The mystery surrounding the Minnesota Vikings 14th overall pick is officially solved.
For months, pundits and fans speculated that general manager Rick Spielman would trade up, trade down, pick a quarterback, draft an EDGE rusher, go with an offensive lineman, etc. About two of those “what ifs” were true.
The Vikings chained their offensive line hopes to the mighty reputation of Christian Darrisaw from the Virginia Tech University. Instantly, Darrisaw will anchor the left side of Minnesota’s line — a locale that has plagued the Vikings tremendously since the departure of Bryant McKinnie from the franchise 10 years ago.
Matt Kalil attempted to solidify his quarterback’s blindside — in varying degrees of success. He was an outstanding performer for a single season before encountering woes. Then, from 2017 to 2020, Riley Reiff did a decent job at left tackle. He jettisoned to Cincinnatti about six weeks ago to protect Joe Burrow.
Now — it’s Darrisaw’s turn.
And the general consensus is that his addition to the Vikings is magnificent one. Spielman traded back nine places on the draft’s first night, accumulating the 23rd, 66th, and 86th picks from New York Jets in exchange for the 14th choice (Alijah Vera-Tucker) and the 144th pick. The move was vintage Spielman.
The talking heads loved the move. Brent Sobleski of Bleacher Report gave the Vikings an A grade. He noted on the pick:
“Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman masterfully navigated this year’s first round. The team’s commander moved down nine spots, added a pair of third-round picks and still landed a top offensive tackle prospect. Darrisaw can immediately move into the starting left tackle spot left by Riley Reiff when the front office released the nine-year veteran. The choice makes the team’s plans much clearer. The possibility that right guard Ezra Cleveland would move back to left tackle was in play. Cleveland is a natural blindside protector, but he found a home along the Vikings’ offensive interior. Darrisaw can immediately take over blindside capabilities and solve one of Minnesota’s two issues along the front five. Finding a prospect to fill the other guard spot should be the Vikings’ next step.”
Sobleski isn’t the only pundit to celebrate the selection. Luke Easterling of Draft Wire, in his batch of grades, also scored the Vikings with an A:
“The ideal scenario for any team that trades back is to add picks, and still end up with a player that would have been worth your original selection. That’s exactly what the Vikings did here, moving back nine spots and still landing a starting-caliber left tackle that would have already been a fantastic value at their original spot. He fills a huge need, can start immediately, and he’s a huge bargain this late in the first round.”
There’s more. Pete Prisco of CBSSports handed Minnesota an A grade, too, stating he “loved” the pick
Not conforming to a prototypical A-F grading scale, Pro Football Focus was still quite kind to the Vikings. In their classification of Poor to Elite, Spielman was elite. PFF said:
“Trading back from No. 14 and still securing Christian Darrisaw — a top-15 prospect on PFF’s Big Board — is a massive win for Minnesota. Darrisaw is fresh off a season in which he recorded the second-best single-season PFF grade by a Power Five offensive tackle in the PFF College era. He oozes power and plays with the physicality that NFL scouts and coaches dream of.”
Darrisaw will outfit the Vikings line from left-to-right like this:
(LT) Christian Darrisaw, (LG) Mason Cole / Unnamed Guard, (C) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Ezra Cleveland, (RT) Brian O’Neill.
That fivesome already “feels” like a considerable upgrade to a 2020 bunch that was beset by putrid guard play from Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia.
Darrisaw’s selection further emphasizes Spielman’s commitment to the offensive line, one that has follied in recent years. The Vikings have selected an offensive lineman in the 2nd Round or higher in four consecutive drafts.
No other NFL franchise has done so.