It’s ‘Do or Die’ Time for Pat Elflein
In 2017, Pat Elflein was a third-round pick for the Minnesota Vikings, out of Ohio State University. He was awarded the Rimington Trophy as College Football’s Best Center, in his fifth and final season as a Buckeye. Some scouts had Elflein as the best available at that position.
Heading into the 2017 draft, Elflein was ranked #80 on Jeff Legwold’s (ESPN.com) big board. Getting the Pickerington, Ohio native at number 70 was considered a homerun pick, according to Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke.
“A doozy of a find in Round 3, and well worth trading up from No. 79 to get him. Elflein was the best center in this draft, and I think he can be Minnesota’s man in the middle for years to come,” said Burke.
Pat was indeed the man in the middle for the Viking,s in his rookie season. He started 14 games and was a key cog for the NFC runners-up. In the title game, however, he injured his ankle in the third quarter and was forced to miss the first four games of his 2nd season.
Elflein played in 863 snaps during Kirk Cousins’ first year under center for the Vikings, which was 36th among all guards/centers (according to Pro Football Focus). Among those 863 snaps, Elflein had seven penalties (T-4th highest) and gave up four sacks, which was tied for second most among all guards and centers.
Pat Elflein was a big part of the issues on the offensive line, which ranked as the 29th best pass blocking unit in football (PFF), in 2018. As a unit, the Vikings gave up 226 pressures, which was the most in pro football.
The struggles from 2018, resulted in Vikings general manager Rick Spielman picking up Garrett Bradbury in the 2019 draft, who also won the Rimington Trophy in his final season at North Carolina State University. That forced Elflein to move back to guard, where he had a final grade of 64.8, allowed six sacks and had eight penalties in 2019….
It may have been a result of the system, under the tutelage of Gary Kubiak, but the Vikings were rated the 19th best NFL offensive line in 2019… much due to their success in the run game.
After releasing Josh Kline, who was the starting right guard a season ago, it would be logical for the Vikings to slide Elflein over to the right side and push Riley Reiff to left guard. Reiff hasn’t played LG in the NFL, but did play the position in a handful of games at the University of Iowa.
Second year man, Dru Samia, could be the wrench in Pat Elflein’s plans. The Vikings absolutely love Samia. Don’t forget about Ezra Cleveland, who could start as early as week one, at left tackle. Should that be the case, the Vikings have four of their five OL spots secured, leaving one spot up for grabs; left guard.
Rick Spielman said he feels good about the Vikings’ offensive line, adding that the team is still high on Dru Samia. It seems like Samia has a good shot to win one of the starting guard jobs.— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) April 26, 2020
Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State:— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) March 3, 2020
• Testing athleticism matches up
• Patient + Poised pass sets (++)
• Calculated second level climbs
• Efficient punch w/either hand
• Above average anchor strength (+)
• Excellent zone-scheme fit
• Trial and error early NFL starter pic.twitter.com/Ol8OZbXGeJ
Whether it’s a battle with Dru Samia or Riley Reiff is pushed inside by Ezra Cleveland, Pat Elflein will have to fight just to play on the 2020 Vikings offensive line… but Samia hasn’t proven he belongs yet and the Vikings might decide to cut Reiff (if Elflein can prove capable), which would save the Vikings $8.8 million dollars in cap space.
Time is running out for Elflein to prove himself worthy of a spot on a young and (hopefully) promising offensive line. No matter which way you slice it, this offseason will be the one where Elflein could make or break his career.
Hunter Plante | Minnesota Sports Fan