Back Darrisaw to Make Immediate Impact with Vikings

Back To ACC

Darrisaw to Make Immediate Impact with Vikings

By Dave Holcomb
SouthernPigskin.com
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin.  Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page

The Vikings are hopeful Christian Darrisaw can take the Minnesota offensive line to the next level.

Apparently Minnesota Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman really had one player in mind with his first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft -- Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw.

Considering his team’s recent history of poor blocking, especially in pass protection, it’s hard to blame him.

The Vikings traded back from No. 14 overall to 23rd Thursday night, and according to Pro Football Talk, tried to move up from No. 23 when the front office grew worried another team might draft Darrisaw.

"We were a little tight in the draft room [while waiting for other picks to be announced],” Spielman said. “Once we got down to about four or five picks, when we went down to 23, we did try to go back up because we wanted to try to make sure that we got Christian. We were unable to [move up]. Fortunately, we did not have to. We were able to keep our extra picks that we gained and still got the player that we coveted. So, it worked out very well for us."

It worked out well for Darrisaw as well. Darrisaw is a natural fit for Minnesota and has an opportunity to immediately start with the Vikings this fall.

Based on the depth charts at Ourlads.com, Darrisaw is already slated to start at left tackle. Minnesota cut its starting left tackle of the last four years, Riley Reiff, in March. Reiff, who ironically was also taken No. 23 overall in 2012 by the Detroit Lions, started 58 games for the Vikings from 2017-20.

He never made the Pro Bowl, but Reiff was a serviceable starter for Minnesota, especially last year when he committed just one penalty in 15 games.

The Vikings are hopeful Darrisaw can take the Minnesota offensive line to the next level. At 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds, along with 34 1/4-inch arms, Darrisaw is a massive man yet extremely athletic as well. He excels particularly at run blocking, but his skillset makes him a very intriguing prospect in pass protection as well.

“Darrisaw plays with plus body control. He has the initial quickness and smooth agility to get to any and all blocks in the run game,” wrote NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein.

“He’s flexible and loose in pass pro, with the foot quickness and hand strength to punch and close up shop on would-be edge rushers.”

The biggest weakness Zierlein acknowledged with Darrisaw was his lack of energy and playing “too nonchalant at times.” Even still, Darrisaw made First Team All-ACC, anchoring the left side of the Virginia Tech offensive line, which helped the Hokies lead the ACC in rushing yards per game in 2020. During the first week of October, he earned ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors after helping the Hokies rush for 324 yards against Duke.

Virginia Tech was also ranked inside the top five in the ACC in rushing yards during the 2019 season. As a sophomore, Darrisaw started all 13 games that season too.

The Vikings already have a strong running game, but after losing Reiff, Minnesota needed to address left tackle in order to keep creating running lanes for Dalvin Cook. In 2020, the Vikings were ranked fifth in rushing yards, fourth in yards per carry and sixth in rushing touchdowns.

But arguably even more importantly, Minnesota would also like to see its pass protection improve. Quarterback Kirk Cousins took 39 sacks in 2020, which was sixth-most in the NFL.

Pass protection has been a problem in Minnesota throughout Mike Zimmer’s tenure. With Cousins behind center over the last three seasons, opponents have sacked the Vikings quarterback 107 times in 47 games. That’s 2.27 sacks allowed per game, which is actually an improvement from what the Vikings offensive line was giving up in sacks before Cousins arrived.

Since Zimmer became head coach in 2014, Minnesota has allowed 2.39 sacks per game. The Vikings have yielded at least 38 sacks in five of the last seven seasons.

In the two seasons they allowed under 38 sacks, they won playoff games. During 2017, the Vikings yielded only 27 sacks and went to the NFC Championship Game. Two years later, Minnesota allowed 28 sacks and advanced to the NFC Divisional round.

So while drafting Darrisaw could be seen as a lateral move for the Vikings ground game, which was already elite, the Vikings sure would like Darrisaw to be part of the solution to the years-long problem they have experienced in pass protection.

Darrisaw will have the opportunity to prove he is that answer right away in August.