Who Should be the Vikings Right Guard?

Aug 27, 2021; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Oli Udoh. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports.

Is it time for the Oli Udoh at right guard experiment to be shelved?

The Vikings right guard position has been a major issue for some time. During the offseason, the Vikings drafted Wyatt Davis in the 3rd Round of the 2021 NFL Draft. The former Ohio State Buckeye was considered a 1st-Round prospect at one point and was considered an excellent selection — to go along with 1st-Rounder left tackle Christian Darrisaw.

Of course, Mike Zimmer’s reluctance to play rookies and injury to Darrisaw meant we saw neither to begin the season.

Instead of the exciting young offensive line I was hoping to see, we got Rashod Hill and another tackle shoehorned into a guard position. This time it was Oli Udoh at right guard.

Ezra Cleveland is over at left guard, and he’s been consistently average. However, Cleveland is starting to look the part, garnering the honor of the highest-rated player in the entire league by Pro Football Focus this past week with a grade of 93.6. Impressive.

Back to Udoh, his season as the Vikings right guard has been a heavy mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The good: Udoh has had some promising displays, and at 6’6 and weighing 325 lbs., he has the physicality to play guard. And he turned out some displays that gave hope.

The bad: He has had some terrible games — like really bad — especially in pass protection. For the game against the 49ers, PFF gave him a pass-blocking grade of 10.5. I don’t know how you can even grade that low! His overall performance garnered an equally miserable 30.4.

The 49ers game was a good outing for the Vikings offensive line, except for Oli Udoh. The PFF grades for the game show a story of a solid unit with an obvious weakness.

The ugly: Penalties. Udoh drew his 12th penalty flag of the season on Sunday, and nine of the penalties have been accepted, costing the Vikings 84 yards. Offensive holding has been the biggest issue to the tune of 10 of Udoh’s penalty flags. That isn’t acceptable — and alone should be enough to bring his starting position into question.

So who would replace Udoh?

Rookie Wyatt Davis is the popular choice. Once seen as a possible 1st-Round selection, the Vikings snagged him in the 3rd. He has also been struggling with an ankle injury in recent weeks, which leaves doubt that he would be ready to step in. If Davis isn’t ready, then patience is needed. Remember when everyone wanted Dru Samia to start because he couldn’t possibly be worse? It turned out he was — much worse. Davis comes with more pedigree than Samia, but maybe he’s just not ready yet?

That leaves us with Garrett Bradbury returning to the lineup. Vikings coaching staff have hinted that Bradbury and Cole playing together is a possibility.

So who moves to guard? Cole has experience playing there for the Cardinals and had some of his better games at the RG spot. After four consecutive starts that have gone well, do you really want to move Cole at this point? I would suggest no. Other than the comical moment when Kirk Cousins thought Oli Udoh was Mason Cole and lined up behind the guard, the chemistry between center and quarterback looks just fine.

That leaves Garrett Bradbury. Can he move over to be the Vikings right guard? We tried that with Pat Elflein when Bradbury arrived on the scene, and we all know how that one worked out.

Like Elflein, Bradbury is small for a lineman, just 6’3 and 300 lbs, considerably smaller than Udoh. It’s difficult to imagine his troubles in pass protection improving with a move to guard, so it’s not something I’d be enthusiastic to see. With Bradbury entering the fourth year of his rookie contract next season, the time is coming for a decision to be made on his future. He will want a chance to get back on the field to influence the decision.

That leaves us waiting on Wyatt Davis. When his ankle injury is fully behind him, I’d like to see him get a chance. It feels unlikely to happen this week, so Oli Udoh probably gets another chance against the Lions.

He needs a good performance without any penalties to keep his place in the team secure. Another bad performance, and there should be a serious consideration for Wyatt Davis getting his chance when the Vikings host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football next week.