We’ve started taking a look back at the Minnesota Vikings’ draft class of 2017, and specifically what a couple of print media guides have to say about them. We took a look at running back Dalvin Cook the other day, and now we’re moving on to the Vikings’ next pick, offensive lineman Pat Elflein. Elflein appears poised to make a contribution up front right away, and the team has said they’re going to start him out at center, though he could probably contribute at guard as well if the team changes its mind.
Once again, we’re using the draft guides from Athlon Sports and Lindy’s Football to take a look at what they had to say about Elflein in the lead up to this year’s draft. This time, we’ll start with the Lindy’s guide. Lindy’s had Elflein listed as the #2 center in this year’s draft class (behind Ethan Pocic of Louisiana State), and had him ranked at #74 overall in their Top 100, so his value in their eyes was right around where the Vikings wound up selecting him at #70 overall.
In Our View: Elflein won the Rimington Trophy as the top center in the country and a consensus All-American. Elflein, who bypassed the NFL to return for his senior season with the Buckeyes, is a three-time first-team All-Big Ten choice. He projects best at center in the NFL but started at both guard spots and did not miss a start in his final three seasons.
Elflein is not the biggest or swiftest center prospect to come down the pike in recent years but his strength, toughness, and wrestling background project very well to the next level.
Strengths: Powerful, well-distributed frame includes thick limbs and a stout core. Good initial quickness to snap and stab at opponents, showing generally good hand placement and power to stop the defender’s initial surge. Impressive functional power. Bends at the knees and bows his back to absorb bull rushers; shows good core flexibility to not only hold up but eventually overwhelm opponents. Good initial quickness and lateral agility to pull; shows balance to pick his way through the trash and locate targets at the second level.
Weaknesses: Can get lazy with his fundamentals, failing to play on the balls of his feet and sliding to mirror, instead relying on his initial punch to contain opponents. Allows his hands to get outside of the numbers at times, drawing holding penalties. Almost too aggressive. Looks for opponents to hit on each snap and is too quick to vacate the middle to chase defenders. Quicker than fast. Runs out of steam when blocking on the move, too often failing to reach defenders.
From this report, a lot of Elflein’s weaknesses appear to be coachable. Hopefully after Tony Sparano and Mike Zimmer get a hold of him, a lot of those things will disappear. Still, it’s tough to argue with a three-time All-B1G selection (at two different positions).
Now, onto the Athlon guide’s evaluation. They had Elflein rated much higher than the Lindy’s guide did, placing Elflein at #45 overall in their Top 100 and as their #1 center overall.
Strong Points: He played guard in addition to center at Ohio State, giving him some versatility, but Elflein will play the pivot in the NFL. He has a stout build with a strong, flexible core. He’s a rock in the middle of the line as a pass protector, with the heavy hands and strong grip to hold his own against bigger defensive tackles. He’s also a mauler in the run game, playing with a nasty disposition and showing excellent snap and punch quickness. He has the strong leg drive to create movement at the line of scrimmage, consistently putting defenders on the ground. He shows good quickness and flexibility on reach blocks, and he has enough range to get out as a puller. He also has the football IQ to handle setting protections at the line of scrimmage, and he displays excellent instincts and awareness after the snap, effectively adjusting to twists and stunts. He was renowned for his toughness and competitiveness in college, which make him extremely popular with coaches and teammates.
Weak Points: Not great in space, Elflein tends to lose power the farther he has to move; he doesn’t finish as well on the second level as he does battle in the phone booth around the line of scrimmage. While he’s solid as an athlete, he’s more comfortable moving forward as a run blocker than setting up on pass protection, as he too often relies solely on his initial punch to stand up pass rushers instead of moving his feet. He’ll have trouble with elite quickness at the next level.
Summary: Elflein has scheme versatility, although physical, man-blocking teams will be especially interested in him. While he may not be a Maurkice Pouncey-type of mover, Elflein has all of the necessary tools to develop into an All-Pro center at the next level, with his floor being a steady starter for close to a decade.
Final Grade: Second round
Again, this evaluation has significantly more positive than negative, with the negatives once again being centered around a lack of mobility from Elflein. I’m not sure how often the Vikings ask their centers to pull or anything like that. . .I’d have to go back and look to find out for sure. But whatever issues Elflein may have going into his first NFL season, I think we can safely assume that getting to go against Linval Joseph in practice every day will quickly remedy most of them.
That’s a quick look at what a couple of media guides thought about Pat Elflein prior to this year’s draft. We’ll continue going through the Minnesota Vikings’ class of 2017 and seeing if we can get some other impressions.