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Minnesota Vikings 2014 draft preview: Interior offensive linemen

John Sullivan (65) anchors the Minnesota Vikings offensive line from the interior.
John Sullivan (65) anchors the Minnesota Vikings offensive line from the interior.
Photo by Adam Bettcher

The Minnesota Vikings are deeper on the interior offensive line than they have been in some time, but improved play is still needed from that group.

John Sullivan is one of the most underrated players in the NFL and one of the best centers. Guards Charlie Johnson and Brandon Fusco had an up and down season. All three were integral parts of Adrian Peterson’s near record-breaking season.

The top reserves are expected to be returners Jeff Baca and Joe Berger as well as free agent signee Vladimir Ducasse. The only other interior offensive lineman on the roster is Josh Samuda, who suffered a broken fibula and dislocated ankle during a voluntary offseason workout at Winter Park.

The Vikings like Baca and he may eventually get into the starting lineup, but more talent can be obtained from the draft. Here are the top five guards and centers as well as an underrated, an overrated and a sleeper prospect in the 2014 draft.

No. 1 - Zack Martin, Notre Dame
No. 1 - Zack Martin, Notre Dame Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

No. 1 - Zack Martin, Notre Dame

Martin has emerged as the clear-cut No. 1 interior offensive lineman in the draft. He is projected to go in the middle to late portion of the first round. He plays with good balance and leverage. He stood out at the Senior Bowl with his “quickness, power and overall technique,” according to Rob Rang and Derek Stephens of CBS Sports. He played tackle for the Fighting Irish and has little to no experience at guard, but lacks the ideal frame and body to play outside in the NFL.

The 6-foot-4-inch, 308-pound redshirt senior guard has drawn comparisons to Logan Mankins of the New England Patriots.

No. 2 - Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
No. 2 - Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

No. 2 - Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA

Su’a-Filo has hovered around the late first to early second round area of the draft for most of the offseason. He is very good off the snap and one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the draft. He gets to the second level and opens holes in space. He doesn’t always keep leverage on contact.

The 6-foot-4-inch, 307-pound redshirt junior guard spent two years on a Mormon mission before joining the Bruins program.

No. 3 - Weston Richburg, Colorado State
No. 3 - Weston Richburg, Colorado State Joe Robbins/Getty Images

No. 3 - Weston Richburg, Colorado State

Richburg has emerged as the top center with the ideal frame and upper body strength. He started every game over the last four years for the Rams and relies on his durability, intelligence and surprising athleticism to win battles. There are concerns over the level of competition he faced in college, even though he was solid when the Rams played top tier schools.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 298-pound redshirt senior center has drawn comparisons to Brad Meester of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

No. 4 - Trai Turner, LSU
No. 4 - Trai Turner, LSU Sean Gardner/Getty Images

No. 4 - Trai Turner, LSU

Turner has a huge frame with long arms and superior run blocking skills. He has good quickness off the ball and the athleticism to dominate at the second level. He locks onto a defender and overpowers them. He is a dominant run blocker, but needs work as a pass blocker. He lacks good lateral agility and can be beat by quick penetrating defensive tackles.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 310-pound redshirt sophomore guard may have been better served to play at least one more year for the Tigers.

No. 5 - Marcus Martin, USC
No. 5 - Marcus Martin, USC Rich Schultz/Getty Images

No. 5 - Marcus Martin, USC

Martin may have the most recognizable name of all the centers in the draft after his three years for the Trojans. He has a strong, sturdy frame that scouts look for in a prospect. He has good quickness off the snap and has a mean streak to him. There are concerns that he only started one year for the Trojans before entering the draft. He has a tendency to play too low and can be a little slow to react.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 320-pound junior center has drawn comparisons to Alex Mack of the Cleveland Browns.

Underrated - Corey Linsley, Ohio State
Underrated - Corey Linsley, Ohio State Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Underrated - Corey Linsley, Ohio State

Strength and durability are Linsley’s best assets. His bench press max is over 500 pounds and he started 26 straight games for the Buckeyes. He does not have ideal size, but makes up for with his quick feet, natural athletic ability and upper body strength.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 296-pound redshirt senior center has a high football-IQ, but has a tendency to be too patient off the ball.

Overrated - David Yankey, Stanford
Overrated - David Yankey, Stanford Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Overrated - David Yankey, Stanford

Yankey (on the left in the picture) has seen his stock fall. He was once considered a possible late first round pick, but now looks like he will be selected in one of the middle rounds. He is a good athlete with the power and strength to open holes in the running game. However, he exhibits some bad habits that will leave him vulnerable in the NFL. He has a tendency to raise his pads and lose leverage while lowering his head at contact.

The 6-foot-6-inch, 315-pound redshirt junior guard has drawn comparisons to Ben Grubbs of the New Orleans Saints.

Sleeper - Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
Sleeper - Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma R. Yeatts/Getty Images

Sleeper - Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

Ikard had a solid Shrine Game week and may have moved himself up some draft boards in the process. He has the lateral quickness to mirror defenders, but struggles with power rushers. He has the ability to win battles with his intelligence. He uses his angles well and may not fit into all offensive schemes.

The 6-foot-4-inch, 304-pound redshirt senior center may fit best into an offense with a zone-blocking scheme that utilizes mobility.