Elite Vikings Tackle Duo Makes PFF Top 32 List

Dec 20, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) and Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw. Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports.

PFF is at it again with their top 32 rankings for every position group as we inch closer to the 2024 season, and this time, Zoltan Bunday (also ranked safeties) “tackles” the tackles. Sorry.

The list begins as the safety list did; predictable. However, the Vikings tackles are expectedly featured much earlier this time. It kicks off with San Francisco 49ers’ future hall of famer Trent Williams at #1, followed by Tristan Wirfs of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Penei Sewell of the Detroit Lions. This is where we are introduced to our first representative of the Vikings.

4. Christian Darrisaw

Vikings LT Christian Darrisaw
Sep 19, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports.

Former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman landed Virginia Tech standout tackle Christian Darrisaw in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Whether or not he “lucked out” with this selection is up for debate, as he traded back from pick 14 and included pick 143 with the New York Jets for the 23rd, 66th, and 86th selections of the same draft.

Darrisaw would slide to Minnesota at 23rd overall, who would somehow get past other offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker (whom the Jets selected at 14 in the trade-up) and most notably fellow tackle Alex Leatherwood, whom the Raiders swung and missed BADLY on at pick 17.

It was clear from the jump that Christian Darrisaw would be the left tackle of the future the Vikings had been searching for for years, especially after the Vikings’ 2012 4th overall pick Matt Kalil’s flame sizzled out quickly after his rookie season.

His assignment has been tough since he was drafted to Minnesota, as Kirk Cousins wasn’t exactly the most mobile quarterback for Darrisaw to work with, and this emphasized the importance of Christian’s role. Now that J.J. McCarthy is in town and is a bit more of a mobile-style of signal-caller, Darrisaw isn’t going to have be as “perfect” when it comes to keeping the field general clean.

Bunday explains:

“Darrisaw enjoyed an elite 2022 season in which he earned a 90.4 overall (PFF) grade, which ranked second at the position. However, injuries slowed him down and forced him to miss time in 2023. As a result, his overall grade declined to 82.4, though his 85.3 pass blocking grade was good for third.”

There’s a bit of a wait until we get to the Vikings next representative. PFF claims this article is a “14 minute read”, so by that pace, there’s at least a good 7 or 8 minutes worth of reading until you get to the Vikings next tackle. It’s obvious who it is, but the drop seems to be a bit undeserving of the player.

The Other Tackles

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Philadelphia Eagles
Nov 21, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata (68) blocks against New Orleans Saints defensive end Marcus Davenport (92) at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

On the way there, we see the Philadelphia Eagles’s tackle duo of Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata at #5 and #6 respectively, undoubtably the very best tackle duo in the NFL. Going a little further down the list, we see names like Terron Armstead of the Miami Dolphins at #12, Penei Sewell’s tackle-mate Taylor Decker on the Detroit Lions at #14, and Ronnie Stanley of the Baltimore Ravens at #20, just to name a few.

We then find the Minnesota Vikings right tackle all the way down at 23….

23. Brian O’Neill

NFL: Pro Bowl-NFC Practice
Feb 4, 2022; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Minnesota Vikings tackle Brian O’Neill (75) during NFC practice at the Las Vegas Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This seems just a tad disrespectful to O’Neill and how consistent he has been for the Vikings for years. He is understandably docked a bit for injuries in recent years, but when someone like the Indianapolis Colts’ Bernard Raimann, who is only going into year 3 and has only had a single really good year of production to this point all the way up at 16, it begs the question of where the line is drawn for lack of playing.

No disrespect to Raimann, who is absolutely on the fast track to becoming one of the best tackles in football, but having that big of a difference between he and Brian O’Neill’s spot at #23 is interesting, to say the least.

Brian O’Neill has been a constant in the trenches of the Vikings since he was drafted out of Pitt with the 62nd overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He was been the one Viking that has truly been consistently “good” on the offensive line since before tackle-mate Christian Darrisaw was drafted, and was pivotal in the prime years of Dalvin Cook when he was one of the best backs in football.

O’Neill also transitioned beautifully from the Zimmer Era into the O’Connell era, in which the offense went from a run-heavy scheme to one of the most frequent passing offenses in the league. He has been nothing but a true professional, and is one of the pillars in the locker room, going as far as to crying when asked what Kirk Cousins meant to the Minnesota Vikings organization after Cousins’ season-ending Achilles injury in 2023.

Bunday explains:

O’Neill was slowed down by injuries in 2023 and was not able to replicate his amazing 2022 season, but he still put together a solid campaign. He finished top-25 in both pass-blocking and run-blocking grades and was just 1 of 15 players at the position to earn 70.0+ grades in both facets of the game.”

Minnesota Has A Top Tackle-Duo For Years To Come

Vikings Tackle
Dec 24, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell celebrates after Minnesota Vikings running back Ty Chandlers (32) touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the first quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Whether or not one feels that Brian O’Neill was disrespected in PFF’s rankings of tackles, or that Christian Darrisaw should potentially be ahead of Penei Sewell, it is clear that the Minnesota Vikings have one thing they were searching over ten years for; stability across the offensive line, let alone just the tackles.

The Vikings have a fine top 6 offensive linemen on their roster, of course, with some question marks about the players between Darrisaw and O’Neill, but the entire thing can’t be perfect.

Either way, Minnesota has an elite tackle-duo that is going to lead this offense just as much as (if not more than) newly-extended Justin Jefferson into the future as they transition into the McCarthy era.