MINNEAPOLIS - Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis got their first taste of life in the NFL, heading to the Twin Cities after being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, and getting their first look at TCO Performance Center last weekend during the team’s rookie minicamp.
Rick Spielman moved back in the first round of the NFL Draft, got more capital and still got Darrisaw out of Virginia Tech with the No. 23 overall pick. With the No. 86 overall pick in the third round, the Vikings got Davis out of Ohio State.
The two, along with the nine other members of the Vikings’ 2021 draft class and 11 undrafted free agents, went through their first NFL practice last week. They weren’t in pads and it was mainly walk-throughs, but they were on an NFL practice field.
"For sure in that huddle, hearing that first play call, definitely it was like we’re here now. It’s go time for real now. I felt that," Darrisaw said.
"Minnesota is beautiful. The facility is outrageous, it’s mind-blowing and it’s so big I almost get lost every time that I come in here. I’m so happy that we’re playing football now and not running around cones," Davis said.
The message was clear after the draft: The Vikings needed to get bigger and more physical at the line of scrimmage. Enter Darrisaw, the likely starting left tackle, at 6-5 and 322 pounds. Davis, at 6-4 and 324 pounds, could be starting at guard when the Vikings open the season Sept. 12 at the Cincinnati Bengals.
For now, they’re locked in on learning plays on their iPads and mastering offensive line techniques.
Darrisaw and Davis connected after the draft via social media, and have hotel rooms next door to each other while the team starts its offseason workouts. They’ll be tasked in the fall with opening up running lanes for Dalvin Cook, and keeping Kirk Cousins upright.
Cook ran for 1,557 yards last season, but two years ago, the Vikings had one of the worst rushing offenses in the NFL. Cousins was sacked 39 times last season, the third-highest in his career, and has been sacked 107 times in three years at Minnesota.
Darrisaw made 35 starts in his college career, but the Second Team All-American and First Team All-ACC pick isn’t worried about making his debut in September. He’s taking things day-to-day.
"If I come out here and just do my job, just get better every day, that chance is there for me to step into that role. I try to block all that out and just focus on every day. There’s a chance for sure, and I’m working my tail off to hopefully be in that starting role Week 1," Darrisaw said.
"Christian is a very good athlete, really good feet. Good size, so far he’s done a really nice job in the technique of things. So far, so good," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said.
The path for Davis wasn’t so simple. He redshirted as a freshman at Ohio State, and didn’t play until the final two games of his sophomore season. He initially opted out of the 2020 college season, then was all-in when the Big Ten had a plan with COVID-19 protocols.
He helped lead the Buckeyes to the national title game, despite suffering a knee injury during the second quarter. Davis said he learned a lot about himself sitting early in his college career.
"Sitting out those first two years were probably the hardest two years of my life as far as football is concerned. Being a California kid, I didn’t go all the way out to Ohio to sit on the sideline and just be satisfied with being a Buckeye. I wanted to go out there and compete and help my team win games, not just be a practice body," Davis said. "That second year, I treated every practice like I was a starter."
"Wyatt’s got terrific size, he’s got good movement. Seems to be catching on really well with the footwork and the things that we’re doing. He’s looked good in there so far," Zimmer said.
A lot can happen between now and September, but there’s a very real possibility that the Vikings’ starting offensive line at Cincinnati is Garrett Bradbury, Brian O’Neill, Ezra Cleveland, Darrisaw and Davis.
That’s music to the ears of Vikings’ fans, seeking more consistency in the run game and more time for Cousins to make plays.