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O'Neill to Bring Athleticism, Quickness to Vikings O-Line

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings prefer athletic and mobile linemen who can move to open holes in the running game while also being able to get out in space in the passing game.

New Vikings offensive tackle Brian O'Neill fits that bill perfectly.

Minnesota used the 62nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to pick up O'Neill, a former tight end who spent the past three seasons at the University of Pittsburgh as an offensive tackle.

"Brian was probably the best athlete of all the offensive lineman in this draft," Vikings Director of College Scouting Jamaal Stephenson said Friday night. "You watch this guy get out and pull, it's unbelievable how fast he moves and the ability to change directions.

"You watch him catch passes, you may have seen the clip. He's running the ball," Stephenson added. "You do see that athleticism. I think that helps at the second level."

O'Neill started all 12 games at left tackle and was a First-Team All-ACC selection by conference coaches and the *Associated Press *in 2017. He was a Third-Team All-ACC selection by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.

O'Neill was a standout athlete in high school who won the Delaware High School Defensive Player of the Year and the state's basketball Player of the Year awards. He went to Pittsburgh as a tight end but switched to tackle before his redshirt sophomore season. Although he is still relatively new at the position, O'Neill made 37 straight starts at tackle to end his college career.

"I realized that is something that could be something that could really help me," O'Neill said. "At the end of the day, football is football, and being able to change positions, putting on the weight the right way and put on good weight, added weight that still allowed me to be athletic would be something that will help serve me well down the road.

"Hopefully it will continue to do so. That is just one of the many components that makes up a good football player," O'Neill added. "Thankful for that but going to do everything in my power to keep that and bring up all the other aspects of a good offensive lineman."

Pittsburgh Head Coach Pat Narduzzi praised O'Neill's selflessness shortly after the lineman was drafted by the Vikings.

"The Vikings organization not only drafted an outstanding player in Brian O'Neill but also an exceptional person and leader," Narduzzi posted on Twitter. "Incredibly, it was less than three years ago that we asked Brian to move from tight end to tackle just weeks before camp opened.

"He never hesitated and, through hard work, made himself an All-ACC offensive lineman and now an NFL draft pick," Narduzzi added. "As good as he was at Pitt, I really think his best football is ahead of him. We are incredibly proud of Brian tonight."

O'Neill was a standout at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine as he had the fastest 40-yard dash (4.82 seconds) and 3-cone drill (7.14 seconds) among offensive linemen, and had the fourth-fastest time in among linemen in the 20-yard shuttle at 4.5 seconds.

"I think I am able to handle speed off the edge very well. I think that is something that is one of my strong suits … being able to protect the edge," O'Neill said. "Obviously with the new quarterback in town, Kirk Cousins, that is a big deal. Protecting him is my most important job now. It is a job I take very seriously. 

"Being able to keep guys off the quarterback is something I do well and something I feel very confident in my abilities about," O'Neill added.

O'Neill had three career carries for 39 yards and two touchdowns over the past two seasons despite playing tackle.

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock touted O'Neill's ability to play tackle for the Vikings going forward.

"Because of the versatility of Mike Remmers, they can pick the best guard or tackle on their board, and Brian O'Neill is an athletic former tight end that's got to get stronger, but he's got great feet and length," Mayock said shortly after the selection. "A little bit underpowered, but let me tell you something, he's got a chance with his length and athletic ability to be special." 

Stephenson said the Vikings felt they got "great value" in the second round for O'Neill, who was a junior in 2017.

"He's a kid who came out early as a junior, and we feel that if he had stayed in, he probably would have been a higher draft pick [in 2019]," Stephenson said.

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