As we count down the days until the Vikings' opener against the Packers on September 13th, InsideTheVikings will be previewing every single player on the roster. The amount of days remaining corresponds with the jersey number of the player being examined on that day. Today is June 27th, and there are 78 days until kickoff for the 2020 regular season. That means it's time to start our look at the Vikings' offensive linemen.
Countdown to Vikings-Packers on September 13th: 78 Days
Player Preview: Dakota Dozier (No. 78, Guard)
- College: Furman
- Drafted: 2014 fourth round (137th overall)
- NFL experience: Six years (2020 will be his seventh season)
- Age: 29 (Birthday was in April)
- Size: 6'4", 312
- 2019 PFF Grade: 51.5
- Notable 2019 stats: N/A
On paper, Dakota Dozier could be in the mix for a starting spot during the 2020 season. Rick Spielman has said that he expects "open competition" at both guard spots after the struggles of Pat Elflein and the release of Josh Kline. Elflein and 2019 fourth-rounder Dru Samia are the presumptive starters at guard, but Dozier's experience could make him a factor as well.
However, the reality is this: in order to win a starting job or even make the team as a key backup, Dozier will have to play a lot better than he did last season. The former New York Jet posted the second-worst PFF grade of any player on the Vikings roster last season (min. 150 snaps), ahead of only defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. For all the criticism given to Elflein and Garrett Bradbury, Dozier graded out worse than both.
A native of South Carolina, Dozier starred in football and wrestling in high school. But without much recruiting attention, he attended local FCS school Furman University. Dozier started 44 games at left tackle in his career, and was a two-time FCS All-American.
Dozier moved to guard in the NFL when he was drafted by the Jets in the fourth round in 2014. He played in 38 games over five years with the Jets, including seven starts, but never established himself as more than a depth piece on the interior of New York's offensive line.
In 2019, Dozier signed with the Vikings and saw the most playing time of his career. He played in all 16 games, starting four of them, and played 362 offensive snaps in total. But as mentioned earlier, he was not particularly effective in those snaps. Dozier had a few nice moments, including a key block on Dalvin Cook's 75-yard touchdown run against the Packers in Week 2, but for the most part was mediocre throughout the season. His 47.4 pass-blocking grade was better than just Elflein and Bradbury, but while both of those players had much better run-blocking grades, Dozier's was just 51.4.
Despite his struggles, the Vikings re-signed Dozier to a one-year, veteran minimum deal this offseason, likely due to his experience. He'll compete with players like Elflein, Samia, Aviante Collins, and a host of rookies for snaps at the two guard spots. But if Dozier's play doesn't improve during training camp, he may end up getting waived in favor of younger options. He doesn't have the athleticism the Vikings seem to be looking for in their offensive linemen, so he could end up going the way of Kline.
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