Killing Three Birds with One Stone? Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line Solution

Rob SirplessContributor IMarch 29, 2011

Tyron Smith
Tyron SmithJeff Golden/Getty Images

Tyron Smith? Most Vikings fans find the idea repulsive and stop reading mock drafts the moment they see his name in the No. 12 spot.

It’s not that they think he can’t make a difference. He can, big time! But most fans have their hearts set on a sexier pick (QB, WR, S, DL). Most of these positions offer more excitement than offensive line.

But think about it. The Vikings need offensive line help badly, right? No one can argue that. It is no secret that the team is in dire straights along the offensive front. With Chicago and Green Bay exercising Carte Blanche over the line of scrimmage on a regular basis last season something must change.

Minnesota faces more than one problem at offensive line. Bryant McKinnie is still in his prime, but at the backside of it, and not showing great effectiveness at left tackle, particularly against fast defensive ends. Phil Loadhalt isn’t showing much of anything at right tackle to be totally honest, and John Sullivan and Anthony Herrea have been pushed around inside by bigger and stronger defenders for quite sometime now.

Of course, I know what you’re going to say, “What about 2009? Favre played great behind these guys.”

That’s true, a future Hall of Fame quarterback with the best running back in the NFL lined up behind him, and a wide receiver who can catch the “Here goes nothing pass!” covered up for a really sketchy offensive line. A line that I might add, broke down over and over during a certain championship game and was the only reason Farve was running for his life when he made the big bad mistake of throwing across his body.

In 2010 the receiver was gone. The Hall of Fame quarterback couldn’t get eight men from coming down in the box, and the best running back in the NFL couldn’t break tacklers that met him behind the line of scrimmage before he had been given the ball.

Have I made a point yet? Yes, the only thing that remained consistent from 2009 to 2010 was the offensive lines mediocrity.

So, Tyron Smith. The thing that Smith will bring to the table is as follows.

He is going to be a left tackle. That moves Bryant McKinnie to the right tackle position. Right tackle is the o-lines equivalent to the secondary’s safety position. Important, but easier than corner, or in this case left tackle.

Phil Loadhalt is too slow to play tackle. But imagine a 360 pound right guard. I have been led to believe by personnel that Loadhalt is heading for the inside very soon. They won't let a former second round pick go without trying him at another spot.

Thus, picking Smith kills three birds with one stone. Of course the argument is open. If Smith cannot make the transition to left tackle, which he did not play at USC, then McKinnie is stuck back on the left side.

Even so, it moves big Phil to the inside which is a huge improvement over little Anthony. Smith isn’t a sexy pick until you really start to weigh what he means to the entire offensive line, not just one position.

Of course Smith isn’t the only high rated tackle in the draft. Nate Solder is considered a good option, but I am not high on him after his miserable Senior Bowl. Gabe Carimi is good, but is purely a right tackle, despite any rose colored reviews he is only going to be a right tackle, think Brian Bulaga due to short arms. Derrick Sherrod and Anthony Castonzo are possibilities, but don’t have the ceiling that Smith has.

Smith is fast and nimble, very light and can cover the ground that playing left tackle requires. This will be a huge advantage going against players like Julius Peppers and 3-4 linebacker blitzing schemes (Green Bay). His technique and weight gain (got up to 307 for the combine) also give him leverage against the bull rush.

The Minnesota Vikings need help at many positions during this draft, but the addition of Smith to the personnel that already exists could speed up the repair/rebuilding process at work in the organization. Any quarterback drafted and/or signed will endorse offensive line help.