EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings moved down in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday night and still got the player they wanted in Christian Darrisaw.
The Virginia Tech tackle was widely-viewed as a top-15 pick entering the draft, but draft analysts loved the fact that Minnesota was still able to get him in the bottom-third of the first round.
Like, draft experts really loved the move, as there was widespread praise for Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman and Minnesota's staff in the first-round aftermath.
CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapasso was a major fan of Minnesota's first round, as he gave the Vikings an 'A+ grade' on Twitter for how things unfolded Thursday night.
Chad Reuter of NFL.com also gave the Vikings his highest possible grade.
One of the least surprising moments of the first round was the Vikings trading out of the 14th overall spot once the Chargers selected Rashawn Slater at No. 13. Acquiring two third-round picks from the Jets (and sending back a fourth-rounder) to move down nine selections was clearly the right move, and looked even better when they found the left tackle they needed in Darrisaw at 23. Scouts did not like his inconsistency finishing plays, but he has the athleticism and strength to make it at the next level. His potential as a long-time starter at left tackle makes him a perfect fit for the Vikings.
Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News and Pete Prisco of CBS Sports also praised the move, as both handed out an 'A grade' for the Purple.
The Vikings pull off another draft coup with Rick Spielman, managing to still land the rock of a left tackle they needed for their style of offensive line after trading back nine spots. … This pick is a home run, much like Justin Jefferson around the same spot in 2020.
And Prisco said he believes Darrisaw was the best overall tackle prospect in the draft.
I love this pick. I believe he will be the best tackle in the draft. It fills a need in a big way.
Finally, the folks at analytics website Pro Focus Focus lauded the Vikings with an 'elite' grade for getting Darrisaw and also picking up extra draft capital.
Trading back from No. 14 and still securing Christian Darrisaw — a top-15 prospect on PFF's Big Board — is a massive win for Minnesota. Darrisaw is fresh off a season in which he recorded the second-best single-season PFF grade by a Power Five offensive tackle in the PFF College era. He oozes power and plays with the physicality that NFL scouts and coaches dream of.
Darrisaw, a junior who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds, started 10 games for Virginia Tech and didn't allow a sack in 2020. He earned Second-Team All-America honors from The Associated Press and was a First-Team All-ACC selection.
View photos of Christian Darrisaw being announced as the 23rd overall pick at the NFL Draft in Cleveland, Ohio.
Cronin analyzes Vikings offensive line after Round 1
ESPN Vikings reporter Courtney Cronin also offered her analysis of Darrisaw — and where he fits into Minnesota's offensive line — after the first round.
She noted that Darrisaw is the ideal fit for what the Vikings are looking for in an offensive lineman for their offensive scheme.
Minnesota needed to address the offensive line early in the draft with a player who can contribute immediately for a unit that allowed 39 sacks last season. Darrisaw is a "pure left tackle," according to General Manager Rick Spielman, and his physical skills and fit in a zone-blocking scheme make him a strong candidate to fill the void at left tackle in 2021. The Vikings felt like they needed not just an athletic blocker but someone with the size to handle speed rushers and powerful defensive linemen. Darrisaw's 6-foot-5, 322-pound frame, coupled with his length, is what Minnesota was looking for.
As for how Darrisaw fits into the Vikings offensive line, Cronin opined that she believes the Virginia Tech product will fill the spot at left tackle vacated by Riley Reiff, a move that likely would keep 2020 second-rounder Ezra Cleveland at right guard.
It appears the Vikings have four of five positions set on the offensive line with Darrisaw penciled in at left tackle and Brian O'Neill staying at right tackle, according to Coach Mike Zimmer. The biggest question on the O-line this offseason has been where Ezra Cleveland will play in 2021 after he was drafted in the second round last year after three seasons playing left tackle at Boise State. The Vikings still need to find a starting left guard, a spot they could address on Day 2. But for now, a few questions seem to be closer to being answered with the selection of Darrisaw.
The four presumed starters — Darrisaw, center Garrett Bradbury, Cleveland and O'Neill — were all drafted in the first two rounds over the past four years.
Potential Day 2 fits for Vikings in 2021 NFL Draft
The Vikings now enter Day 2 of the draft with four third-round picks in Nos. 66, 78, 86 and 90. Minnesota has 10 overall selections left over six rounds.
The quartet of selections gives Spielman and the Vikings plenty of flexibility to move up into Round 2 if a trade materializes.
But who is still out there that could potentially land in Purple?
NFL Media draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah's pre-draft list of top prospects has been whittled down by 32 selections, but there is still plenty of top talent left on the board, including 19 players with overall ranks in Jeremiah's Top 50
Here are some names to watch from Jeremiah's list that could be of interest to Minnesota.
Notre Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is a versatile playmaker at linebacker and was ranked 15th overall.
Owusu-Koramoah starred as an athletic hybrid defender for the Fighting Irish. He can play Will linebacker, safety or even cover in the slot. He's very fluid and twitchy to mirror tight ends, backs or slot receivers. He's very aware as a zone dropper and he's an explosive blitzer off the edge. He is quick to key/read before dipping under blocks on the front side against the run. He flashes the ability to use his length to punch off blockers, but he is much more effective beating them to spots. He has big-time speed to chase from the back side. He needs to improve his consistency as a tackler in space, though, as he has too many fly-by misses. He brings outstanding leadership to the defense. Overall, Owusu-Koramoah might lack ideal size/bulk, but he's built for a pass-happy NFL.
The consensus No. 1 safety prospect — TCU's Trevon Moehrig — is also still on the board. Jeremiah ranked him 16th overall.
Moehrig has adequate size, but excellent versatility and instincts. He can play in the deep post or cover in the slot. He is a smooth, fluid mover in man coverage underneath. He also possesses ideal anticipation and range from the back end. He has the ability to consistently match patterns and position himself for plays on the ball. The former TCU star does need to improve his finishing ability, having dropped a couple interceptions in the games I studied. He takes quality angles in run support and is a reliable, low tackler. Overall, Moehrig offers a complete skill set at the position. He will provide his defensive coordinator with options, which is exactly what's desired in 2021.
And offensively, Mississippi wide receiver Elijah Moore was ranked 26th overall. He could be a possible depth piece/provide a wild card element for the Vikings.
Moore is an undersized wideout with outstanding versatility, quickness and toughness. He has experience lining up outside, in the slot and in the backfield. He has excellent quickness in his release and is clean/crisp at the top of routes. He gets a lot of quick hitters, and he's very elusive after the catch. He also makes some huge plays over the top, tracking the ball naturally and showing reliable hands. He is effective when used as a runner out of the backfield, too. He hits the hole full-go and can make defenders miss. Overall, Moore lacks size, but he'll be a stud in the slot and can also help in the return game.
Jeremiah's full list of the best remaining prospects available can be found here.
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