The first full week of Organized Team Activities for the Minnesota Vikings is officially in the books. One of the areas of focus during these OTAs, and frankly every single practice the Vikings have until Training Camp starts, is going to be the offensive line. After being so bad last season, the team has taken some steps to fix things, and just like everybody thought there’s a competition to see who’s going to start at center.
According to Matthew Coller of 1500 ESPN, that competition is being waged between third-round pick Pat Elflein and. . .Nick Easton?
Both rookie Pat Elflein and Nick Easton, who saw his first NFL action last year, were taking first-team reps on the day practice was open to the media, which hints that the position isn’t going to be handed to the third-round draft pick from Ohio State. Easton was serviceable during his 414 total offensive plays at center in 2016, but the Vikings would probably like to see Elflein win the job because of his high ceiling as a run blocker.
I don’t think the Vikings traded up for Elfiein in the third round of this year’s draft with the intent of sitting him on the bench in his first season, and it would be a bit of a shock if he didn’t win the job during Training Camp. However, it’s just as surprising to see that the competition being waged between Elflein and Easton as opposed to Elflein and Joe Berger, who started at center for the past two seasons. The Vikings thought enough of Easton to acquire him in a trade back in 2015, and he did do a decent enough job in the opportunities he got last season.
According to Coller’s article, the Vikings appear to have permanently pushed Berger back out to the right guard spot, where he has some experience. With the way he’s performed over the past two seasons, the Vikings had to get Berger out there somewhere. The team said after the draft that they viewed Elflein as a center, and it appears that they think enough of him at that spot to move Berger out of the pivot and let Elflein and Easton battle it out.
Whoever loses the battle for the center spot between Easton and Elflein will be able to provide some quality depth on the interior of the offensive line. As we saw last year, the guys that are behind the starters are every bit as important as the five guys that are selected to start, so having that sort of depth will be a good thing for the purple.