EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Vikings made Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw the 23rd overall selection on Thursday night, after moving down nine spots with a familiar draft-night move to stockpile more picks.
Darrisaw, a late-blooming, athletic blocker at 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds, was a second team All-American in 2020 who can fill a significant need at left tackle after Riley Reiff was released for salary cap savings.READ MORE: 'I HATE KICKERS': Twitter Reacts To Yet Another Missed Field Goal By Vikings
The Vikings had the No. 14 spot on the board, which would have been their highest in six years. They sent it to the New York Jets with one of their four choices in the fourth round (No. 143 overall) to settle at No. 23 — which originally came from Seattle in the deal for safety Jamal Adams — and add two third-round selections (No. 66 and No. 86).
After stocking up on defense in free agency, it was time to bolster the blocking in front of Kirk Cousins. After years of draft neglect on the offensive line, the Vikings have hustled to catch up recently by using a first- or second-round pick for their front in each of the last three offseasons. Guard/tackle Ezra Cleveland went 58th overall in 2020, center Garrett Bradbury was the 18th selection in 2019 and tackle Brian O’Neill was the No. 62 overall choice in 2018.
Bradbury, tackle Matt Kalil (No. 4 overall in 2012) and tackle Bryant McKinnie (No. 7 in 2002) are the only offensive linemen the Vikings have taken in the first round in the last 25 drafts.
With Darrisaw’s arrival, O’Neill can stay at right tackle and Cleveland can remain at right guard.
The Vikings prepared scenarios for one of the consensus top five quarterbacks falling to them, and that’s exactly what happened with Alabama’s Mac Jones available, but with Cousins under contract for two more years such a move would only have been for the future.READ MORE: 'It Is Good! No, He Missed It': Paul Allen Mistakenly Calls Vikings Win On Wide Right Field Goal
Though general manager Rick Spielman and coach Mike Zimmer have contracts through 2023, the status of the two leaders is far from secure after a 7-9 finish in 2020. They have won only two playoff games since Zimmer was hired in 2014.
Thus, the need for an instant-impact player or two from this draft was as strong as ever for the Vikings, who have watched the Green Bay Packers win the last two NFC North titles while going 13-3 each time. The Vikings have also finished behind the Chicago Bears twice in the last three years.
The Vikings don’t have a second-round selection, due to the ill-fated trade with Jacksonville for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, but they now have four picks in the third round.
They currently have three choices in the fourth round, two fifth-rounders and one sixth-rounder, a lineup that’s sure to be shuffled more times over the weekend as Spielman tries to maximize the return on 2021 rookie investment.
Whichever prospect the Vikings picked, replicating the mood from last year’s all-virtual experience was going to be nearly impossible given the gift of wide receiver Justin Jefferson landing in their laps at No. 22. Jefferson made a major impact on an offense that finished fourth in the league in yards and 11th in points.
Because all their key evaluators have been vaccinated for COVID-19, the Vikings were allowed by the NFL to assemble them all in the same room this time at team headquarters.MORE NEWS: Joseph's Missed Field Goal Dooms Vikings In 34-33 Loss To Cardinals
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