Is Christian Darrisaw Elite? Vikings Offensive Coordinator Wes Phillips Thinks So

Christian Darrisaw's name was dropped alongside Trent Williams and Tyron Smith by Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Wes Phillips. Is that fair?

Third-year Minnesota Vikings left tackle Christian Darrisaw might be the future of the position, even if the rest of the league doesn’t know it. Drafted in the first round, Darrisaw struggled through injury at the beginning of the season and wasn’t active until Week 4. He rotated with starting tackle Rashod Hill in Week 5 and then took the job outright in Week 6. For a first-round lineman, it was a late start.

Given how difficult it is for linemen to earn recognition — it wasn’t that long ago that linemen were evaluated based on the number of starts that they had — it’s no wonder that Darrisaw is not part of the national conversation.

The Minnesota Vikings Think This Is the Year of Christian Darrisaw

Darrisaw’s injury concerns weren’t surprising — he was recovering from offseason surgery that was a product of an injury he sustained in his final year at Virginia Tech. But it did bury him a little bit in the eyes of the NFL-watching public.

That rookie injury, along with a concussion in his second season, meant that he was just outside of the discussion for premier offensive linemen in the NFL. As a result, Darrisaw’s high level of play hasn’t earned All-Pro or Pro Bowl recognition.

Offensive coordinator Wes Phillips thinks that’s about to change. “I think he’s got a real mindset that this is a year, I think if anyone hadn’t noticed him — I know the players who played against him certainly noticed him,” said Phillips. “I think across the league, we’ll be talking about him as one of the elite tackles for years to come.”

There Is No National Consensus on Darrisaw

Darrisaw’s perception has been difficult to pin down. Pro Football Network’s Top 100 ranked Darrisaw 87th, and he was 56th on CBS Sports’ top 100 list and 26th on the Pro Football Focus Top 101. The NFL Top 100, a list voted on by players, has not been fully revealed, but Darrisaw has not yet appeared. The NFL has unveiled ranks 100 to 50, as well as the 10 next-closest players to make the list.

On the other hand, Darrisaw did not appear in the top 15 of the left tackle position in Brandon Thorn’s offensive line ranking in his line-focused publication Trench Warfare. That’s an interesting contrast to Pro Football Focus, who found Darrisaw to be the second-highest graded tackle in the NFL last year.

Darrisaw ranked sixth in run-block win rate from ESPN but did not place in the top 10 among tackles in pass-block win rate. PFF graded Darrisaw as the seventh-best pass protector among tackles and the third-best run blocker, which contributes to their second-overall total grade for him. It helps that he only drew one penalty all year.

Sports Info Solutions, another charting and football analytics company, ranked Darrisaw fifth in “pass-block points earned,” their metric that attempts to parse out how many offensive points a player’s pass protection provides, using statistics like blown-block rate, play-action rate, time to throw, and so on.

His raw blown-block rate ranked 21st among tackles, but the context pushed him up. Interestingly, he ranked 38th among tackles in run points earned by SIS. That put him 30th overall among tackles.

All in all, it is perhaps fair to say that there’s a wide range of opinions on Darrisaw’s quality, though everyone largely seems to agree that he’s good.

External Noise Doesn’t Change Darrisaw’s Approach

For Darrisaw, the rankings and expectations are external to his goals. He learns how he can get better, and then he applies those lessons. “We’re just taking it one day at a time for myself,” he said. “Just make the corrections that I’d seen on tape from last year and just come out here every day with the mindset to get 1% better; we’ll see what happens this year”

As for what he can get better at, there are no limits. “I can make improvements in everything — run game, pass game, being a vocal leader in the O-line room, in the offense, and the whole team as well.”

According to Phillips, this approach has resulted in some odd working hours for Darrisaw, who had been spotted working out in the weight room at 11:00 p.m. “As long as he had a spotter, we were OK with that,” said Phillips.

Phillips likened Darrisaw’s mindset to some of the elite offensive tackles he’s worked with in the past, saying, “The best left tackles that I’ve been around, whether it’s Tyron Smith, whether it’s Trent Williams and now Christian, they’re smart guys,” he said.

“They have a real understanding of the game,” said Phillips, “and so they can allow it to slow down a little bit for them. They study tape, they study their opponents, they watch film on their own. There’s a lot of things that go into it, and then they’re elite athletes on top of it.”

For now, the Vikings franchise left tackle is more focused on the next practice than he is on where he ranks. The experts can argue.

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