The strongest part of the Minnesota Vikings defense is surely the defensive line, with Jared Allen, Brian Robison and Kevin Williams in place at three of the starting spots. But Allen and Robison are both slated to become free agents after the 2013 season, and Williams will turn 33 before the season starts. Adding some youth to the group, as depth next season and potential new starters in 2014 and beyond, has become a potential area of focus for Minnesota during the upcoming draft.
Defensive tackle is one of the strongest positions in this year’s draft class, with many top-tier prospects and ample depth. The Vikings are well-situated to find someone to play alongside Williams, and possibly take over for him at some point, with two first-round picks right now.
Johnathan Hankins started every game over the last two seasons at Ohio State, and decided to forego his senior season despite fairly dismal production (55 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack) as a junior. But he was a force as a sophomore in 2011, with 67 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and three sacks, and his drop-off last season is largely attributable to an increase in playing time that caused him to wear down at times.
In his most recent mock draft, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports.com has Hankins going to the Vikings with the second of their first-round picks (25th overall). Let’s take a closer look at the former Buckeye’s measurements, strengths and weaknesses.
Weight: 320 lbs.
– Has a wide frame and is naturally big
– Has excellent feet; gets off the ball and engages quickly
– Plays with an excellent motor; displays passion for the game
– Uses his hands extremely well to shed blocks and secure tackles
– Shows excellent instincts and awareness as a run defender
– Is versatile-played both defensive tackle and defensive end in college
– Is a surprisingly fluid mover for a player his size
– Relies on his upper body strength too much at times; needs to protect his legs better
– Exhibits streaky effort and needs to improve conditioning
– Can play with better balance and more consistent leverage
– Maintaining an effective playing weight could be a concern
– Needs to play with more consistent discipline; takes bad penalties at times
Hankins is considered very scheme-diverse, with the ability to play effectively in a 4-3 front or as a nose tackle in a 3-4. He could step right in for the Vikings and push Fred Evans and Letroy Guion for playing time at nose tackle, and then possibly move over and take Williams’ place as a three-technique defensive tackle after that. The Vikings have the ability to manage Hankins’ snap count in 2013 while he gets involved in a NFL conditioning program, which makes for a potentially happy marriage between player and team.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.