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 yet raw player to help with the critical task of protecting prize offseason acquisition Kirk Cousins. "I know if I can get the coaches this type of athlete, they can develop those guys," said Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who used the 62nd overall selection on the 6-foot-6, 305-pound O'Neill before trading the team's third-round pick, No. 94, to net an extra selection for Saturday.
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 yet raw player to help with the critical task of protecting prize offseason acquisition Kirk Cousins.
"I know if I can get the coaches this type of athlete, they can develop those guys," said Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, who used the 62nd overall selection on the 6-foot-6, 305-pound O'Neill before trading the team's third-round pick, No. 94, to net an extra selection for Saturday.
O'Neill 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. O'Neill ran the 40-yard dash in 4.82 seconds at the combine, the fastest time by an offensive lineman.
"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.
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.
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."
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 UTEP 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.
"I've never seen that many offensive guards go this high in the draft," Stephenson said.
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.
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.
Hughes found some off-the-field trouble as a freshman at North Carolina in 2015 with his home-state school, which led to a nomadic college career with a stop at Garden City Community College in Kansas before landing at UCF once fall camp had already begun. He quickly integrated himself with the team and picked up the defense, making a strong impression on head coach Scott Frost.
"I think he's the type of player that's going to thrive up there," Frost said on a conference call with Minnesota reporters. "Mike's not just a cover corner, he's a guy that will come up and hit. He'll really embrace being around a bunch of other guys that play with that kind of attitude."
He's only 5-foot-10, but this high school quarterback has used his physical size as a psychological advantage.
"I don't want to get the ball caught on me," Hughes said. "I hate having the ball caught on me, even in practice. I just like competing."