Sam Ekstrom contributed to this report.
The Minnesota Vikings have selected center Pat Elflein from Ohio State after trading up with the New York Jets from pick 79 to pick 70, giving up a fifth-round pick (120) in the process. They met with him at the NFL Combine and brought him to Minnesota for their Top 30 event.
Elflein can play either guard or center for the Vikings, and the Vikings have a notable immediate need at the right guard position, having secured both tackle spots in free agency this year and the left guard position in free agency the year prior. For now, Joe Berger is the presumed starter at center for the season, but there’s a good chance that Elflein could be the long-term solution at center.
Elflein said via conference call he believes he can play right away, wherever the Vikings choose to play him. “I feel more natural at guard just because I’ve played there longer,” he said. “I’ve played guard for four years and center for one, but I feel like I can go in and do either at a high level.”
Though small for a guard, his technical skill and strength make him an ideal offensive lineman. His awareness might be his greatest strength, and he’s excellent at both blitz identification before the snap and post-snap adjustments to stunts and delayed rushers.
Nolan Nawrocki notes that Elflein has been considered “one of the best leaders in the history of the program” at Ohio State, as lofty a compliment as one can give.
While Elflein said he intends on keeping quiet and learning from the Vikings’ veterans, one of his biggest influences this offseason has been Vikings left guard and Ohio State alum Alex Boone, one of the team’s most vocal leaders. “What a guy that is,” said Elflein, “a leader, a natural leader, a great football player and a great mentor to me. You can kind of tell he was a veteran the first day I walked in. The guy has so much knowledge of the game and has already given me a bunch of information in what this whole process is about and the whole NFL in general, so he’s been great to me so far.”
Elflein’s quick hands, leverage and attitude make him an exceptional run-blocker despite his limited lower-body explosion. He worked well as a puller when he played guard for two years at Ohio State, though his athleticism will inhibit his ability to be an enormous asset at the second level.
Elflein has been considered “one of the best leaders in the history of the program”
His PFF numbers aren’t great; he’s at the bottom in terms of sacks and pressures given up, but despite that is considered in asset in pass protection by film scouts because of his improvement over the course of the year as he adapted to common counter-moves.
His pass protection will require work, especially as he improves his punch aiming and timing. His biggest issues have involved a tendency to lunge, but he does sometimes make up for it with his general fluidity in recovery as well as his general upper-body power.
If nothing else, his ability to pick up the nuances of the position, especially with regards to his handwork in run-blocking as well as his general attitude, should make him an asset along the offensive line.