The Minnesota Vikings have selected Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw with the No. 23 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The trade back from 14 worked. The Vikings get a player they would've considered taking at 14 and picked up two additional third-round picks in the process. Rick Spielman took a risk and it paid off.
The offensive line was Minnesota's biggest need after releasing left tackle Riley Reiff this offseason, and now they've added one of the most talented linemen in this year's draft to replace Reiff. This is the fourth straight year in which the Vikings have used a pick in the top two rounds on an offensive lineman; they drafted right tackle Brian O'Neill in the second round in 2018, center Garrett Bradbury in the first in 2019, and tackle/guard Ezra Cleveland in the second one year ago.
Add Darrisaw to that group. O'Neill has become an excellent player, Cleveland showed flashes at right guard as a rookie, and Bradbury is a great run-blocker, even if he needs to improve in pass protection. The Vikings now have four highly athletic top picks up front, with another offensive lineman potentially coming later in the draft to compete for the other guard spot.
Darrisaw is a mauler of a left tackle who will likely start from day one. He possesses great size and length at 6'5", 314 pounds with 34.25-inch arms, to go along with impressive footwork and strength. Darrisaw is consistently in control and has an outstanding punch with his hands. He started 35 games for the Hokies over the past three years, making the All-ACC first team last season as a junior after not allowing a single sack. The only concern with Darrisaw's game is that he has showed a lack of a killer instinct as a finisher at times, but his work ethic and toughness aren't in question.
Darrisaw is coming off of a core muscle injury — he had sports hernia surgery in January — but is reportedly doing well in his recovery.
This pick allows Cleveland to remain at right guard, where he spent his rookie season. If Darrisaw isn't ready to start immediately, Rashod Hill could be a bridge on Kirk Cousins' blind side to begin the 2021 season, but I'd bet Darrisaw starts Week 1.
Here's what the Vikings' offensive line will likely look like in 2021:
- Left tackle: Darrisaw
- Left guard: TBD (Mason Cole, draft pick, or free agent)
- Center: Bradbury
- Right guard: Cleveland
- Right tackle: O'Neill
Here's a more thorough scouting report on Darrisaw from the folks at SI's NFL Draft Bible:
Perhaps the biggest breakout star in the 2021 tackle group, Darrisaw has the makings of a bookend left tackle for the next decade on the next level. Blessed with outstanding length and movement skills, Darrisaw saw a huge bump in his play in 2021, developing into a rock-solid first-round option for a tackle needy team. Darrisaw is an exceptionally smooth mover, showing great ability in the inside-outside zone heavy scheme the Hokies deployed. Working with left guard Lecitus Smith, Darrisaw exceled on combo blocks, routinely gaining leverage and working up to the second level. There is a nasty streak to him, putting a lot of opposing defenders on the ground. In pass protection, Darrisaw is an easy setter, getting to the top of the track without oversetting. He exhibits outstanding patience to stay balanced and firm in pass protection. Despite just average height for the position, Darrisaw has long arms that he is able to gain extension in both the run and pass game. While a smooth mover, Darrisaw isn’t the most explosive athlete working up to the second level. There is some evidence of missed assignments when he does not take proper angles working in the run game. While 2020 was a huge bump for Darrisaw, his 2019 film was very up and down. Consistency has been a question mark for him even in spurts during the 2020 season. Darrisaw looks to have turned a corner. With his combination of athleticism, patience, nasty demeanor and length, this first-round tackle has a chance to man the blind side on the NFL level for the next decade.
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