The team at Vikings Territory has been busy working to get to know each of our newest Vikings draft selections and this week we will give you a chance to learn everything we know about these players through our reintroduction of the “Welcome to the Big Show” series.
Next Up: OL Pat Elflein
Pat Elflein is a native of Pickerington, Ohio. In high school, he was a four-year letterman in football, wrestling, and track and field. In 2011, he was the Ohio Capital Conference wrestler of the year and a national qualifier.
Elflein was a four-star high school prospect in football and signed with Ohio State—just 25 minutes down the road from his hometown—after receiving offers from 10 programs. He received his degree in communications in may of 2016 and spent the 2017 school year taking graduate classes. An excellent student, he he earned three OSU Scholar-Athlete awards and one Academic All-Big Ten Conference honor at Ohio State.
In his senior season, Elflein won the Rimington Award, given to the nation’s best center. He also earned First Team AFCA, Associated Press, FWAA, Walter Camp, USA Today, The Sporting News, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and CBS Sports All-American honors. Along with Malik Hooker, Elflein became the first pair of Buckeye teammates to be named consensus All-Americans in the same year since Orlando Pace and Eddie George in 1995.
College Attended: Ohio State
Collegiate Seasons: 4 (plus redshirt)
Games Played: 55
Games Started: 42
Starts at Guard: 29
Starts at Center: 13
Height: 6 feet 3 inches
Weight: 303 pounds
Arm Length: 33 ¼ inch
Hand Size: 9 ¾ inch
40-Yard Dash: 5.32 seconds
Bench Press: 22 reps
Vertical Jump: 23 ½ inch
Broad Jump: 99 inches
3-Cone Drill: 7.94 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.71 seconds
- Very well-regarded work ethic and leadership. Buckeyes team captain.
- Powerful, stout frame. Well proportioned as an NFL offensive lineman.
- Thick limbs and lower body; good strength.
- Good initial quickness, with the fluidity and precision in his feet to effectively pull from center.
- Not overly strong, but solid functional power. Holds up well at the point of attack, and has excellent knee bend to take on bull rushers.
- Great hand placement and pad level. Very well-rounded fundamentally.
- Has punch in both run blocking and pass protection.
- Patient blocker who rarely rushes blocks.
- Drives feet through contact and has shown the ability to stick to blocks.
- Versatile; has excelled in extended stints at center and both guard spots.
- Competes until the whistle. Should add some nastiness to the offensive line.
- Has competed and dominated on college football’s biggest stage.
- Not a high-level quick twitch athlete. Will likely be lining up across from superior athletes every Sunday.
- Average short area reaction time.
- Quicker than fast; measurable are average.
- On the small side at 303 pounds.
- Can allow quicker defenders to get into his body.
- Struggles reaching fast, edge players in space.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Pat Elflein was a celebrated and decorated player at one of the nation’s foremost college football powerhouses; a Rimington Award winner, consensus All-American, and three-time First-Team All-Big Ten selection. His game is built on three pillars: toughness, airtight technique, and the strength and power to overwhelm defenders. He won’t wow anyone with speed and agility, but that’s less of a concern for an interior offensive lineman, and he’s shown the requisite footwork to overcome some athletic limitations.
Elfleins is at his best as a run blocker, where he’s able to use his strength and wrestling background to maul opposing players. In college, he was consistently able to push defensive tackles out of their gaps to open up running lanes. As a pass blocker, he’s solid, especially against bull rushes, but his main challenge will be adjusting to speed rushers in the NFL.
Lance Zierlein – NFL.com: “Elflein is a smart, tireless worker with a winning background and experience at all three interior offensive line spots. While his feet are just average, his core strength and wrestling background could make him a favorite of teams looking for more strength at the center position. Elflein will have occasional issues in pass protection, but his strength as a run blocker and ability to play with excellent hands and plus body control should make him one of the first interior linemen to come off the draft board.”
Rob Rang – CBS Sports: “Like with any prospect, Elflein has some holes to his game. Some of them are a result of his playing multiple positions throughout his career, however. He’s quick, powerful and tough, projecting as a top 50 pick in a solid class of interior lineman and long-time starter in the NFL.”
Tony Pauline – Draft Analyst.com: “Elflein was a consistent player for Ohio State and, though not spectacular, he was solid in all areas. The versatility to be used at guard or center gives him starting potential at the next level if in the proper system.”
Pro Football Focus – Analysis Team: “Elflein can be effective in the right scheme as he can create movement at the point of attack in the run game, but he may be scheme-limited at the next level despite his experience playing both guard and center. At guard, he was effective running “power,” either at the point of attack or on the move in short areas and at center his best fit is likely an inside zone scheme that gets him looking to drive nose tackles off the ball. Pass protection is a concern and something Elflein’s future team will likely have to game plan for.”
SELECTION & REACTION
The initial expert analysis of Minnesota’s selection of Elflein was very positive:
Chris Burke – Sports Illustrated: “A doozy of a find in Round 3, and well worth trading up from No. 79 to get him. Elflein was the best center in this draft—he can be Minnesota’s man in the middle for years to come, assuming he wins that job out of camp. If he doesn’t, he can start at guard.”
Mike Tanier – Bleacher Report: “Elflein is a clubhouse leader type who moved from right guard to center last season for the Buckeyes and instantly earned All-America status. He mixes a cerebral approach to positioning and blitz pickup with a brutal finish when he latches on.
Lack of all-around quickness and agility will always give Elflein trouble against top defenders, in blitz pickup and when blocking on the move. But size, strength and work habits will keep him in the starting lineup for a long time.
The Vikings list 34-year-old Joe Berger as their starting center right now. That won’t last long.”
Jordan Plocher – Pro Football Focus: “Pat Elflein can play either guard or center, so that positional versatility is very valuable in the third round. Elflein is at his best as a run blocker, and his 90.2 percent run-block success rate ranks 19th among centers in the draft class.”
VT Readers – Poll: Vikings Territory readers were overwhelmingly pleased with the selection, with over 80% giving it an “A.” The next highest grade, “B,” came in at 18.43% of the vote, meaning all but 1% of voters gave the pick an “A” or “B.”
THE VIKINGS FIT
For the Vikings, Pat Elflein provides an infusion of talent and toughness to a unit that desperately needs both. It’s clear they drafted him to be a starter sooner rather than later; Mike Zimmer mentioned they will start Elflein at center, rather than guard, making it likely they move 34 year-old Joe Berger to right guard and let him finish his career there, while Elflein becomes the team’s primary center—of the present and the future.
At worst, Elflein will provide depth along all three interior offensive line spots in his rookie season. If he’s not quite ready to take the reigns, Berger can remain at center in 2017 and Elflein can rotate with Jeremiah Sirles at guard. But he seems poised to start from day one, which—along with fellow rookie Dalvin Cook—should give the running game a massive upgrade, plus stabilize the pass protection for Sam Bradford.
The Vikings were able to get value while still satisfying a massive need grabbing Elflein in the third round. With Elflein flanked by Berger and Alex Boone, the interior of the offensive line suddenly looks solid at worst, and potentially a team strength. This, of course, if everyone stays healthy, but after what happened in 2016, I’d say the Vikings are due for a little good luck in that department.
WELCOME TO THE BIG SHOW
DT Jaleel Johnson, Iowa
LB Ben Gedeon, Michigan
WR Stacy Coley, Miami