Vikings Have Treated 1 Position in a Weird Way

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The Minnesota Vikings have overhauled their roster in the 2024 offseason, partly because they were forced to. Pro Bowl-caliber stars Danielle Hunter and Kirk Cousins have left, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah filled the holes in free agency but added the long-term replacements in the draft by acquiring J.J. McCarthy and Dallas Turner in the first round.

Vikings Have Treated 1 Position in a Weird Way

Vikings Have Treated 1 Position in a Weird Way
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The front office added almost half of the projected starters on defense, while the offense has largely stayed together. Still, the quarterback and running back will be new, and K.J. Osborn is no longer around to be the third wideout.

Last year, the Vikes returned their entire starting offensive line from the previous season, and once again, the majority of blockers remained. The exception is left guard Dalton Risner, who is still floating on the waiver wire. Strangely, Adofo-Mensah hasn’t particularly replaced him.

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Risner left, but backup Blake Brandel was re-signed to a three-year contract worth $9.5 million. In addition to him, the Vikings signed veteran journeyman Dan Feeney and acquired a bunch of guys in the draft. None of them, though, neither the draft picks nor the two veterans, have proven the necessary quality to be fine left guards.

Brandel was drafted sixth in the 2020 draft. He played offensive tackle at Oregon State and served as a depth option at the same position for a few years. He was the primary backup swing tackle in 2022 before the team converted him to backup guard last offseason.

Through four career seasons, Brandel played in 39 games and started five contests: three at left tackle and two at right guard. His Pro Football Focus grades of 55 in each of the last two seasons don’t suggest any hidden starting-caliber play.

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Feeney’s case comes to a similar conclusion, although the path to this point has been much different. He entered the league in the third round of the 2017 draft. A highly-touted prospect, Feeney started 57 games in his first four seasons for the Chargers before spending the next three seasons as a backup and spot starter with the Jets and Bears.

Although he hasn’t performed well since his rookie season, he has one advantage: He possesses experience at guard and center. Similarly to Brandel, there’s a reason why he has been a backup for years.

Minnesota added a pair of linemen in the draft on day three, with Oklahoma’s left tackle Walter Rouse and Wake Forest’s Michael Jurgens. Rouse will likely enter Brandel’s past role as the backup tackle, while Jurgens could be a candidate to compete for the LG spot.

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The rookie allowed only seven pressures in 421 pass-block snaps last season, although he is a superior run blocker—his numbers from PFF rival those of highly-drafted players. However, he was a seventh-rounder, so the expectations should be limited.

It has been a strange journey for the Vikings at the left guard spot. Trading away Ezra Cleveland at the trade deadline to move forward with Risner to be without both a few months later doesn’t make much sense.

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Risner is still available, but if the Vikings wanted to bring him back, they likely would’ve done that already. Last year’s starter for the Raiders, Greg Van Roten, could be an option to pursue, and so is former Cowboys and Dolphins guard and center Connor Williams. However, his price tag is likely much higher despite rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in December.

Brandel should be the favorite to start between center Garrett Bradbury and Christian Darrisaw, leaving the Vikings with an alarming interior offensive line once again. Building a strong front for Sam Darnold and, more importantly, J.J. McCarthy should be a priority for the Vikings.