B/W Case: Christian Darrisaw Needs to be Steady
If the Vikings offense falters this season, it’ll likely be because the o-line struggles. True, it’s entirely plausible that there’s a major injury, or perhaps Kirk Cousins not only fails to elevate but actually descends into the doldrums of prolonged QB mediocrity. The o-line, though, certainly seems like the primary weak spot. Right or wrong, the Vikings have essentially guaranteed that rookie LT Christian Darrisaw will have a prominent role in the 2021 season.
Darrisaw’s Best Case
Ideally, Darrisaw begins by clearly and definitively winning the LT competition in camp.
Rashod Hill is no joke. He’s a veteran tackle who is well-respected in Minnesota. There’s a reason why the team continues to prioritize him in the offseason. Before joining the Vikings, Hill was in Jacksonville. He has since spent five years in Minnesota, providing quality depth. He currently accounts for just over a million on the salary cap, and his recent PFF grades have been solid. He played 121 snaps on offense last season, finishing with a 72.4 grade (that score would be 37th-best last year among starting tackles). Obviously, there’s a difference between performing well in limited opportunity and doing so for an extended amount of time, but we can reasonably conclude that Hill is rock-solid.
For the 2021 season to be a success, though, we’ll need Christian Darrisaw to assert himself. Minnesota chose him 23rd overall and there has been encouraging news coming out of offseason workouts. However, a high draft slot and preliminary praise doesn’t mean he’s all set. On the contrary, Darrisaw still has a long way to go.
The best case scenario is not only that he seizes the starting job, but also thrives. Tristan Wirfs was awesome last year as a rookie, finishing with a 84.1 PFF score as he helped his Bucs win a Super Bowl. In this best case, Darrisaw similarly shows that rookie tackles can come into the NFL and be great. It’s unrealistic to expect Darrisaw to completely avoid a few tough reps against players like J.J. Watt or Khalil Mack. Nevertheless, the potential is there for a tackle who can slow the game’s elite pass rushers, especially if Lil’Kub finds a way to help his o-line.
Darrisaw’s Worst Case
Like many rookie lineman, Christian Darrisaw struggles to make an impact in the 2021 season.
The NFC North is loaded with elite pass rushers, and Darrisaw struggles to contain any of them. Though ineffective, he gets onto the field due to necessity and because of his draft slot. Fans have flashbacks to the Clemmings days:
In all seriousness, the worst case for Darrisaw does appear to be that he genuinely struggles with the division’s formidable edge defenders (though hopefully not as bad as Clemmings). Having to start Hill isn’t the worst thing in the world, though it would be disappointing to see our first-round pick replaced by a veteran depth player (albeit a really good one). Instead of upward and onward, Zim instead needs to shelter Darrisaw by allowing him to learn from the sidelines for a while.
Another thing to keep in mind for our worst case: Ezra Cleveland’s ability to adjust to LG will make a big difference for Darrisaw. Ideally, Cleveland can really help Darrisaw. If he can’t, then Darrisaw will have a considerably more difficult task.
As I mentioned at the top, I think the Vikes have essentially guaranteed that Christian Darrisaw is their starting LT for the 2021 season. Letting go of Riley Reiff and then doing essentially nothing in free agency to improve the o-line meant that a rookie would need to come in and contribute. Well, Darrisaw is that rookie, and the Vikings are obviously hoping he’ll soon be ready to contribute.
I’m of the belief that he’ll be an above-average player. He’s a great scheme fit and he doesn’t sacrifice anything in size to adhere to Minnesota’s athletic demands. In my perfect world, Darrisaw is a beast in the run game and then steady as a pass blocker.
Have different thoughts? Let me hear about it. How will Darrisaw do in his rookie year?