Vikings

Is Minnesota's Offensive Line Finally Complete?

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Becker (USA TODAY Sports)

The Minnesota Vikings entered the draft intending to fill out the offensive line. That much was obvious. But does that mean it is in its final form for next season, or are there still moves to be made before their debut in September?

To get an idea of what this year’s line will look like, let’s look at the players they trotted out last year: Riley Reiff, Dakota Dozier, Garrett Bradbury, Ezra Cleveland, and Brian O’Neill.

On paper, that doesn’t look too bad.

But as Vikings fans know, the line was incredibly disappointing, especially after years of investing Day 1 and 2 draft picks on it. Dozier was the worst-rated guard to play 16 games last year. Bradbury has yet to live up to being taken 18th overall two years ago. And Cleveland was a rookie who only started nine games. Safe to say, the line was anything but consistent.

And Minnesota’s best pass-blocker last season, Reiff, signed with the Cincinnati Bengals this offseason.

Cleveland was surprisingly good for a third-round rookie tackle who the Vikings converted to guard, and O’Neill is one of the most promising young linemen in the NFL. It’s not a bad core to work with heading into next season, but the problem is that they entered the offseason having to fill three of the five positions.

So, did the Vikings address all of their offensive line issues for next year?

Well, Minnesota’s o-line is the most improved team position unit from the 2021 NFL Draft, according to PFF.

It didn’t come cheap, though.

Rick Spielman reportedly gave up a chance at Justin Fields and perhaps the best guard in the draft to trade back and get enough capital for the two incoming rookie offensive linemen.

First-round rookie Christian Darrisaw is slated to be a starter right away, and many scouting reports back this up. It’s no surprise the Vikings targeted an o-lineman who can start right away, but I don’t think many people thought that would be available after trading down in the first round.

After swapping first-rounders with the New York Jets, I thought Spielman was out of his mind, especially after the Jets used Minnesota’s pick to grab Alijah Vera-Tucker, who may be the best guard in the entire draft. But it was well worth the trade back in the first round.

The trade with New York netted them the 24th, 66th, and 86th picks. They took Darrisaw with 24. The 66th pick was used on Kellen Mond, and they picked up Wyatt Davis at 86 — a very good value pick. PFF had him as the 61st-best player on their big board.

Like Darrisaw, the Vikings should be able to play Davis right away. He may not become a Hall of Famer, but Minnesota really just needs someone competent next to Bradbury. The addition of Davis should help elevate Bradbury’s play and accelerate Cleveland’s development. Some of the issues Bradbury was seeing had to do with poor guard play around him. Ideally, he will play better with better players around him

For this all to work, Mike Zimmer will have to be willing to play his rookie o-linemen. This shouldn’t be much of an issue: The offensive line is in desperate need of an upgrade, and Zimmer is more fixated on the defense. Plus, while Justin Jefferson didn’t break out until Week 3, he was in the game plan immediately last season. Perhaps Darrisaw and Davis will be too.

It won’t be the prettiest line in Week 1, but after just a few games to gain familiarity with NFL speed, the offensive line should be significantly better than last season.

I think they will go with Darrisaw, Cleveland, Bradbury, Davis, and O’Neill. Cleveland played left tackle in college, so converting him to a left guard will benefit him since he played at right guard last year. And Davis and Darrisaw should both be able to earn starting reps if league scouts were right about them.

Their new starting five looks like a significant upgrade — hopefully, this time, they deliver.

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