Comparing Beavers to Boone, Fusco

May 04 2016 05:19 PM | in Articles

A year after their already sub-par offensive line was rife with injury and became one of the sole weak spots on an otherwise stacked roster, the Vikings yet again spent their fourth pick on an offensive lineman. Willie Beavers, the left tackle from Western Michigan will hopefully play guard for the revamped unit, if all goes well.

Image courtesy of Chicago Football
A lot has been made about the pick since Saturday. Mostly negative.

He's been called the worst offensive lineman in the draft and was listed as one of the worst overall picks of the draft by Pro Football Focus, who said:Quote
It's difficult to imagine a tackle who played as poorly as Beavers did in college ever becoming a viable player in the NFL. He was the second-lowest-graded tackle in all of college football last year, and the lowest-graded tackle at the Senior Bowl practices. Beavers has an insanely long way to go to ever be a viable contributor in the league.
That's a pretty damning paragraph, and would matter if the Vikings were planning on having Beavers play as a tackle in the NFL. They aren't, so a lot of the negativity can be disregarded as he moves from left tackle to right guard this pre-season. Instead of looking at how bad of a tackle Beavers was, let's look at how he stacks up as a guard in the NFL (especially as it relates to new offensive line coach Tony Sparano's request for "size, strength and the ability to dent people"), especially after discussing how we even got to this point.

The first change the Vikings made after the 2015 season ended was firing offensive line coach Jeff Davidson, after a season in which it was clear that the offensive line was not only a position of need come 2016, but also a definite liability should the Vikes ever want to get beyond the first round of the playoffs. The Vikings compensated by bringing in former Miami Dolphins head coach, Tony Sparano, to helm a unit that has been priority number one this off-season. In addition to the hiring change, the Vikings brought in free agent left guard Alex Boone (from San Francisco) and former Bengal right tackle Andre Smith.

Despite those moves the Vikings were still thought to be looking for offensive line help in the first round of the draft, being linked to Ohio State's Taylor Decker and Michigan State's Jack Conklin. Both of whom were gone by the time the Vikings selected Laquon Treadwell at 23. The Vikings surprised many by selecting a corner with their second pick, as it wasn't considered a position of need by many (outside of Mike Zimmer). The Vikes then traded their third overall pick and landed Beavers with their first selection of the third day.

So, with that, the Vikings are yet again attempting to build their offensive line of the future with another 4th round pick. A pick that garnered them 16 game starter in right tackle T.J. Clemmings last season. Part two of the "Sparano-ing" of the offensive line? Moving TJ Clemmings to left tackle, in hopes that the team can move beyond former first rounder and current most over-paid player in the league, Matt Kalil, after 2016.

The state of the offensive line is a lot to cover, and that's not really the point of this piece. The point is really, whether or not Beavers can make the conversion from tackle to guard (as many have done) in hopes that we can begin to rebuild the offensive line with young, athletic pieces (as opposed to the old, over-priced pieces we've been forced to scavenge from free agency) in an attempt to kick start the "Sparano-ing" (I hate that term the more I use it) of the line. While it's nearly impossible to say whether or not Beavers will succeed, we can at least see if he looks the part. And we will.

Let's look at this measurables from the combine.

That's not encouraging.

But then again, that's Beavers as compared to other tackles. So, let's look at his numbers against current Vikings left guard Alex Boone, who like Beavers played tackle in college. Who posted these numbers before the 2009 draft:

and 2015 right guard, Brandon Fusco (who played Center in college):

While I have some issues with the graphing system (you're telling me a 6'7" tackle only makes it into the 75th percentile?), it does a good job of grouping combine results. So, when we compare Beavers to Boone and Fusco we can see that he has the size (6'4" tall, 324 lbs) that is needed for the position (as he has about 20 pounds on current right guard, Fusco). That's good news, as he matches the "size" aspect of the "size, strength and ability to dent people" equation.

The question then becomes, does he have the strenght/althleticism?

Considering that he's essentially been drafted to replace Fusco at right guard it's safe to compare their numbers (especially because Alex Boone is a specimen at left tackle). Fusco bested Beavers on the broad-jump (108" vs. Beavers' 103"), the 40 yard dash (5.18 vs. Beavers' 5.28), the bench press (26 vs. Beavers' 20), the vertical jump (28.5" to 25.5") and also had a quicker 20 yard shuttle (4.43 vs. 4.7).

Considering Sparano asked Spielman for players who have "Size, strength and the ability to dent people", it looks like they failed on at least one of those as Beavers has some size, but is categorically weaker across all measurable statistics than the player he was brought in to replace. Considering the implications that come from being replaced, you'd think that Sparano isn't looking for players that are weaker across every category than the players he already has. Whether that translates into games remains to be seen, but it's not exactly encouraging, either.

The ability to dent people remains to be seen. While Spielman did laud Beavers for the way (the denting, I guess) he played against top competition (in Michigan State and Ohio State), the fact that Beavers comes from the MAC conference means that he isn't completely used to practicing/playing against top talent all of the time. So, like all rookies, he'll struggle to acclimate to the level of competition that he faces day in and day out (and most likely won't be denting people left and right, at least at first). Hopefully the switch from the outside to the interior will help with that, and he will become the viable starter that Clemmings hasn't (thus far) and the first (or is it second?) step in the "Sparano-ing" of the offensive line will have been a success.

Either way the pick seems to be a "head scratcher" at best, and at worst? An afterthought. After years of not focusing on the offensive line as a draft priority the Vikings were forced to overspend in free agency in an attempt to create a salvageable unit from outcasts this off-season. You'd think that that would've served as another painful reminder (especially after the 2015 our offensive line had) that we do need to focus on lineman earlier in the draft. Apparently Spielman still thinks that he can skirt by with third day picks and free agents, hopefully he's right.