In his weekly Good Morning Football in America column, Peter King released his final mock draft and alleged that Vikings general manager Rick Spielman “really wants to trade down.”
King’s report comes in the shadow of a Tom Pelissero report that the Vikings have made calls to the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers to move inside the top 10 of the first round.
Conflicting reports are no surprise as Minnesota finds itself in the middle of the first round with the 14th overall pick and is entertaining all possible options and scenarios with how the board may play out.
While we wait and see just what will play out in the first round of the draft on Thursday, King unveiled a possible result of whether the Vikings would select two likely available players at offensive lineman and defensive end at No. 14 overall.
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Best Player Available?
The common draft cliché of “best player available” has been touted this offseason and rightfully so, given the uncertainty of who will be available at No. 14 overall.
But the Vikings’ needs may transcend the cliché with how bad the offensive line is in Minnesota.
If the Vikings cannot make it up the board and miss on the top three offensive linemen in Penei Sewell (Oregon), Rashawn Slater (Northwestern) and Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech), Minnesota is willing to pass on a top-two defensive end for the fourth-best offensive lineman in the draft, USC lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker.
King originally penned the Vikings to take Miami defensive end Jaelen Phillips at No. 14 but later changed his selection for the Vikings to Vera-Tucker after contacting sources.
Here’s King’s inside take:
I believe I lead the Vikings’ chunk of my mock annually with this sentence: GM Rick Spielman really wants to trade down. Nothing new this year. Maybe he’ll find an aggressive taker if one of the receivers is still on the board. I had Jaelan Phillips here until making the switch Sunday mid-day. Lots of times, in mock-scienceville, you’re influenced by the last voice you hear. So I had Phillips until the last three people I texted with Sunday told me the need is too great on the Minnesota offensive line, and Vera-Tucker the person and prospect just too solid, and Phillips the person and prospect a little risky, and so I hit the delete button. Vera-Tucker, with 13 starts at guard and six at tackle, and was voted the top offensive lineman in the conference by his foes last year. Seems a very safe pick.
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Vera-Tucker Offers Versatility
Vera-Tucker is projected as an ideal zone-blocking left guard in the NFL but played left tackle in his senior season at USC.
He played 926 snaps at left guard in his redshirt sophomore year and allowed just one sack and seven pressures, earning All-Pac 12 and USC Lineman of the Year honors. He made the transition from guard to tackle to fit the Spartans’ needs.
Ezra Cleveland, drafted as a left tackle in the second round last year, is still considered the team’s starting right guard. Mike Tice said he believes Cleveland has the tools to play left tackle and could be the team’s best fit.
However, using the No. 14 overall pick to draft Vera-Tucker only to play guard could be a possible waste of the potential value it could bring, either by trading down and grabbing a starting level guard in later rounds and accumulating draft capital or selecting another position.