PFF Lauds Vikings for OL Transformation

Rick Dennison
Image Courtesy of Star Tribune.

One week ago, articles like this and podcasts yonder spent ample time stating that the Vikings approach to the offensive line this offseason was diseased.

Dakota Dozier was feared to start again, Dru Samia was still on the roster, and Mason Cole from the Arizona Cardinals was perceived as general manager Rick Spielman’s “one big move” for the offensive line.

We were not patient enough.

Spielman traded back nine places on Thursday night, finessing a deal with the New York Jets for three draft picks. Indeed, the Vikings sent their 14th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and their 143rd pick to the Jets for the 23rd overall pick, the 66th overall pick, and an additional 3rd-Rounder.

Per draft spoils, the deal is this in terms of personnel:

Jets Receive:

  • Alijah Vera-Tucker
  • The 143rd Pick (traded to Raiders)

Vikings Receive:

  • Christian Darrisaw
  • Kellen Mond
  • Wyatt Davis

And voila, the Vikings have a young, new offensive line. The prospective horrors of Dozier and/or Samia utilized as the solution this September can be fully silenced. Those two men will return to reservist roles.

For the most part, Vikings loyalists are excited about the new-look offensive trenches. Success upfront has long evaded the Vikings, causing an undying talking point of “Minnesota never fixes this damn o-line.” Those reservations should now dwindle to faint murmurs.

Pro Football Focus even agrees. Seth Galina at PFF authored a piece called 2021 NFL Draft: Most and Least Improved Team Position Units. At the top of Galina’s “rankings” for most improved units was the Vikings offensive line:

A perpetual, never-ending need for the Vikings was finding good players to play in front of Kirk Cousins to ease his pocket fears. They’ve cycled through so many below-average players in free agency or the draft over the past few seasons. And they went all-in again this year, selecting Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw and Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis. The Vikings traded back from Pick 14 in Round 1 with the New York Jets to drop nine spots, adding Picks 66 and 86 while losing Pick 143, and still got their guy at Pick 23. Then, with Pick 86, they drafted Wyatt Davis. Both players have a great shot at starting in Week 1. Darrisaw was PFF’s No. 3 -ranked tackle on the Big Board and the 15th-best player overall. That’s how you win the draft. Darrisaw absolutely dominated the ACC in 2020, posting a ridiculous 95.6 PFF grade. He still needs to learn some technical aspects of pass blocking, but he’s a bull in the run game and defenders find it hard to latch off him when he gets his paws on them. In Wyatt Davis, the Vikings got a player who didn’t have the greatest 2020 season, which is why he slipped to Pick 86. He was still the 61st overall player on PFF’s  Big Board, so we like the value. There were some schematic issues with the Ohio State offensive line this past season, which led to blatant communication errors that Davis was a part of. That shouldn’t be a concern at the next level. Davis can really block people. That’s the main deal here. In one-on-one situations, he’s as good as anyone; we just would have liked to see him bully people a little more in 2020. He was a great pick at that draft slot, nonetheless.

Let’s be clear — Minnesota never makes positive lists for offensive line anything. As in, ever. The pass-protecting facet of the group has suffered for years. When the team is bemoaned (that happens a lot), the offensive line is usually one of the first parts of the depth chart to lambast.

However, much like the Cleveland Browns secondary, the Buffalo Bills defensive line, or the Baltimore Ravens wide receivers, the Vikings have new hope, according to PFF.

The only requirement now is that aforementioned Darrisaw and Davis avoid any type of “bust” labeling.

Otherwise, the Vikings have one of the youngest and most homegrown offensive lines in the industry. Whooda thunk it?