: April 21st, 2011 11:45pm
Vikings by position, Day 5: Lack of picks has left o-line aging, thin

Vikings by position, Day 5: Lack of picks has left o-line aging, thin

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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Editor's note: Each weekday until the NFL Draft begins on April 28, 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.

Day 5

Offensive linemen.

On the roster (10)

T Patrick Brown, C Jon Cooper, RG Anthony Herrera, LG Steve Hutchinson, C John Sullivan, G Chris DeGeare, RT Phil Loadholt, LT Bryant McKinnie, G Seth Olsen, T Thomas Welch.

Unsigned (1)

T/G Ryan Cook.

Breakdown

A premier guard only a couple of years ago, Hutchinson (6-foot-5, 313 pounds) is declining rapidly at age 33 and would be overpaid if the Vikings can't renegotiate a contract that has two years and $13.73 million remaining. When healthy, the six-time All-Pro remains above average. But Hutchinson's body has failed him two straight seasons, and scouts say he's not getting underneath people the way he used to -- a sign his knees are going. McKinnie (6-8, 335) is a sliding player, too, and an inability (or unwillingness) to control his weight isn't helping him at age 31. He gave up six sacks and 34 total pressures last season -- two of them on plays that left his quarterback injured -- and remained typically inconsistent in the run game. That said, McKinnie remains a serviceable starter, and what options do the Vikings have? Loadholt (6-8, 343) has the range to play the left side but would have to improve his feet, and he took a step back in his second season. He had a hand in 40 pressures, led all NFL offensive players with 14 penalties and showed again he's just not all that physical for a man his size, particularly in the run game. DeGeare (6-4, 335) progressed well in six fill-in starts and figures to have a future at guard -- perhaps even as a starter in 2011, if Herrera (6-2, 315) is slow to come back from ACL and triceps injuries. A contract that elevates Herrera's base salary to $2.65 million isn't on the side of a 30-year-old scrapper anyway. Coach Leslie Frazier has said he also wants to give a chance to Cook (6-6, 328), whose restricted tender probably won't hold up under the next labor agreement. His primary asset remains his versatility, though. Team officials also continue to express high hopes for Sullivan (6-4, 301), but he wasn't playing with enough power even before calf injuries derailed him in camp last season. It's hard to imagine him going to camp unopposed again as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. Cooper (6-2, 291) is a fine backup and that's probably it, at least for now. Three teams saw enough talent to put Brown (6-5, 310) on their active roster last season -- he just has a long way to go. Welch (6-7, 310) and Olsen (6-5, 308) are developmental guys who spent most of last season on the practice squad.

One scout's take

"There's always something off the field issue-wise coming up with (McKinnie), and none of it is very flattering when it comes up. But he can still play, so you keep him there. The wheels haven't fallen off yet. It's hard enough to find (left tackles) and develop them. The one thing about it -- you don't want to wait until you're completely transitioning and then have to get a guy immediately, because that's where you're forced to either take one where you don't want to or pay somebody else's an astronomical amount."
-- AFC executive

Draft outlook

Since drafting McKinnie seventh overall in 2002, the Vikings have drafted only six offensive linemen -- fewer than any team but the New York Giants (five) -- and are one of six teams that hasn't taken one in the first round. There is an argument to be made for that to change this year, given the Vikings' long-term need at left tackle and the number of quality prospects likely to be available at No. 12 overall. Taking the top interior prospect, Florida's Mike Pouncey, also could be a possibility if the Vikings trade down. The most likely scenario, however, is adding depth in the second round or beyond, with the possibility of finding a starting-caliber interior player as late as Day 3.

Last 10 drafts

• 2010: DeGeare (fifth round, 161st overall).
• 2009: Loadholt (second, 54th).
• 2008: Sullivan (sixth, 187th).
• 2007: None.
• 2006: Cook (second, 51st).
• 2005: Marcus Johnson (second, 49th).
• 2004: Nat Dorsey (fourth, 115th).
• 2003: None.
• 2002: McKinnie (first, seventh), Edward Ta'amu (fourth, 132nd), Chad Beasley (seventh, 218th).
• 2001: Brian Crawford (seventh, 225th).

Linked in

According to various reports, the Vikings have held a private workout with Colorado tackle Nate Solder and hosted official visits with Southern California tackle Tyron Smith and Miami tackle Orlando Franklin.

High fives

Mel Kiper, ESPN: Tackles -- 1. Smith. 2. Anthony Castonzo, Boston College. 3. Solder. 4. Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin. 5. Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State. Guards -- 1. Danny Watkins, Baylor. 2. Rodney Hudson, Florida State. 3. Will Rackley, Lehigh. 4. Clint Boling, Georgia. 5. Marcus Cannon, TCU. Centers -- 1. Pouncey. 2. Ryan Bartholomew, Syracuse. 3. Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State. 4. Brandon Fusco, Arkansas. 5. Kevin Kowalski, Toledo.

Mike Mayock, NFL Network: Tackles -- 1. Castonzo. 2. Smith. 3. Carimi. 4. Solder. T-5. Ben Ijalana, Villanova. T-5. Sherrod. Guards/centers -- 1. Pouncey. 2. Watkins. 3. Boling. 4. Cannon. 5. Hudson.

Shawn Zobel, DraftHeadquarters.com: Tackles -- 1. Smith. 2. Carimi. 3. Solder. 4. Castonzo. 5. Sherrod. Guards -- 1. Pouncey. 2. Watkins. 3. Hudson. 4. John Moffitt, Wisconsin. 5. Rackley. Centers -- 1. Wisniewski. 2. Kowalski. 3. Jake Kirkpatrick, TCU. 4. Tim Barnes, Missouri. 5. Kris O'Dowd, Southern California.

Up next

Quarterbacks.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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