Only a few rookies left on the Rookie Review series, where we look at how the Vikings rookie class of 2013 performed last season. Next up is one of two offensive lineman the Vikings took in the draft, but the only one who ended up making the team.
The Vikings have a established a recent pattern of taking offensive lineman late in the draft and developing them (John Sullivan, Brandon Fusco), and that trend continued in 2013.
In the sixth round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Vikings selected guard Jeff Baca out of UCLA with the 196th overall pick.
Baca was a versatile and durable lineman while in college, as he totaled over 40 starts at UCLA, with over 20 at tackle and 20 at guard.
Coming out of college, Baca was considered a technically sound player who was simply lacking the strength to move defenders right away at the NFL level. Baca was also considered on the small side for an interior lineman, which is why he was viewed as a late round pick.
Baca began training camp battling for a roster spot with several other lineman, and in the end he did manage to stick on the 53 man roster. Baca played adequately during the preseason, where the Vikings also tried moving him to center to see if he could potentially fit as an interior swing lineman.
Baca was inactive for the first 12 games of the season, but due to injuries he was part of the active lineup for the final four games. Baca did not see any offensive snaps during those games.
Expectations for 2014
Baca will have to fight for his roster spot again in 2014, and the best way he can make sure he sticks is by hitting the weight room and bulking up. If Baca adds a little more strength, he still have the potential to be a valuable swing lineman or potentially a starter down the road.
Baca’s main competition going into training camp will be veteran lineman Joe Berger and free agent addition Vladimir Ducasse. The former served as a swing lineman last year for the Vikings while the latter was the Jets starter before being benched after week four. The Vikings will likely give Baca an opportunity to take the job from Berger and Ducasse, since he is younger and less expensive, but it will be Baca’s job to prove he can handle himself well.
It’s also possible that if Charlie Johnson struggles or is injured, Baca could make himself the next man up on the offensive line.
It’ll be up to him to make that happen.