The Minnesota Vikings have a need at offensive line. The projected starting line for Minnesota is, from left tackle to right tackle: Riley Reiff, Dakota Dozier/Aviante Collins/unnamed rookie, Pat Elflien, Josh Kline, Brian O’Neill. This isn’t a terrible lineup, but there are obvious concerns with Kline having a down year last year and the left guard position up in the air. So, we should see the Vikings go offensive line at least once in the first three rounds, maybe twice. However, that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t look for good line depth, especially at guard, in the middle to late rounds. One player to look at is close to home, Minnesota Gophers lineman Donell Greene.
Greene started his college career at Coffeyville Community College before he moved to the University of Minnesota. Greene played in 36 games while at the U, with most of his snaps coming at the left tackle position. Actually, I’m not sure if he ever took snaps at any other position while at Minnesota. In his Junior season he started 11 of 12 games and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors. He also helped lead the way for a 1,000 yard rusher for 2 out of three of his seasons, Rodney Smith fell just short in 2017. The gophers were often a force to be reckoned with on the ground in those three seasons, but it should be noted that the offense was streaky and would disappear from time to time.
Greene brings good upside as a depth player. His experience and frame give him the ability to play as a backup tackle. However, his real value could be as a guard. With his frame and attitude for finishing blocks, Greene could become a very effective inside blocker. Greene’s ability to finish plays benefits him when hitting the second level and could make him useful if he can be taught the footwork to play inside of the tackles. He also does a good job against power pass rushing, so a move to the inside would make the most sense in that regard too where he would be mixing it up with the, usually, slower defensive tackles rather than outside against the defensive ends.
Dealing with quick defensive ends is where Greene’s issues have been on the outside. He has the power to deal with them, but he doesn’t have the agility to play a reliable tackle in the NFL. Perhaps he could be used in a three tackle set for a power formation, but he would be more likely to be useful on the inside. However, if he moves to the inside he will still have to work on footwork, especially in a zone blocking scheme like the Vikings want to run. Greene is a big man, and he’ll need to learn to move his frame if he wants to play a pulling guard at all. He also will need to learn to get his frame lower to the ground and drive back players from a lower angle. One of the biggest responsibility of guards is getting the tough yards, and those come from being the low man and driving through the defense.
Donnell Greene has a good upside as a backup tackle, but a higher ceiling as a guard. If the Vikings want the hometown product, they’ll need to take him in the fifth to seventh round or hope he slides off the board, but his stock seems to be rising so it is unlikely he falls to being a free agent. Greene would fit into Spielman’s plan of drafting linemen with potential in late rounds and see if they work out, but it’s unclear if Greene would make the team, and if he doesn’t another team may just stop him from being stashed on the practice squad. Greene is a gamble pick, but one with a lot of potential, if he’s given the chance to develop.
Projected Draft Round: 5-UDFA
Likelihood the Vikings are targeting him: Very Likely
Likelihood the Vikings could land him: 50-50
Best Traits: Size, Run Blocking, Attitude
Biggest Drawbacks: Agility, Leverage, Footwork