The two most important picks the Vikings made in the 2021 NFL Draft, at least in terms of immediate impact, were Virginia Tech left tackle Christian Darrisaw in the first round and Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis in the third.
Why? Because this may have been the final push needed to turn Minnesota's offensive line — perennially one of the worst in the league and a massive weakness — into an above-average unit. For the fourth straight year, the Vikings spent premium draft capital on the big guys up front. This time, they used more than one top-100 pick to address that weakness.
Both Darrisaw at 23 and Davis at 86 feel like steals. These are two big, strong, athletic linemen who will significantly improve the Vikings' O-line right away. Darrisaw has a chance to be an instant upgrade from Riley Reiff, at least in run blocking, while Davis's ability to anchor on the interior could make him the best guard Minnesota has had in quite some time.
Seth Galina at Pro Football Focus ranked the seven most-improved team units in the NFL after the draft, and the Vikings' offensive line came in at No. 1. Here's what he had to say.
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. 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.
That has to be music to the ears of every Vikings fan out there. Too often in the Kirk Cousins era, talented offenses have been plagued by the struggles of the line, particularly the interior trio.
Now all of the pieces are in place. The Vikings have their five young homegrown starters. All that's left is to develop those players through the rest of their rookie contracts and see which ones are worth extending.
This is what I expect the Vikings' offensive line to look like in Week 1:
- Left tackle: Christian Darrisaw (Age: 22, Draft: 2021 Round 1)
- Left guard: Ezra Cleveland (Age: 23, Draft: 2020 Round 2)
- Center: Garrett Bradbury (Age: 26, Draft: 2019 Round 1)
- Right guard: Wyatt Davis (Age: 22, Draft: 2021 Round 3)
- Right tackle: Brian O'Neill (Age: 25, Draft: 2018 Round 2)
On paper, that group has a chance to be an above-average unit in 2021, which would be a monumental upgrade for the Vikings. Even being in the middle of the pack this fall and improving in coming years would be a welcome sight.
There are still some questions in pass protection here, especially with Cleveland and Bradbury, but this should be an incredible run-blocking line. Dalvin Cook is going to feast in 2021 if he stays healthy.
After four straight years of addressing the offensive line early in the draft, it's time to see what all of these pieces can look like together.
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