Vikings predraft roster analysis, Day 9: Offensive line
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McKinnie struggled down the stretch last season and, despite exceptional physical tools, scares scouts with his inconsistency. He turns 31 in September, and though he's signed through 2013 -- he's due $5.85 million this year -- the odds are dropping he'll play out that deal. Many scouts continue to rate Hutchinson as one of the NFL's top three or four guards, in part because he's a stable, veteran presence who hasn't missed a game since 2002. But Hutchinson's not the dominant player he was in his prime, and at 32, he might see a pronounced drop-off in the next year or two. He remains one of the team's highest-paid players, due $6.6 million to $7 million each of the remaining three years of his deal. Loadholt, a second-round pick (54th overall) last year, looks like a long-term answer at right tackle and might have the ability to play the other side, too. He's the physical presence teams crave on the right side. Sullivan (signed through 2011) and Herrera (through 2012) are just scrappers and could be replaced, but no one on the roster seems poised to push them. Cook is an OK utility backup who re-signed for the original-round tender ($1.176 million). Cooper got into one game last season as an undrafted rookie. The others are practice-squad holdovers.
ONE SCOUT'S TAKE
"They won 13 games or whatever the hell they won last year with these guys -- you can still win with (Herrera and Sullivan). You don't have to have an elite player at a guard spot or even a center spot. But if the center is a smart, resourceful, efficient-type of player, you can still win with these guys. If you look around the league, there's a small group of elite centers and then there's a large majority of centers in the league who are kind of workmanlike-type players who aren't elite but teams find a way to win with them."
-- AFC personnel director
Top-end interior linemen are few in this draft, so a mid- to late-round pick to bring help there probably is more likely than, say, moving up for Florida center Maurkice Pouncey in Round 1. But nothing can be ruled out -- not even grabbing a left tackle such as Rutgers' Anthony Davis, whose stock has taken a hit because of concerns about his work ethic. That sort of pick probably would expedite McKinnie's exit, but don't bank on it. The Vikings could stand to upgrade (or at least bring in competition for) two and perhaps three spots along the line, so it's probably a matter of when and not if they'll do it in the draft.
MEL KIPER'S TOP FIVE
Russell Okung, Oklahoma State (6-6, 305)
Trent Williams, Oklahoma (6-5, 318)
Bryan Bulaga, Iowa (6-6, 312)
Anthony Davis, Rutgers (6-6, 325)
Charles Brown, Southern California (6-6, 285)
Mike Iupati, Idaho (6-6, 330)
Vladimir Ducasse, UMass (6-5, 330)
Zane Beadles, Utah (6-4, 305)
Mike Johnson, Alabama (6-5, 303)
Ramone Harewood (6-8, 310)
Maurkice Pouncey, Florida (6-5, 318)
Clint Gresham, TCU (6-3, 225)
J.D. Walton, Baylor (6-3, 305)
Ted Larsen, N.C. State (6-2, 300)
Matt Tennant, Boston College (6-4, 294)
The NFL draft begins with the first round at 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Tom Pelissero and Phil Mackey will host a live chat throughout the night here on 1500ESPN.com and also will join Joe Anderson throughout the night with updates from Winter Park on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities. Rounds 2 and 3 will be on Friday beginning at 5 p.m. and Rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday starting at 9 a.m.