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Why it's not a sure thing the Vikings take a lineman in the first round

The mock drafts aren't helping.

Have you heard that the Vikings need offensive line help? 

Watching Kirk Cousins run for his life and the lack of a consistent running game has Minnesota looking for vast improvements heading into next season.

With all that said, they're going to take an offensive lineman in the first round of the NFL Draft, right? 

Not so fast. The "experts" in the mock draft community don't have the Vikings taking an offensive lineman with the 18th overall pick. 

CBS Mock: Devin White, linebacker, LSU

CBS says White is the most athletic linebacker in this year's class, which was the same thing the mock drafters said about Anthony Barr coming out of college. 

With Barr a free agent, there could be a void in Mike Zimmer's defense and White is who CBS thinks Minnesota can replace him with. Ed Oliver, defensive tackle, Houston

Chad Reuter believes Oliver will "ultimately prove to be a steal" at pick No. 18. 

Considering Everson Griffen is a candidate to be released and Sheldon Richardson is a free agent, the Vikings might need some help rushing the quarterback.

ESPN: Montez Sweat, defensive end, Mississippi State

Draft guru Todd McShay projects three offensive lineman will already be off the board when it's the Vikings' turn to pick.

When paired with Pro Bowler Danielle Hunter, the Vikings could have a very young, very fearsome pair of pass rushers.

So considering the "expert" picks, does that mean this year's draft class is a dud for offensive linemen? Not exactly.

Deep class of tackles

Dane Brugler of The Athletic asked NFL scouts, agents and media members if tackles are quietly one of the stronger positions in this year’s draft and the results sound promising.

Brugler notes that there could be double-digit tackles taken in the top 100 picks, so there's plenty of depth in this year's class based on that stat alone. 

Most mocks, including Brugler's, have Jonah Williams from Alabama as the top lineman in the draft.

"When asked what Williams' strengths are, here's what they said: 'Plays low and controlled … agile feet and natural knee bend in his kick slide, gaining proper depth.'

Okay, so a big dude with quick feet who knows where to stick them. Sounds like a cornerstone lineman to me!

"Cody Ford, Oklahoma: Strengths: 'Broad-shouldered, big-boned frame with proportionate thickness.'

So a mountain of man (insert Game of Thrones joke) whose big frame allows him to do big people things. Love it. Sign me up. 

Copy the Colts

The Indianapolis Colts knew they had to protect Andrew Luck if they had any chance of  returning to the playoffs in 2018.

Luck, who missed all of 2017 with a neck injury, was sacked 41 times the season before. Indy went out and grabbed two linemen with their first two picks in the draft.

The result was a 10-6 season, a return to the playoffs and Luck was only sacked 18 times in 16 games. 

If there's a plethora of tackles available, the Vikings would be wise to copy the Colts.

What's the Vikings situation look like?

Pro Football Focus ranked the Vikings' line as one of the worst units in the league last season. Heading into the offseason, there seems to be a lot of confusion as to who's playing where.

Riley Reiff, who's played exclusively at tackle in his career, might be moving to guard next season, according to Andrew Krammer of the Star Tribune.

Mike Remmers on the other hand, was moved from tackle to full-time guard in 2018 and it didn't go too well. He'll make $6.4 million next season, and it wouldn't be surprising if the Vikings restructure his contract or cut him outright.

Second-year center Pat Elflein came back to Earth after a stellar rookie season. However, he missed the entire offseason and first two weeks of 2018 recovering from shoulder and ankle surgeries.

It's far too early to give up on him or put him in Matt Kalil territory, so let's see what he can do with a healthy and normal offseason ahead of him.

Rookie Brian O'Neill was expected to be a project and wasn't supposed to see much of the field, but injuries to Rashod Hill forced him into action and he didn't give up a sack and seemed to handle his job better than anyone could've expected.

Tom Compton, Danny Isidora and Hill also saw time on the line but it's clear that they're best suited as depth pieces, not starting linemen on a team with playoff aspirations.

Free agency

When looking at free agency it's probably unlikely that the Vikings could land a Daryl Williams or a Donovan Smith, who were outstanding for the Panthers and Bucs last season, respectively. 

Both players are under 26 years old and will be coveted, and it doesn't bode well for Minensota that they don't have as much payroll flexibility as other potential suitors.

After that, you're looking at a bunch of 30-year-old somethings who are probably at the wrong end of their careers. That doesn't sound like a 12-4 season.

So now what?

This offensive line was so bad and is still in such rough shape heading into next season that it's going to take more than one first-round stud to turn things around.

The bottom line is Cousins needs protection. If he's asked to be Aaron Rodgers (with less family drama) and make up for his team's deficiencies, it's pretty clear that he's capable of leading a team to a record of around .500, like he's done every year as a starter since 2015.  

Vikings GM Rick Spielman needs to have a killer draft and hope that some of the in-house guys can bounce back. The lack of depth along the line and at other positions likely limits any dreams of moving up to pick higher in the first round, so Trader Rick is going to have to be on his game. 

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