Vikings draft Pittsburgh offensive tackle Brian O’Neill in second round, trade third-round pick
By Dave Campbell
AP Pro Football Writer
EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings picked offensive tackle Brian O’Neill from Pittsburgh in the second round of the NFL draft Friday night, adding a mobile but still-developing player to help with the critical task of protecting prize offseason acquisition Kirk Cousins.
The Vikings used the 62nd overall pick to nab the 6-foot-6, 305-pound O’Neill, who played left tackle for the Panthers as a junior in 2017 and was a first team All-ACC honoree. He spent the previous two seasons at right tackle after joining the program as a tight end.
“Brian was probably the best athlete of all the offensive linemen in this draft. You watch this guy get out and pull and it’s unbelievable how fast he moves,” Vikings director of college scouting Jamaal Stephenson said.
If the Vikings feel confident enough that O’Neill is ready to start, he could take over at right tackle with Mike Remmers making a permanent move to one of the guard spots. Remmers was signed last year as a tackle, but injuries prompted him to shift inside late in the season and in the playoffs. O’Neill left college a year early, though, so the Vikings have essentially taken on the task of continuing to develop him.
“He’s got to get stronger. That’s one of his weaknesses at this point, but we feel we can easily get that corrected,” Stephenson said.
O’Neill was a high school basketball star in Wilmington, Delaware. His father, Brendan O’Neill, played running back at Dartmouth. His mother, Elizabeth O’Neill, was a swimmer at Northeastern.
“I think I’m able to handle speed off the edge very well,” O’Neill said. “I think that’s something that’s one of my strong suits, being able to protect the edge. Obviously with the new quarterback in town, Kirk Cousins, that’s a big deal. Protecting him is my most important job now, and it’s a job I take very seriously.”
If Remmers stays at tackle for now, Danny Isidora, a fifth-round draft pick last year, will become a strong candidate to start at right guard in the retired Joe Berger’s place. Nick Easton started at left guard for most of last season before breaking his ankle.
Like cornerback, where the Vikings looked in the first round for Central Florida’s Mike Hughes, a team can never have enough quality offensive linemen. The dearth of them has been their biggest downfall in recent seasons, a deficiency badly exposed in the 38-7 loss at Philadelphia in the NFC championship game.
The run on interior linemen accelerated from the first day of the NFL draft, with three guards going in the first five picks of the second round. The Browns led off with Nevada guard Austin Corbett, the Giants took Texas-El Paso guard Will Hernandez and the Colts grabbed Auburn guard Braden Smith. The Bears went with Iowa center James Daniels, who could play guard, with the seventh pick of the night, 39th overall. Another guard was taken off the board when the Cowboys picked Texas guard Connor Williams at No. 50 overall.
The last time the Vikings took an offensive lineman in the first three rounds in consecutive years was 2005 and 2006, when they took Marcus Johnson from Mississippi and Ryan Cook from New Mexico in the second round of those drafts. The Vikings drafted center Pat Elflein out of Ohio State in the third round last year.
Minnesota also traded out of the third round on Friday night and acquired two picks from the Buccaneers as a result.
The Vikings sent the 94th overall pick to Tampa Bay and received a fourth-round (102nd overall) and sixth-round selection (180th).