Evidently, Some Folks Believe Dakota Dozier Will Start at Left Guard

Sep 8, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings offensive guard Dakota Dozier (78) runs on to the field prior to a game against the Atlanta Falcons at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Ludeman-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings marshaled their most promising offensive line-centric draft in years back in April.

General Manager Rick Spielman traded his 14th and 143rd overall pick to the New York Jets for the 23rd pick and two additional 3rd-Rounders. The Jets selected guard Alijah Vera Tucker — who many draft heads thought would become a Viking — traded the 143rd pick while Minnesota snatched left tackle Christian Darrisaw with the 23rd pick plus quarterback Kellen Mond and guard Wyatt Davis to round out the trade.

Many onlookers to the draft were not immediately pleased that Spielman was “up to his old tricks” in trading back. But after the earth stopped smoldering, the haul of Darrisaw, Mond, and Davis was universally commended. Few draft minds foresaw a tumble by Darrisaw all the way to #23. However, it happened, and the Virginia Tech alumnus should be Minnesota’s blindside protector for at least five years.

As for Davis, well, he has the collegiate resume to start sooner than later — but not everybody is sold on the celerity of that notion. CBS Sports‘ Cody Benjamin forecasts Dakota Dozier — a struggle merchant in 2020 — as the Week 1 starter for the Vikings at the Cincinnati Bengals.

Benjamin commented on the Vikings offense with nary a mention of Dozier or Davis — almost as if it’s a foregone conclusion that Dozier would get the starting nod:

The Vikings’ offense looks largely the same since the last time Minnesota took the field, save for a major change at left tackle, where veteran Riley Reiff has been swapped for first-round draft pick Christian Darrisaw. Even if Darrisaw is just serviceable, he’ll replace Reiff adequately. Gone also is tight end Kyle Rudolph, who said goodbye after 10 seasons and gives way to Smith, who has flashed as a pass catcher and should be due for a breakout as a full-timer.

Dozier had a brutal campaign in 2020, which was the first season of his six-year career that the former Jet started more than four games in a single season. Per Pro Football Focus, he wound up as the NFL’s fourth-worst guard, tabulating a bottom-rung 44.6 grade. Only Josh Andrews (ATL), Trai Turner (LAC), and Shane Lemieux (NYG) scored lower during the pandemic season.

While every athlete is capable of a redemptive bounceback, Dozier’s pass protection was mortifying in 2020. His 36.7 PFF score via pass protection simply won’t cut it in 2021.

Indeed, Dozier starting once again is just one man’s opinion in this circumstance, but Bleacher Report slipped Dozier into the LG spot last month, too. Either these analysts glance at the 2020 depth chart, ignoring Dozier’s 2020 output — and slap him onto the hypothetical depth chart. Maybe they do not believe Wyatt Davis is ready for the bright lights.

If Dozier does start in 2021 and his early production is a flashback to 2020, pitchforks will pound living room floors. Vikings fans have limited patience for two football-related things: a) Kickers missing kicks b) Minnesota’s pass-protection blundering year in and year out.