The incomplete pectoral tear Ohio State center Billy Price sustained at the NFL combine, and subsequently underwent surgery to repair, isn’t affecting his draft stock.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has the Minnesota Vikings selecting the versatile offensive lineman with the No. 30 overall pick in his third mock draft of 2018, steering the course from his first two mocks, when he projected an offensive tackle would be the team’s top priority.
Outside of the quarterback position, which will likely be solved in free agency between the Vikings vying for Kirk Cousins or re-signing one of their three QBs from 2017, Minnesota’s most pressing needs are adding to the offensive and defensive lines, a sentiment echoed by general manager Rick Spielman last week in Indianapolis.
“I believe strongly that you have to keep investing in the offensive and defensive line,” Spielman said. “With the style that we play, with the philosophy that Coach [Mike] Zimmer wants to play.”
The Vikings made it a priority to revamp their offensive line headed into last season by finding the right players to fit into the zone-blocking scheme dialed up by former offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. The result was five new starters, with tackles Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers as additions from free agency and center Pat Elflein plucked from the draft.
That same mindset will play into the way Spielman evaluates potential fits based on the needs Zimmer and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo express to the general manager and his scouting department.
“Does he have to be able to get to the second level?” Spielman said. “Does he have to be able to get out on screens? Is he an athlete in space? I think we kind of got in sync that way on knowing what we’re trying to identify. There are some very good offensive linemen in this draft. What we have to determine as we go forward now and as we start to come together with the coaching staff is, does he fit with what you’re going to require him to do?”
Price, who started 55 consecutive games at Ohio State, is expected to miss four months recovering from surgery for an injury he classified as “very minor,” but ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Price should be ready by the start of training camp.
If the Vikings are to select Price in the first round, it could be a sign that they’ve made up their mind about moving Mike Remmers back to right tackle. Injuries were a constant for Minnesota’s offensive line in 2017, with Remmers having to miss several games to a concussion and back issues. When injuries arose on the interior late December, Remmers played the final three games of the season at guard.
That type of adaptability is an added benefit for the Vikings as they approach their offseason plans.
“I think it helps,” Zimmer said of Remmers’ versatility. “I think it gives us more options. If we find a tackle in the draft, we’ll find a guard in the draft...” could determine where Remmers plays.
Dependent upon whether veteran guard Joe Berger decides to retire, Price could fill an immediate need at right guard. His 6-foot-4, 312-pound frame and skill set rooted in strength and explosiveness leads several draft scouts to believe Price could be a Day 1 starter and an undoubted upgrade for the Vikings.
The former Buckeye could also be reunited with someone he knows well. Price and Elflein played next to each other for three seasons at Ohio State. While Elflein’s dominant rookie season earned him the center spot for the foreseeable future, drafting a plug-and-play guard who could also serve as a backup center would provide Minnesota with important depth.
“I see myself as a center in this league,” Price said at the combine. “Being able to be accountable for the offense and orchestrating the line, making sure we’re efficient, everybody is on the same page. It’s something that I find myself that I could be very successful at this, but I can play both. It is a situation that I’m open to playing both sides of the ball -- whether left guard, right guard, center. Whatever the team needs, I’ll be able to succeed anyplace.”