The Minnesota Vikings had a strong offensive line in 2013, but the left guard spot was always an area of concern and likely the main reason Mike Zimmer and company decided to draft offensive guard David Yankey out of Stanford early in the fifth round. Yankey was seen as a fringe first-round prospect at one point in time, and it’s clear he has the ability to be a Day 1 starter if need be.
Yankey played just one full season at left guard in college, but he also spent time at left tackle and was the first true freshman to see action on the Stanford offensive line since 2000. Unfortunately his freshman season was cut short due to injury, but he returned stronger in 2012 when he replaced Jonathan Martin as the team’s starting left tackle.
Yankey has the proper technique to be either a tackle or guard at the next level, but he excels at opening running lanes and blocking linebackers down the field, which is the reason talent evaluators had him pegged strictly as an offensive guard. Yankey also spent plenty of time moving laterally after the ball was snapped, meaning he shouldn’t have a hard time grasping any of the Vikings’ blocking schemes or assignments. He’s a player who is always looking for a guy to block and isn’t afraid to run down field to do so, which should provide Adrian Peterson with plenty of big play opportunities.
While Yankey excels in the running game when he’s moving towards defenders off the snap, he struggles a bit when a bigger lineman gets a good jump on a passing down. Yankey has always been on the smaller side when it comes to weight and strength, shown by his 22 bench reps at the combine, and it’s clear when he’s on the field as he’s often too high after the snap and easily gets pushed backwards by defenders.
While he does a good job keeping his hands on his man on passing downs, he gets pushed back a bit too easily and will need to refine some of his technique as well as add some muscle in the weight room this offseason. While Yankey has the smarts to be a starter Week 1 for the Vikings, he must add some weight to his 6-foot-6, 315-pound body if he hopes to become a dominant run blocker and above average pass protector.
The left guard position will likely be an open battle during training camp this summer, and with how poorly Charlie Johnson played last season, I would be surprised if Yankey isn’t the starter by the halfway point in the 2014 season. Yankey will be the weak link on the Vikings’ o-line next season, but considering they should have one of the best five man fronts in all of football I expect him to have a successful rookie campaign and help Peterson improve his 4.5 yards per carry average from last season.