The Minnesota Vikings continue to add offensive lineman to the roster, this time by drafting Western Michigan tackle Willie Beavers in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Beavers joins the Vikings after starting 40 straight games at left tackle for the Broncos over his four-year career. The 2015 All-MAC First-Team selection spoke to Minnesota media following the announcement.[quote_box_center]”I want to thank the Vikings for believing in me and believing in my potential,” he said. “It’s a surreal feeling right now and I’m just so happy right now, I can’t even explain it.”[/quote_box_center]
Coming out of high school, Beavers originally committed to play defensive line at Illinois. His scholarship was rescinded after the school recruited too many players, and Beavers quickly signed to play with Western Michigan.
At 6’4″ and 324 pounds, he has the size to play left tackle, but can also kick inside to guard if necessary. “No, I’m not sure,” he said, when asked where he’d line up with the Vikings. “Wherever they put me at offensive line, I will be good.”
At the Reese’s Senior Bowl, Beavers did rotate with the offensive guards and sees himself at either position in the NFL. “It’s where teams wanted me to play at and to see what best fits their system and I showed my versatility there.”
Beavers also earned Second Team All-MAC honors in 2014, when he started all 13 games at left tackle and helped produce the MAC’s top running back in Jarvion Franklin. Jamie Newberg of CBS Sports lauded Beavers’ athleticism, saying the Michigan native has “all of the physical tools you look for in a left tackle.” Lance Zierlein concurred, describing Beavers as “very athletic with the feet to play left tackle.”
Still, Beavers believes there’s room for improvement. “I just need to get bigger and stronger and just pick up on things,” he said. “I’m going to become a student of the game and just learning, picking up a lot of stuff.”
The selection of Beavers gives the Vikings 16 offensive lineman, which is likely to change after training camp in July. Matt Kalil is the incumbent starter at left tackle with a fully guaranteed $11.096 million salary cap hit in 2016. On the opposite side of the line, Phil Loadholt took a pay cut to remain with the Vikings and Minnesota signed Andre Smith in free agency to compete at right tackle.
Right now, Beavers projects as an athletic project with the potential to play at as many as four spots on the offensive line. He’ll have time to develop behind Kalil, Smith, and possibly Loadholt, meaning he likely won’t see the field any time soon. The good news? He’s not a Lions fans.
“I’m not a Lions fan anymore,” he said, laughing. “I’m a Vikings fan, I’m a Vikings guy.”