Vikings Draft Profile: Ross Pierschbacher, G/C, Alabama

Photo Credit: University of Alabama Athletics

The Minnesota Vikings, and general manager Rick Spielman, love to try to build out their offensive line with mid-round draft picks. Brian O’Neill, last year’s second round pick, is highest drafted linemen on the roster that was drafted by the Vikings. David Yankee, TJ Clemmings, and Willie Beavers were all selected in the middle rounds of the draft, and did not pan out. On the flip side, Pat Elflien, who was a fourth round pick, does look like a serviceable center for the forseeable future.

With the loss Tom Compton, Nick Easton, and Brett Jones (until we hear otherwise), the Vikings have lost some versatility on the interior of their line. Compton was able to swing to either guard position, while Easton and Jones played both guard and center. Although Compton and Jones couldn’t be relied upon to start all the time, they were nice depth to have on the roster.

The Vikings could look to replace some of that versatility and depth by looking at Alabama offensive lineman Ross Pierschbacher. The Cedar Falls, Iowa native tied an Alabama record by starting in 57 games in his 4 years, his teammate JK Scott is the other player to start that many games, but Scott is a punter not a position player. Pierschbacher also started 8 college football playoff games at Alabama including 4 national championships, won All-SEC honors multiple times, and won All-American 2nd-team honors from the Associated Press.

His resume is impressive, but he also started his first 3 seasons at Alabama at left guard before making the transition to Center for his senior season, showcasing an ability to perform at multiple positions for one of the best teams in college football. Versatility is often overlooked when considering a player, but where offensive linemen are concerned it can be the difference between being on the team and being cut. Pierschbacher brings the versatility and winning attitude to make an impact on the depth of the Vikings offensive line, or he might be good enough to push for a starting spot at guard. Certainly it would not hurt to have extra competition for Pat Elflien at Center too.

What Pierschbacher brings to the table, aside from his ability to play multiple positions and ability to stay healthy, is his natural size. At 6’4” and 307 lbs, he has the frame to build up some power and move people around. He hasn’t been able to use that power in his college career, mostly he stalemates with defensive lineman, but if he can be taught to use his size and leverage against defenders, he could become a formidable run blocker. He already is comfortable as a pulling guard and playing in a zone blocking scheme, so he would be a good fit for the Vikings new offense.

Pierschbacher’s lack of power doesn’t just hurt his run blocking. In pass protection he has a tendency to get too straight up and is susceptible to his edges getting pushed as a result. He also has troubles delivering lead blocks that truly create free running lanes. Pierschbacher also has issues sustaining blocks past the initial hit. However, his technique and footwork are very good, so perhaps these things could be ironed out by Vikings Offensive Line Coach Rick Dennison.

If the Vikings want Pierschbacher, they likely will be waiting to see if he falls into the late third or early fourth round. Teams will be high on him because of his consistency, versatility, and pedigree. If somebody wants to take Pierschbacher to be their starting center, and are willing to take him in the third, the Vikings won’t have a chance, but if he slides a bit the Vikes could have a solid depth player with huge upside at multiple positions.

Projected Draft Round: 3-5

Likelihood the Vikings are targeting him: Very Likely

Likelihood the Vikings could land him: Decently Likely

Best Traits: Size, Versatility, Zone Blocking, Experience

Biggest Drawbacks: Lack of Power, Too up and down in pass protection, Stalemates too much