Move Up, Down or Stand Pat; Vikings Have Offensive Line Options in 1st Round
The Minnesota Vikings desperately need to fill a couple of holes on their offensive line before the 2021 offseason is over and they’re running out of free agents and money to do it. That leaves one more opportunity for Rick Spielman to make the upgrades necessary at LT and LG (most likely) to keep Kirk Cousins alive and Dalvin Cook productive in 2021. The NFL Draft.
Luckily, this draft is stocked at offensive line. That includes FOUR offensive lineman that most experts agree are locks to go in the first round. Here is a table listing the top offensive linemen in this year’s draft (vertical) and where some of the most trusted draft experts in the business picked them to go (horizontal).
|Penei Sewell (OR)
|Rashawn Slater (NW)
|Alijah Vera-Tucker (USC)
|Christian Darrisaw (VT)
|Teven Jenkins (OKST)
|Samuel Cosmi (TX)
|Dillon Radunz (NDSU)
|Jackson Carman (CLEM)
|Alex Leatherwood (ALA)
|Jalen Mayfield (MICH)
|Landon Dickerson (ALA)
|Creed Humphrey (OK)
|Deonte Brown (ALA)
|Trey Smith (TENN)
The Big Three
Oregon’s Penei Sewell is at the top of most offensive line boards in this year’s draft… but he won’t be around at #14 and isn’t a very good scheme fit for the Vikings anyway. That’s not the case, however, for the other three bona fide first rounders listed above. Here are TheDraftNetwork.com profiles for Slater, Vera-Tucker and Darrisaw.
Rashawn Slater – T/G/C – Northwestern
Rashawn Slater is a scheme diverse and positional flexible prospect who should offer a little something to everyone depending on what specific needs and traits are prioritized for any given franchise. Slater, who opted out of the 2020 college season and has not played since the end of the 2019 campaign, is well regarded for his fundamentals and functional athleticism along the front. Slater manned the left tackle position for the Wildcats.
For teams that don’t prioritize certain measurable thresholds, he appears to be a viable candidate to do the same in the NFL—based specifically on his work against 2020 No. 2 overall pick Chase Young in pass protection. But Slater’s ceiling is likely lowest on the edge and the further into the heart of the line he transitions, the higher his potential is to become a perennial Pro Bowl player and potential All-Pro candidate in my eyes. Slater has tremendous cutoff abilities and clean, patient footwork working space and the necessary functional strength to hold his own on the interior. The position flexibility he offers ensures he can be a part of any NFL offensive line’s combination of best five players to start up front from Day 1.
Christian Darrisaw – LT – Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw earned the opportunity to start for the Hokies as a true freshman and did nothing but improve for three seasons, developing into a dominant blocker in 2020. From a size, length, and mobility standpoint, Darrisaw firmly checks the boxes and should immediately become an asset to an NFL franchise in pass protection, outside zone runs, and utilizing his exceptional ability to pull and connect with moving targets in space.
Like most young offensive linemen, Darrisaw has room to add functional strength to improve his overall power at the point of attack, but it’s far from a deficiency that is of major concern. The amount of technical growth Darrisaw has demonstrated throughout the course of his career is exciting when considering his starting point for the next level and how he peaked at the perfect time. It shouldn’t take long for Darrisaw to earn a starting role in the NFL and he has the upside to become a standout, franchise left tackle.
Alijah Vera-Tucker – G – USC
Alijah Vera-Tucker has aligned predominantly at left tackle this season for the Trojans offense. He has exceptional athleticism, as evidenced by his balance and body control in his pass set, is an easy mover who demonstrates his athleticism in the passing game, particularly in his kick slide and he plays with very good competitiveness when he is bull rushed. In the run game, he comes off the ball hard to strike and he excels by getting his body in favorable positions. He’s played this year at left tackle, affording him much more value due to his ability to play that position in a pinch at the next level.
We don’t know who Rick Spielman likes most of the three, but as far as scheme is concerned, any of Rashawn Slater, Alijah Vera-Tucker or Christian Darrisaw fit what Rick Dennison wants to do perfectly. They are light on their feet offensive lineman who can get out and block in the space created by a zone rushing scheme. Can the pass block? The Vikings don’t care.
Trade Up, Trade Down, Stand Pat?
Here is where things get interesting. How much do the Vikings like the three offensive lineman listed above? If Rick locks in on one of them, he might have to move up a few spots to get him. As you can see in the expert mocks above, none of Slater, Vera-Tucker or Darrisaw make it to the #14 pick in consensus fashion. At the same time, if Rick likes all three of them, he’ll probably have at least one leftover at #14. He just won’t get his pick of the litter.
Moving back is clearly an option too. Between the five NFL Draft experts above, 14 offensive linemen made it into the first round, in some capacity. Minnesota enters the draft without a second round pick. If a run of offensive linemen starts without the Vikings, trading back into the 20’s could net them another lineman they like, while gaining back another mid-round pick for later.
Avoiding OL in 1st Round
If the Minnesota Vikings ignore the offensive line all together in the 1st round later this month, there are fans out there who will boycott. I was one of them. After ignoring OL all of free agency, ignoring it when the draft starts seems unwise. But, Arif Hasan (The Athletic) flipped me with an article he wrote last weekend on that exact topic.
If Minnesota goes outside of offensive line with their first round pick, it’s because the skill position player they took was too much of a gamechanger to pass up. If that happens, there are ways to fill offensive line holes in the 2nd and 3rd round… but you’re playing Russian Roulette, at that point.
Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan