Followers of the Minnesota Vikings are abnormally high on the team’s offensive line heading into 2021. But the rest of the world is not. At the very least, those non-Vikings outsiders are taking a “wait and see” approach.
In the 2021 NFL Draft, general manager Rick Spielman traded back nine spots with his #14 overall pick — a move that still managed to secure left tackle Christian Darrisaw and, later on, quarterback Kellen Mond plus offensive guard Wyatt Davis.
Boom. Like that, Minnesota owns an organically-grown offensive line, all picks chosen via the NFL draft since 2018 with 2nd-Round-or-higher draft capital. Indeed, the offensive line should consist of (LT) Christian Darrisaw, (LG) Ezra Cleveland, (C) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Wyatt Davis, and (RT) Brian O’Neill sooner or later.
Heading into most seasons under head coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings showcase one to three pieces on the offensive line that are startable commodities — with a couple of dudes that are best served as backup players. This was on full display in 2020 with guards like Dru Samia, Dakota Dozier, and Pat Elflein.
And that’s likely why Pro Football Focus ranked the 2021 Vikings offensive line as the seventh-worst in the business as of now. PFF ranked all NFL teams for offensive line competence, and Minnesota checked in at 26th. PFF‘s Steve Palazzolo wrote about the Vikings offensive trenches:
“Right tackle Brian O’Neill has been the most consistent lineman for Minnesota, and he’s coming off a career-high 78.0 overall grade, which ranked 24th among tackles. He’s a smooth-moving zone blocker who finished with the No. 8 run-blocking grade (83.7) last season. The interior is where the Vikings have had their issues, especially in pass protection. Center Garrett Bradbury is a prime example — he’s been far better in the run game but ranked last and second to last in pass-blocking grade among centers in his two NFL seasons. Ezra Cleveland started at right guard down the stretch, and he’ll slot in there again in 2021. Cleveland profiled similarly to Bradbury, grading out at a solid 67.5 as a run blocker but just 52.0 in pass protection. The left guard spot has two options in Mason Cole and third-rounder Wyatt Davis. Cole has two full seasons under his belt, but both were at center. He earned grades of 53.6 in 2018 and 54.4 last year. Davis battled through injury in 2020 at Ohio State, but he looked like one of the best guard prospects in the draft after his 2019 performance. The Vikings’ offensive line has a new look this season, and the unit’s ability to move up the rankings may be dependent on two rookies and one second-year player.”
The teams with worse OL units than the Vikings for the time being?
- Chicago Bears (27th)
- New York Jets (28th)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (29th)
- Miami Dolphins (30th)
- Carolina Panthers (31st)
- New York Giants (last)
A serviceable offensive line is the final frontier for the Mike Zimmer-led Vikings. Well, the kicker spot could use some stability, too.
Seemingly every season, the Vikings blend together an offensive line that is piecemealed and unbecoming of a true Super Bowl contender. Year in and year out — that line is the undoing for the offense, often at crucial times of the season. See: 2019 NFC Divisional Game vs. the San Francisco 49ers.
High hopes await Wyatt Davis as he is the pivotal fragment for the start of the 2021 season. Most reasonable folks believe that Christian Darrisaw will start Week 1 at Cincinnati. Yet, the verdict is undetermined as of June on Davis. In any event, Darrisaw’s mere presence — with a man like Davis “on the way” — ensures that the offensive line feels closer to solved for the first time in a decade.