ESPN‘s Mel Kiper Jr. is absolutely convinced that the Minnesota Vikings — in some form or another — will be selecting an offensive lineman in the 1st Round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
In the first edition of his coveted mock draft (well, the first two, in fact), Kiper sent offensive guard, Alijah Vera-Tucker, from USC to the Vikings. With AVT (an acronym usually associated with the USC alumnus) on the depth chart, Minnesota’s offensive line for 2021 would probably look like this:
(LT) Ezra Cleveland, (LG) Elijah Vera-Tucker, ( C ) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Mason Cole, (RT) Brian O’Neill.
Earlier this month in Kiper’s 3.0 mock draft, he sent Penei Sewell to the Vikings after the team traded up with the Denver Broncos to the #9 hole in the draft. This was presumably made possible by the relationship between Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and Broncos boss man, George Paton, who was associated with Minnesota for about a decade and a half.
This choice would transform the Vikings offensive line into this for September:
(LT) Penei Sewell, (LG) Mason Cole, ( C ) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Ezra Cleveland, (RT) Brian O’Neill.
Although Kiper has been consistent for his offensive-line theory, he switched it up again on Tuesday inside his 4.0 mock draft. He chose Christian Darrisaw, a tackle from Virginia Tech, for the Vikings (with no trade movement this time).
Kiper said on the pick:
“That’s four mock drafts for the 2021 class for me, and four offensive linemen to Minnesota in the first round. It’s a glaring hole on this roster. Darrisaw was outstanding at left tackle for the Hokies last season; our Stats & Info team tracked him at 264 total pass-block plays, and he allowed just three pressures and one sack. Put him at left tackle on day one for the Vikings.”
Darrisaw gets damn close to blending best-player-available and roster-need mindsets heading into the draft.
Pro Football Focus calls Darrisaw the 16th-best player overall in the draft. Therefore, the Vikings would stretch for his services only by a teensy bit if PFF is to be trusted.
Joe Marino of The Draft Network sees Darrisaw as a day-one starting left tackle in the NFL that excels in zone-block offensive formats — which the Vikings implement.
Marino on Darrisaw’s scouting report:
“Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw earned the opportunity to start for the Hokies as a true freshman and did nothing but improve for three seasons, developing into a dominant blocker in 2020. From a size, length, and mobility standpoint, Darrisaw firmly checks the boxes and should immediately become an asset to an NFL franchise in pass protection, outside zone runs, and utilizing his exceptional ability to pull and connect with moving targets in space. Like most young offensive linemen, Darrisaw has room to add functional strength to improve his overall power at the point of attack, but it’s far from a deficiency that is of major concern. The amount of technical growth Darrisaw has demonstrated throughout the course of his career is exciting when considering his starting point for the next level and how he peaked at the perfect time. It shouldn’t take long for Darrisaw to earn a starting role in the NFL and he has the upside to become a standout, franchise left tackle.”
Darrisaw would make the offensive trenches look something like this:
(LT) Christian Darrisaw, (LG) Mason Cole, ( C ) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Ezra Cleveland, (RT) Brian O’Neill.
Vikings loyalists should acclimate themselves to the resumes of Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Christian Darrisaw, and even Samuel Cosmi of Texas.
Why? Because offensive line is the team’s most glaring need — indisputably. Walking out of the 2021 NFL Draft without an esteemed, startable draft prospect on the offensive line would be dangerous territory for Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer. Both men need a successful 2021 season to ensure 2022 job security.