When the Vikings hit the clock on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, Jr.'s mock draft, the offensive linemen he wanted for Minnesota were gone.
So, he went with Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary.
Kiper and fellow analyst Todd McShay recently went "head to head" in a three-round mock draft, in which they alternated picks and were not allowed trades.
On a conference call with media members Monday afternoon, Kiper explained his pick of Gary for the Vikings with the 18th overall selection.
"The linemen were gone," Kiper said. "I took Chris Lindstrom at No. 12 to Green Bay, and Todd took Jonah Williams [for the Giants at No. 17]. Both the offensive linemen were gone. Cody Ford is a right tackle or a guard, and I was looking for somebody who had a little more versatility."
Kiper was asked about Gary earlier in the call and detailed why he's been "hot and cold" on the pass rusher but that he could prove to be a value pick for the Vikings if faced with a similar situation on Thursday night.
According to Kiper, Gary originally looked like a top-10, or even top-five, pick "based on his physical talent" and performance at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"But then [there's] the lack of production. The lack of sack production – 10 sacks in 34 games – has pushed him farther," Kiper said. "I had one GM say 10-28 for a range for Rashan Gary. Ten to 28 – that's a heck of a range for a guy who's very polarizing. Some teams may figure, 'Once he's in the NFL, we can coach him up and get the sack production.' Others will say, 'Hey, Chase Winovich was getting production and in the backfield being disruptive, and he was coached by the same staff, and he was running in the same scheme.'
"So yeah, I just think by the time you get to the middle of the first round, maybe Miami at 13, the Giants at 17 if they get the quarterback early. You've got somebody like Minnesota at 18," Kiper continued. "I think somebody in that … 13-19 range may look at Rashan Gary."
If Lindstrom and Williams had been on the mock draft board at 18, though? Kiper, playing general manager, would have projected one of them to the Vikings.
"Jonah, I think he can be a left tackle … he's got longer arms than Andre Dillard, yet everyone wants to move Jonah Williams to right tackle or guard. I like Jonah," Kiper explained. "I like Chris Lindstrom … he's played right tackle, mostly right guard. I think Lindstrom or Jonah Williams, with Cody Ford as the third option."
Kiper also responded during the call to a question about N.C. State center Garrett Bradbury, who has been mocked to Minnesota by a handful of analysts over the past few months.
He called Bradbury "a solid kid all the way around" who would be a reliable leader on the offensive line.
"A real good anchor up front," Kiper said of Bradbury. "I think the only question's going to be, for me, how those big, physically gifted defensive tackles do against him. I think when you look at the way he tested [at the combine], and when it works in conjunction with the type of player he was – he's 6-3, 306 pounds, [but] he doesn't have great arm length. I think that's going to be the other issue, with the short arms, but he's very athletic, very strong in the upper body.
"So there's a lot to like," he added. "The only concern with me would be the short arms and how he'll do against those physically imposing defensive tackles."