For the first time since 2017, the Vikings have cracked the top 20 of Pro Football Focus's preseason offensive line rankings. Pop the champagne.
The Vikings check in at 19th in this year's rankings. That's still in the bottom half of the 32-team league, but given how much of a weakness that unit has been in Minnesota for the past several years, ranking 19th feels like a minor miracle.
Here's where the Vikings have ranked over the previous five years:
- 2021: 27th
- 2020: 23rd
- 2019: 25th
- 2018: 28th
- 2017: 14th
Interestingly, PFF projects second-round rookie Ed Ingram to start at right guard, ahead of veterans Chris Reed and Jesse Davis. Ingram joins right tackle Brian O'Neill, center Garrett Bradbury, left guard Ezra Cleveland, and left tackle Christian Darrisaw. If that is indeed the Vikings' starting offensive line, it will be made up entirely of first and second-round picks from the past five NFL drafts. Everyone but O'Neill — the longest-tenured and best player on the line — is still on their rookie contract.
- LT: Christian Darrisaw (Rd. 1, Pick 23, 2021)
- LG: Ezra Cleveland (Rd. 2, Pick 58, 2020)
- C: Garrett Bradbury (Rd. 1, Pick 18, 2019)
- RG: Ed Ingram* (Rd. 2, Pick 59, 2022)
- RT: Brian O'Neill (Rd. 2, Pick 62, 2018)
*Ingram still has a lot of work to do in training camp to beat out Reed and Davis.
"This could sneakily be the best offensive line of quarterback Kirk Cousins' Vikings career," wrote PFF's Mike Renner. "Much of that, though, comes down to the development of the team's 2021 first-round pick, Christian Darrisaw. Darrisaw earned a 71.9 overall grade on 652 snaps last season and got stronger as the campaign wore on."
Former Vikings GM Rick Spielman poured consistent draft resources into the offensive line from 2018-2021, and that approach may pay off with a line that could be in the middle of the pack this year, or perhaps even better.
O'Neill is a star at right tackle and is under contract through 2026 after signing a five-year, $92.5 million extension last year. Darrisaw showed a lot of promise at left tackle as a rookie, and this is a big year for him to potentially take a step forward and establish himself as a budding star. The same goes for third-year left guard Ezra Cleveland, who the Vikings are expecting big things from.
The question marks are at center — where Bradbury is bulking up in an effort to finally become competent in pass protection — and right guard. But the Vikings have more interior depth than in years past due to the offseason additions of Reed, Jesse Davis, Ingram, and Austin Schlottmann. 2021 third-rounder Wyatt Davis is still around too, although he's not even guaranteed a roster spot this year under a new regime.
The big thing for the Vikings is that they don't have a clear, blatant weak link like Dakota Dozier, Oli Udoh, Pat Elflein, or Tom Compton projected to start this year. They've upgraded at the guard position and appear to be set at the tackle position for a long time. If Darrisaw and Cleveland continue their growth, Bradbury's pass protection woes can be slightly improved or mitigated, and a strong starter emerges from the competition at RG, this offensive line could be even better than 19th-best in the NFL.
That's far from a sure thing, of course. But heading into the 2022 season, the Vikings' offensive line looks to be in the best shape it's been in since the 2017 NFC championship game season.
Also of note: the Vikings are 12th in PFF's defensive line rankings (feels about right with Danielle Hunter and Za'Darius Smith's health being such major factors) and 15th in PFF's wide receiving corps rankings (feels a bit low).
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