VIKINGS DRAFT: McKinnie's pal Carey could fit right in
BY BILL WILLIAMSON, Pioneer Press
Vikings coach Mike Tice likes Bryant McKinnie so much he says he'd like to draft another offensive lineman exactly like him. He might have the chance, in the person of Vernon Carey.
Carey, one of the best offensive line prospects available in this weekend's NFL draft, has been compared to McKinnie, his close friend and former teammate at Miami (Fla.).
"The comparison is easy to understand," said McKinnie, the Vikings' anchor at left tackle. "We're a lot alike as players and as people."
So would the Vikings add another McKinnie-like fixture on their offensive line?
"We sure like him," Tice said, acknowledging interest but keeping the team's draft desires close to the vest. "He's a good player."
The Vikings also are enamored of Arkansas tackle Shawn Andrews and are likely to take an offensive lineman in the early rounds as a successor at right guard to David Dixon. Dixon might be entering his final season with the team.
It's more likely the Vikings would address this need in the second round because of more pressing needs on defense. Still, if the Vikings' top prospects on defense are gone, Carey could very well be the Vikings' choice with the No. 19 overall pick.
Generally, 19th overall is considered high to select a guard, but Carey might be an exception. He is versatile and could play right tackle, as well â€” and Vikings right tackle Mike Rosenthal is a free agent after this season. Plus, Carey is polished and is expected to be able to contribute right away.
Unlike most offensive linemen who enter the NFL, Carey is an advanced run blocker. At 6 feet 4, 340 pounds, he has NFL size and enough measurable skill to be a first-round prospect.
"If you pick a guard that high where the Vikings are, you have to believe you're pretty close to being a championship-level team," ESPN analyst and former NFL general manager Randy Mueller said. "The Vikings may be close. â€¦ A guy like Carey could complete that line."
Carey considers McKinnie one of his closest friends and mentors. The two quickly found they were kindred spirits and were inseparable during their years together at Miami. Both are quiet, introspective players, but according to Carey, "Bryant is more outgoing, more friendly than I am. He's a bigger talker than I am."
They talk several times a week, and Carey has leaned on McKinnie for advice as the draft approaches. Both use the same personal chef in Miami to help them count calories, and they have the same agents â€” Jim Steiner and Ben Dogra.
Even though McKinnie's 98-day holdout was acrimonious at times, the Vikings and the agents have repaired their relationship to the point where it won't be considered a deterrent to Carey winding up in Minnesota.
"That would be cool," said Carey, a Miami native who is married and the father of a 2-year-old son, Vernon Jr. "To be with one of my close homeboys would be a dream. The Vikings are a good team, and Bryant really likes it there. I'd love to join him."
McKinnie think it's a possibility.
"I've been thinking about it, and I think it's a good fit," he said. "Vernon is a great player who is only going to get better. I think the Vikings would have to be interested in bringing in a player of his ability."
Carey, who has visited McKinnie here this spring, also has close family friends in the Twin Cities.
"I'll be happy to go anywhere, but it would be special to end up in Minnesota," Carey said. "Hopefully, the Vikings liked what they got in Bryant and want to take a chance on another big lineman from Miami."
Bill Williamson can be reached at [email protected]