NFL players are currently enjoying a break between time minicamps and the start of training camp, but Gil Brandt hasn't taken such a hiatus.
The NFL Media analyst has been putting together a series of photo essays tabbing the best of the best in each position group through NFL history. After ranking the top tackles*earlier this week, Brandt included two former Vikings among the "greatest NFL guards of all time."*
Of 27 players, Brandt listed Steve Hutchinson at No. 15 and Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel at No. 8.
McDaniel was selected 19th overall in the 1988 NFL Draft and played in Purple through 1999 before a two-season stint with the Buccaneers. He started 220 of 222 NFL games, appeared in 12 Pro Bowls and was named First-Team All-Pro on seven occasions.
McDaniel was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Hutchinson, a first-round draft pick, started his career from 2001-05 with the Seahawks, played for Minnesota from 2006-11 and wrapped up with Tennessee in 2012. He started all 169 games that he played, was listed in the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, named First-Team All-Pro five times and was a seven-time Pro Bowler.
Leading Brandt's list were John Hannah (Patriots, 1973-85), Tom Mack (Rams, 1966-78) and Bruce Matthews (Oilers/Titans, 1983-2001) at first, second and third, respectively.
Looking ahead at training camp position battles
The Vikings will report to Mankato for training camp in late July* *(first full-team practice on July 27), and there's sure to be a number of things to watch for.
Andrew Krammer of the *Star Tribune *identified five key position battles to keep an eye on, including at center. He wrote:
Third-year center Nick Easton held down the middle of the offensive line during much of spring practices and has led the competition with rookie third-round pick Pat Elflein, whom the Vikings view fits best at center after one season there with Ohio State. The Vikings moved trusty veteran Joe Berger to right guard to see how Easton and Elflein compete in what is a critical race for the retooled offensive line.
Krammer also discussed the situation at running back with Jerick McKinnon returning and Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook prepping for their first seasons in Minnesota. Krammer said that all three will likely have roles on offense but added that "the most intriguing addition is the dynamic Cook, who started working with quarterback Sam Bradford more as the offseason progressed."
In addition to battles at slot cornerback and kicker, Krammer also highlighted the opening at a linebacker position created by Chad Greenway's retirement following the 2016 season.
[…] Edmond Robinson and Emmanuel Lamur swapped reps this offseason in the role vacated by Chad Greenway's retirement. The Vikings need to shore up the run defense, which ranked 16th in yards per carry (4.2) last season, and playing a critical role on first and second downs will be either Robinson (6-3, 245) or Lamur (6-4, 245), the biggest linebackers on the roster this side of Anthony Barr.