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Lunchbreak: Baldinger Lists Elflein as Top 10 Rookie from 2017 Season

Posted Mar 20, 2018

It was almost a year ago that the Vikings used a third-round pick on Ohio State center Pat Elflein.

It turns out that selection at No. 70 overall might have been a steal.

Brian Baldinger of NFL.com recently released a list of his top 10 rookies from the 2017 season and included film review on each player. 

Baldinger slotted Elflein at the ninth-best rookie from last season, and had the center as one of two offensive linemen on his list.  Jacksonville left tackle Cam Robinson, the 34th overall pick, also was included.

Baldinger highlighted a play from Elflein in Minnesota’s Week 15 win over the Bengals. With the Vikings facing third-and-3 from Cincinnati’s 26-yard line, Elflein provided solid protection to allow Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen to move the chains with a 21-yard catch.

Baldinger noted:

“His ability to handle interior pass rushers like Geno Atkins of Cincinnati, and then to be able to pass stunts, brought stability to the interior of this offensive line so that Case Keenum had good pockets to go behind,” Baldinger said of Elflein. “He passes his stunt and picks up [Carlos] Dunlap. Looked at the cupped protection that Case Keenum has to throw behind to find Adam Thielen streaking across the middle of the field. He [gave] Case Keenum a pocket and Latavius Murray running lanes … he brought stability to the offensive line of the Vikings.”

Elflein helped Murray finish off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run as the Vikings went on to clinch the NFC North.

Elflein started 14 regular-season games and a pair of playoff games for the Vikings in his rookie season. He was named to the PFWA All-Rookie Team and helped the Vikings go 13-3 and win the NFC North while reaching the NFC title game.

Cronin: Vikings could focus on offensive line in draft

The Vikings made a pair of splashy moves in the first week of free agency by adding quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.

And while the Vikings could continue to be active in free agency, ESPN writer Courtney Cronin said Minnesota could wait until the draft to add another impact piece.

Cronin recently wrote that Minnesota’s top remaining need is on the offensive line, where the Vikings could look to land a player in the draft who had the same impact that Elflein did in 2017.

Cronin wrote:

Minnesota checked off its top three offseason priorities by hiring a new offensive coordinator in February and then signing a quarterback and 3-technique defensive tackle in the first wave of free agency. The Vikings now aim to shore up the offensive line and look into nickel corners. The general sense is that Minnesota may have to wait until the April draft to address these needs because of what it spent on Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson. Selecting a plug-and-play guard with the 30th overall pick would be significantly easier than finding a reliable slot corner who can fill in from Day 1 should Terence Newman retire or not wind up back with the Vikings in 2018. 

The Vikings had eight different linemen start at least one game in 2017, when Minnesota’s offense ranked 11th overall in yards per game (356.9).