Dakota Dozier Slides into Vikings Early Starting Lineup Projection

Aug 18, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Dakota Dozier (78) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings opportunistically stumbled upon Wyatt Davis in the 2021 NFL Draft, a guard from Ohio State University, But he won’t necessarily start right away, at least according to Bleacher Report.

In an early projection for Minnesota’s starting lineup in 2021, Bleacher Report‘s Gary Davenport forecasts that Dakota Dozier, not Davis, will patrol the left guard spot for a while. He pegs the offense like this in Week 1:

  • QB Kirk Cousins
  • RB Dalvin Cook
  • WR1 Adam Thielen
  • WR2 Justin Jefferson
  • WR3 Chad Beebe
  • TE Irv Smith Jr.
  • LT Christian Darrisaw
  • LG Dakota Dozier
  • C Garrett Bradbury
  • RG Ezra Cleveland
  • RT Brian O’ Neill

For most Vikings brains, Dozier would be considered the only name really out of place in this hypothesis. The 30-year-old renewed with the Vikings at the end of March — a surprise move to the chagrin of most as Dozier encountered a rough 2020 season. Of all guards that qualified for ranking by Pro Football Focus per snaps played, Dozier scored as the league’s fourth-worst guard in 2020. He registered a grade of 44.6, which was only higher than Josh Andrews of the Atlanta Falcons, Trai Turner of the Los Angeles Chargers, and Shane Lemieux of the New York Giants for NFL guards.

Dozier’s primary malfunction was pass protection as the Furman alumnus posted a dreadfully low score of 36.8 in that regard. When Dozier re-signed with Minnesota about six weeks ago, fans were universally miffed.

His re-upping with the team occurred at a time when the Vikings had done little to fix the offensive line. At that point, trading the Arizona Cardinals for a center/guard named Mason Cole was the primary transaction aimed at revamping the line.

General Manager Rick Spielman had broader-spanning plans.

Inside the 2021 NFL Draft, the Vikings boss drafted Christian Darrisaw and the aforementioned Davis — cementing a long-term OL solution of (LT) Christian Darrisaw, (LG) Ezra Cleveland, (C) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Wyatt Davis, (RT) Brian O’Neill.

So, when Bleacher Report tossed Dozier back into the starting lineup instead of the Davis — things begin to feel a little iffy. Did they forget about Davis altogether? Or did Davenport simply surmise the Ohio State lineman isn’t ready? He doesn’t elaborate, stating this about the rest of the season outlook:

It’s do-or-die time in the Twin Cities. The Vikings entered the 2020 season as a Super Bowl contender in the eyes of some. They left it a 7-9 mess with a porous defense. And with a long-tenured head coach in Mike Zimmer who has a losing record in the postseason and a high-priced quarterback in Kirk Cousins who can’t seem to win the big game, the pressure to win in 2021 is substantial. Many of the defensive struggles may be alleviated just by players getting healthy. There were free agent additions in edge-rusher Stephen Weatherly, linebacker Nick Vigil and defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Xavier Woods. But the even bigger development may be the return of key contributors like Edge-rusher Danielle Hunter and linebacker Anthony Barr. Scoring points shouldn’t be an issue. Davin Cook has become one of the very best running backs in the entire league. Justin Jefferson broke the record for receiving yards by a rookie in 2020. And the offensive line got a sizable boost in this year’s draft when the Vikings snagged Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw at No. 23 overall. With the Chicago Bears breaking in a new quarterback, the Aaron Rodgers saga enveloping Green Bay and the Lions in the midst of being very Detroit, the opportunity is there for the Vikings to make a run this season. If they don’t, big changes are likely coming next offseason.

Head coach Mike Zimmer was asked about Davis and his prospect of starting in 2021. He replied: