The Minnesota Vikings have a huge decision to make regarding one of their bigger players, both in name and stature: defensive tackle Kevin Williams. Williams, the Vikings' top pick out of Oklahoma State in the 2003 NFL Draft, turns 33 this summer and the Vikings will undoubtedly be looking to get younger on the defensive line.
The Vikings have a two-year, $16.76 million option they hold on Williams for the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
From 2006-08, the Minnesota Vikings had the best run defense in the NFL, only surrendering 68.5 rushing yards per game during those seasons. Kevin was a key component to that success, along with the other half of the Williams Wall: Pat Williams.
Ever since Pat retired in 2010, the Vikings have been looking for somebody to fill the huge void he left.
Enter Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
Hankins has been compared to Pat on numerous occasions. While Williams went undrafted in the 1997 draft, Hankins is projected to be a mid-to-late first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and there is a chance he could fall to the Vikings at pick 23.
Williams was a tremendous run-defender who ate up double-teams and was impossible to move at the line of scrimmage. Hankins did that at Ohio State and should be able to continue that in the NFL.
And that is a style of play that Vikings fans came to know and love.
The big difference between the two is in that Hankins should offer more as a pass-rusher. Like Williams, Hankins won't rack up a big sack total, but he should be able to get some pressure on the quarterback and collapse the pocket, which could lead to more interceptions for a defense that only had 10 interceptions last season and was -1 in the turnover ratio.
Hankins has a lot of upside. His size (6-4, 322 lbs) makes him very disruptive inside. He is a phenomenal run-defender and gets off the ball quick. He is very fast for his size and often takes offensive lineman by surprise by how fast he comes off the snap. He should be effective versus double-teams. And he should be ready to compete with Letroy Guion for a starting spot if the Vikings elect to bring Kevin Williams back.
Hankins was a key part of Ohio State's defense and played a huge role in the Buckeyes enjoying an undefeated season in 2012. The junior was a dominant force. He totaled 55 tackles, four tackles for a loss and a sack this year.
Hankins recorded 67 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and three sacks as a sophomore in 2011. He saw a plethora of double-teams as a junior.
He is capable of getting good penetration into the pocket to hurry quarterbacks and take away space for them to step up towards the line of scrimmage. Hankins needs to work on more pass-rushing moves in the NFL.
NFL coaches are going to love Hankins' versatility. He has lined up all over the defensive line for Ohio State. Minnesota needs a young defensive tackle, and if Hankins falls to the Vikings with the 23rd pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, it would certainly be a nice fit.