Rather than add my voice to the legion of bloggers speculating on the Vikings' first round pick, I'm going to take the draft analysis a step further and preview players the Vikings might take with the 41st overall pick. And in case you're wondering, I'm getting the ideas for players from NFL Draft Countdown, Draft Tek and FF Tool Box. So for all I know, these guys will all be gone in the first round, or will still be available when the Vikings draft in the third round. If it's the latter, let's all pretend this was a third round preview, ok? Thanks.
April 3: Anthony Gonzalez, WR, Ohio St.
April 4: Sidney Rice, WR, South Carolina
April 5: Charles Johnson, DE, Georgia
April 8: Steve Smith, WR, USC
April 10: Brandon Meriweather, S, Miami
April 18: Jason Hill, WR, Washington St.
April 19: Tim Crowder, DE, Texas
April 20: Justin Blalock: OG, Texas
Today we'll stay in the Lone Star State and in the trenches but move to the other side of the ball and consider an answer to the holes on the right side of Vikings' offensive line: Justin Blalock, a senior 6'4 329 lb guard/tackle. He spent most of his time in Austin at right tackle and could stay there in the NFL, but will most likely play right guard, a position he also spent time at in college.
Blalock was a consistent force for the Longhorns' line, setting a school record with 51 consecutive starts and making the Big 12 All Conference team his last three years. He was also named a finalist for both the Lombardi Award and the Outland Trophy and was named a first team All American by the AP. Those recognitions were due to his versatility, quickness and solid footwork. The man can drive block a lineman with the best of them, especially when he stays low, something he was better able to do at guard. He also showed the ability to handle the speed of defensive ends at tackle, due to quick lateral movement. And the man is strong--when he delivers a blow, the defender feels it.
Blalock does have his drawbacks at both positions, however. He doesn't have the frame or reach that you'd want in an offensive tackle. As a guard, he had problems getting to the second level of blocks, as he would get held up by defensive tackles. And he can stand to improve his technique at both positions, as well as his footwork, an issue that likely stems from his splitting time between the two spots.
The Vikings' complete lack of play makers would make it tough for them to draft an offensive lineman with their second rounder, but shoring up the protection (especially since they'll have a young quarterback) is never a bad idea. If they draft Blalock, he would be able to step in and immediately compete for a starting position on the right side, most likely at guard. And he'd allow Brad Childress to feel comfortable enough to incorporate running plays to the right side into the play book, which may just be reason enough to draft him.