In the weeks and months leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft, nearly every draft expert and analyst had offensive line as a unit that was a high need for the Vikings.
Minnesota had three key young pieces in Brian O'Neill, Garrett Bradbury and Ezra Cleveland, but there was still work to be done elsewhere.
Left tackle Riley Reiff was released to clear salary cap space and signed with Cincinnati in free agency. Dakota Dozier re-signed with Minnesota but is looking to be moreconsistent than he was in 2020 as the starting left guard.
But now that the dust has settled from the draft, it now appears that Minnesota's offensive line should be much improved in 2021.
Seth Galina of analytics website Pro Football Focus recently unveiled his most improved position units from across the league, and it was the Vikings offensive line that landed in the top spot.
A perpetual, never-ending need for the Vikings was finding good players to play in front of Kirk Cousins to ease his pocket fears. They've cycled through so many below-average players in free agency or the draft over the past few seasons. And they went all-in again this year, selecting Virginia Tech tackle Christian Darrisaw and Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis.
The Vikings traded back from Pick 14 in Round 1 with the New York Jets to drop nine spots, adding Picks 66 and 86 while losing Pick 143, and still got their guy at Pick 23. Then, with Pick 86, they drafted Wyatt Davis. Both players have a great shot at starting in Week 1.
Galina noted Minnesota's ability to still get Darrisaw was a work of art. The left tackle, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds, started 10 games in 2020. He earned Second-Team All-American honors from The Associated Press and was a First-Team All-ACC selection.
Darrisaw was PFF's No. 3 -ranked tackle on the Big Board and the 15th-best player overall. That's how you win the draft. Darrisaw absolutely dominated the ACC in 2020, posting a ridiculous 95.6 PFF grade. He still needs to learn some technical aspects of pass blocking, but he's a bull in the run game and defenders find it hard to latch off him when he gets his paws on them.
Galina also opined that Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman hit a home run with Davis, a player many draft experts expected to go much earlier than the 86th pick.
In Wyatt Davis, the Vikings got a player who didn't have the greatest 2020 season, which is why he slipped to Pick 86. He was still the 61stoverall player on PFF's Big Board, so we like the value. There were some schematic issues with the Ohio State offensive line this past season, which led to blatant communication errors that Davis was a part of. That shouldn't be a concern at the next level. Davis can really block people. That's the main deal here. In one-on-one situations, he's as good as anyone; we just would have liked to see him bully people a little more in 2020. He was a great pick at that draft slot, nonetheless.
If the group of Darrisaw, Cleveland, Bradbury, Davis and O'Neill start at any point together this season, the entire group would consist of players who were drafted in the top 90 picks over the past four drafts.
Where are Vikings in post-draft power rankings?
With the 2021 NFL Draft in the books — and the 2021 schedule being released in a week — eyes are slowly starting to shift toward the upcoming season.
Spielman said Saturday that while the heavy lifting of roster additions are complete with free agency and the draft, there is always room to improve the roster.
"We'll get a feel for some of the guys that are currently on our roster," Spielman said. "Every day we continue to monitor what's out there. We'll be bringing guys in for workouts, and we'll continue to always upgrade our roster any way we can."
And with an eye on that 2021 season, a trio of football analysts recently released their post-draft power rankings.
Vinnie Iyer of Sporting News placed the Vikings in the 12th spot in his rankings, an impressive 10-spot rise from before the draft.
The Vikings got plenty of immediate help to shore up some disappointing weaknesses from last season and they also stashed a little for the future, both at quarterback and for their steady defensive rebuild. They look on track to bounce back as a Wild Card team.
The other analysts nearly had the Vikings landing in the same spot in their editions.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports positioned Minnesota at No. 16 in his power rankings.
The Vikings have had a good offseason re-stocking the roster. They're bigger on the offensive line — which they had to do — and they've added some nice pieces on defense. Mike Zimmer will have this team back in the playoff hunt.
Dan Hanzus of NFL.com also released his post-draft power rankings, slotting Minnesota in the 17th spot, the same position they were entering the draft in his post-free agency rankings.
Hanzus, who said quarterback Kirk Cousins will benefit from some new linemen around him, wrote:
We don't imagine [Cousins] will lose snaps to third-round pick Kellen Mond in 2021. In fact, this draft went quite well for Cousins, who witnessed a significant talent infusion at pass protection with the arrival of tackle Christian Darrisaw (23rd overall) and interior lineman Wyatt Davis (third round). Minnesota traded down in the first round, gaining a pair of third-round picks from the Jets to move back nine spots in the draft. Coming out of Thursday night with extra picks and a potential stud at tackle in Darrisaw counts as a big win.
View college action photos of every Vikings pick from the 2021 NFL Draft.
As for the rest of the NFC North, here is how they fared in the trio of rankings:
Green Bay: 4th (Prisco and Hanzus; 6th (Iyer).
Chicago: 18th (Iyer); 19th (Hanzus); 23rd (Prisco).
Detroit: 30th (Prisco); 31st (Iyer); 32nd (Hanzus).