The Minnesota Vikings have begun their pre-draft prospect visits and invited a homegrown offensive tackle to their training facility.
South Dakota State left tackle Aron Johnson, a native of Chisago City, Minn., visited the Vikings this week, KSTP’s Darren Wolfson reported.
NFL Draft Diamonds penned Johnson as one of their top small-school prospects after he helped the Jackrabbits make deep runs in the FCS playoffs, including an appearance in the 2020-21 FCS title game.
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Background on Johnson
A three-sport athlete at Chisago Lakes High School, located an hour north of the Twin Cities, Johnson had the physical tools to excel as an offensive tackle at a young age. Johnson can anchor as a center in basketball and recover with light feet he developed as a tennis player.
He walked on at South Dakota State and redshirted his freshman year before becoming a regular rotational piece to the offensive line in 2018. He played in 11 games, starting in three, and helped South Dakota State run for 253 yards and four touchdowns in his first career start.
In 2019, Johnson started 13 games at right tackle as a sophomore. He earned Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week honors for his performance in a 28-21 season-opening loss to Minnesota.
The Golden Gophers were no pushover that year, going 11-2 and finishing the year as the No. 10 team in the country. Johnson graded out at 93% and was credited with six finish blocks as SDSU out-gained the Golden Gophers 367-308 in total yards of offense. He did not give up a sack and allowed only one quarterback pressure despite being matched up against All-Big Ten Conference defensive end Carter Coughlin (now with the New York Giants). As a team, the Jackrabbits averaged 5.1 yards per rushing attempt.
Johnson moved to left tackle the following season. He helped South Dakota State g 8-2 en route to a berth in the FCS national championship, where the Jackrabbits fell 23-21 to Sam Houston.
South Dakota State made it to the FCS playoff semifinals last season and rushed for a Division I record 231.7 yards per game with the help of Johnson, who earned second-team Missouri River Valley Conference honors.
At 6-foot-5, 300 pounds, Johnson isn’t a behemoth at tackle but has the necessary arm length (35 inches) to play at the next level.
Regardless of whether he is drafted, Johnson could take part in rookie minicamps this offseason.
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Wolfson listed another 10 players who have scheduled visits with the Vikings this week, a list primarily dominated by defensive prospects.
Four secondary defenders and three offensive linemen make up the majority of Wolfson’s list:
- Aron Johnson OT, South Dakota State University
- David Anenih EDGE, Houston
- Kalon Barnes CB, Baylor
- Jarrid Williams OT, Miami
- Cole Strange IOL, Chattanooga
- Percy Butler S, Louisiana
- Tay Martin WR, Oklahoma State
- Marcus Jones CB, Houston
- Jack Jones CB, Arizona State
- Darien Butler LB, Arizona State
- Esezi Otomewo, Minnesota
Interior offensive lineman Cole Strange is the highest-ranked prospect on the list, ranked the 123rd best player in the upcoming draft by CBS Sports. Strange is a prospective third-round pick and a potential backup to center Garrett Bradbury in 2021 and a contingency plan if the Vikings decide to not retain the former No. 18 overall pick beyond next season.