Wyatt Davis Provides Hints About 2021 Offensive Line
On the first night of the 2021 NFL Draft, Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman scoffed at his 14th overall pick, trading the selection to the New York Jets (along with the 143rd overall pick) in exchange for the 23rd pick of the draft and two more 3rd-Rounders.
Spielman was long predicted to do just this — trade back in the draft to stockpile capital — so the move was not stunning to most. When announced, the haul irked some as many folks surmised that Spielman would splash into the 2nd Round — a place that has been kind to Spielman. Indeed, the Vikings have scooped Eric Kendricks, Dalvin Cook, Brian O’Neill, Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., and Ezra Cleveland out of the 2nd Round in recent years.
But not this year.
The plan sprawled into the draft’s later rounds, enabling Spielman to stack quantity rather than the “assured” quality he would find in Round 2. With the nine-spot slideback, Spielman drafted Christian Darrisaw, a left tackle from Virginia Tech, to replace Riley Reiff, who departed the franchise for Cincinnati in March. After that, Minnesota had two more picks to spend.
Spielman found a potential quarterback of the future in Kellen Mond from Texas A&M University and Wyatt Davis, a right guard from Ohio State. The trade spoils were championed by nearly all NFL pundits, indicating that Spielman, after all, had conducted a successful transaction via tradeback.
In the days immediately after the draft, hints suggested that the Vikings offensive line — after years of futility — was on the right track as the projected starting fivesome was now composed of all biologically-drafted personnel. Previous efforts often involved starting journeyman backup players like Dakota Dozier, resulting in varying degrees of success. The excitement presently lies in youth — all five players were drafted by the Vikings while none are hogging colossal sums of cap money.
The initial theory was that the offensive line would look like this:
(LT) Christian Darrisaw, (LG) Wyatt Davis, (C) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Ezra Cleveland, (RT) Brian O’Neill.
That hypothesis is still very much alive, but now the order must be tweaked — based on the comments of Wyatt Davis today to Minneapolis media.
It is still very early in the depth-chart projection sweepstakes, but Davis’ presser implies it is more likely that he is tapped as a right guard. That would create this OL:
(LT) Christian Darrisaw, (LG) Ezra Cleveland, (C) Garrett Bradbury, (RG) Wyatt Davis, (RT) Brian O’Neill.
And that makes sense. Cleveland effectuated a collegiate career at Boise State playing left tackle. Out of grim necessity in 2020, the Vikings flung him over to right guard when things really became pear-shaped. There, Cleveland performed with rookie prestige. He dropped a 66.5 Pro Football Focus grade during his first year, creating buzz to build for his sophomore efforts.
Those efforts appear to be slated for the left side of the line — a return-to-roots of sorts for Cleveland. Optimistically, this would prevent the quarterback’s entire blindside from brand new, rookie protection as Cleveland has one year of experience. Perhaps his minut bit of experience is a better fit alongside Darrisaw so that Cousins is not totally thrown to wolves in Week 1.
Get used to it. Based on the early prognosis [thanks to Davis’ words], it’s probably a more reasonable bet that Cleveland moves to left guard rather than remaining on the right side.