EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. –Day 3 of the 2016 NFL Draft is rolling, and the Vikings further bolstered their offensive line by selecting tackle Willie Beavers 121st overall.
The selection of Beavers is a continuation of Minnesota's effort to add competition and depth along its offensive line. It marks the second time Minnesota has drafted a fourth-round tackle in as many years, after selecting T.J. Clemmings 110th overall in 2015. In the 10-pick range from Clemmings to Beavers, the Vikings selected a total of four offensive linemen.
NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock listed Beavers as the fifth-best offensive tackle prospect in his initial position rankings.
"I think Willie Beavers is an under-the-radar kid who can play, but he'll need some time to get ready," Mayock said.
Originally projected by Mayock to go in the second or third round, Beavers will add depth to an offensive line that Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said he would focus on this offseason. Other additions this offseason occurred with the signings of veteran free agents Alex Boone and Andre Smith.
Beavers said he's looking forward to learning from the Vikings coaching staff, specifically new offensive line coach Tony Sparano.
"They're all awesome guys," Beavers said of the Vikings coaches. "I got a chance to meet with the offensive line coach [Sparano] at the combine and the Senior Bowl, and he's an awesome dude. I can't wait to get to work for him."
Beavers grew up in Lathrup Village, Michigan, a short 17-mile jaunt from Detroit. Beavers said his Lions fandom is behind him, however.
"I'm not a Lions fan anymore," Beavers said. "I'm a Vikings fan. I'm a Vikings guy."
As a redshirt senior in 2015, Beavers was part of an offensive line that helped Western Michigan rush for 204.6 yards per game, second best in the Midwest Athletic Conference and 29th best in the country. After starting every game at left tackle, Beavers was named 2015 All-MAC First-Team and received a nod to the 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl, where he practiced at tackle and guard.
"At the Senior Bowl I showed my versatility, so wherever they put me on offensive line, I will be good," Beavers told Twin Cities media in a conference call Saturday.
Beavers is 6-foot-4, 321 pounds and clocked a 5.26 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. An athletic tackle, Beavers is defined as a "loose, fluid athlete" in his NFL.com draft profile. He demonstrates agility at the line and is quick to get out of his stance and to his target.
In March, NFL Media analyst Gil Brandt listed Beavers as the top underrated offensive prospects in this year's draft, also predicting him as a second-round target.
"Beavers always seemed to elevate his game against better opponents in college, which bodes well for his move to the NFL," Brandt said. "He's coming off a strong Pro Day performance. He does need to get stronger, but some team will take him in the second round and get a very good player with a ton of upside."
Here's **coverage of Beavers’ Pro Day** by Justin Dacey of the MLive Media Group and the Kalamazoo Gazette.