Let's look at some facts. The Vikings are in win now mode. Did NOT blow things up to fully rebuild. Instead they kept ageing players, including extending Cousins. We know top offenses are needed to compete for a superbowl. If you look at the 56 superbowl winners, 34 (60%) were top 5 scoring offenses during the regular season.
What do we know about Cousins? With a clean pocket, he's an exceptional quarterback. It's still TBD if he can win in big pressure games but he's our 2022 quarterback, whether we like it or not. His performance drops when under pressure. He has no 6th sense to 'feel' pressure, especially from his blind side.
The Vikings tackle positions are set with Darrisaw and O'Neill. Getting the guard position right is critical and the starter must be NFL caliber from game 1. Question, what is the more important tackle position, left or right? The left because that tackle protects the qb's blind side. Is it not the same for the left and right guard? We have two 2nd round draftees - Cleveland and Ingram as options. 2nd rounders are expected to start. So, who should start at left guard, that most important guard position,.
Let's examine PFF numbers. As a baseline, Per PFF, an 84-70 grade is an NFL Starter. 69-60 is a Backup player grade. Grades between 59-0 are Replaceable players.
For Cleveland, his rookie 2020 overall PFF grade was 66.2, and only rose to 68.5 in 2021. His rookie run blocking grade went from 67.5 to 71.8, which is just barely in the starter range. His rookie pass blocking grade went from 52.0 to 55.5 which is a Replaceable player grade. Pass blocking! which is critical to Vikings success.
For Ingram, he played 4 years at LSU and I could only find PFF grades for his last year of college. Per PFF, Ed Ingram led the all SEC players in Pass Blocking with a 82.6 Grade in 2021. He had a 73.3 run grade and 79.4 overall. Also, the SEC defenses are strong with many NFL draftable players. I understand his technique is very good which makes sense since he played well against SEC competition.
Lastly, you can look at the Mock Draftables numbers for Cleveland and Ingram each as rookies. Cleveland is more athletic but is that as important at guard, especially with the new mid-zone offense this year? Comparing measuarables Cleveland is significantly taller, which I'm not sure is an advantage. They weigh about the same. So, Ingram is probably a little more stout than Cleveland which may help him better anchor against opponents. Ingram has a little longer arms and an inch bigger hands. I think the hand size is significant since guards need to grab and hold rushing defensemen.
So, if you're the vikings and you need to win now. There is little time to learn a new and different NFL position.
So is it better to keep Ezra Cleveland at left guard for the 2nd year. Hope that his pass numbers improve to at least the PFF start range. And also, take a high performing college SEC 2nd round rookie and move him from left guard to right guard?
Or is it better to move Cleveland back to right guard and hope his pass number improve. But at least, if he fails on a rep, Cousins is not 'blind sided'. Plus start your high performing college SEC rookie in the position he last played in college and hope he learns quickly to handle NFL defenders.
I know which way I'd go.