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y*so*blu

Why isn't Elflein working out?

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Posted (edited)

So we've unanimously agreed that center was a need, and consequently nobody was unhappy with us taking Bradbury in the 1st. But I can't help remembering how excited we were just a few short years ago about getting Pat Elflein. "I love [him] in the third," Goldfishwars said in his '17 draft thread. "He was one of my favourite interior blockers  ... a tank with a strong anchor and a wrestling background, he should start at either spot," and nobody disagreed. Chris Burke of SI said "he can be Minnesota’s man in the middle for years to come."

Then he got on the field, seemed to have a half-decent rookie year, and after that we didn't like him anymore. Why not? Was it the dysfunctional offense, his injuries, poor communication, or has he already hit his ceiling?

Edited by y*so*blu

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Well he suffered some injuries in the NFCCG against the Eagles. Spent that entire off-season rehabbing those injuries rather than getting stronger. I guess I'm giving most of the blame to the injury. Obviously Sparano passing away had an effect on the OL room last year.

This is a big year for Elf, he's healthy and will have had an entire off-season of training, I'm hoping he rebounds and can be a productive member on the OL.

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I think Pat has been fine for us it's just that I've never seen such bad guard play, and our interior offensive line was offensive. I think Bradbury was the best mix of BPA and need. They felt that physically he had a unique athletic build with monster hands and an amazingly low center of gravity. Elflein wasn't terrible but he doesn't have top 5 center upside over the next few years. It would be great if he could make some type of impact at guard and stay as backup center.

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I solely blame it on the injuries that he suffered his rookie year, which consequently made him not have an offseason for the 2nd consecutive year.  He's entering his 3rd year and this is the first true offseason he's had.  I have faith that he'll be making a good jump this year, especially now that he's likely going to be moved to guard.  

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It's fair to give him one more year. But I can't help but be concerned about his athleticism for the new scheme, I think that is in part why he was replaced. Maybe it will be less of an issue if Elflein is a Guard. I wouldn't write him off yet but I think switching positions was absolutely the correct move. 

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Play strength and fundamentals were the traits that made Elflein such a well regarded prospect coming out of Ohio State. 

But, as rookie, he looked like a rookie. A guy that was getting beat by bigger, stronger men who knew how to beat technique. And Elflein doesn’t have the athleticism to recover when he gets beat. 

As his rookie year progressed, he appeared to get better, but then he hurt his shoulder, and then he broke his ankle. 

Elflein, who needed to continue to get stronger and work on his technique, did not get the opportunity to really work on improving those areas. In fact, he probably regressed a bit during his rehab work. 

Left guard is a much simpler position to play. While it still requires a certain level of strength and technique, he won’t have to worry about snapping the ball, calling out assignments, etc. Just fire off the ball. If Elflein can get his strength back, even improved, and continue to work on his technique, I think he’ll be just fine at left guard. 

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I don't watch college football but I find that OL from big winning programs seem to be overrated, especially if they're seen to be team leaders. I didn't watch much of Elflein in college beyond highlights after the Vikings drafted him, but watching Billy Price last year (expecting the Vikings to draft a guard) I found some reasons to doubt he'd succeed in the NFL compared to players that were less heralded earlier in the process, like Ragnow and Daniels. I wonder now if Elflein might have also had some holes in his game coming out.

Elflein's got some plus abilities to get out in space and block downfield. But he's undersized and didn't test well at the combine especially in terms of explosiveness, which helps considerably with IOL performance. 

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And that's shown up in the pros, where he's been overmatched by power rushers like Akiem Hicks, and has had trouble with explosive athletes like Kenny Clark.

Some of his struggles no doubt were exacerbated by the injuries that robbed him of his chance to train last offseason. But he was having similar problems even as a rookie (Clark ate his lunch repeatedly in both Packers games in 2017). 

Moving to guard might help in some respects. He might have an easier time anchoring if he doesn't have to get the snap out first, and he won't have a NT face up over him (though Hicks often plays in the B gap, as does Ashawn Robinson and Mike Daniels, so it's not going to be easy). Elflein played more at guard (IIRC mostly RG) for Ohio State, so I think fans who remember those teams doing well with him at that position will believe he can do it, on that basis alone. 

But unless he's able to overcome his athletic limitations, he's going to struggle at guard too. Thankfully, the ZBS scheme should help -- if the Vikings OL can't drive Hicks or Harrison off the ball, hopefully this year they'll have the technique and coordination to beat them with mobility and create good angles to open up seams for Cook and Mattison. 

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2 hours ago, y*so*blu said:

Then he got on the field, seemed to have a half-decent rookie year, and after that we didn't like him anymore.

As far as that half-decent rookie year, Vikings fans have a recent history of overrating rookie years of offensive linemen.  I believe this occurs because Vikings fans of the last 15 years have become accustomed to such bad offensive line play that when a rookie performs at a level that is still below average it appears to be am improvement in the eyes of the Vikings fans.  Also, opposing defensive coordinators haven't yet figured out the best ways to exploit the weaknesses of those rookies.

Look back at Matt Kalil.  Everyone thought his rookie year was great.  But was it really that good?  It was clearly an improvement over what we saw the previous year with Charlie Johnson at LT.  Owing to that improvement, we collectively thought Kalil had a good year.  And it wasn't a bad year, but if you watch it back, was it really that good?  No, it really wasn't that good.  He was a little above average as a rookie and that was pretty exciting based on where the team had been at that position just a year earlier. However, at least part of the reason that Kalil looked a bit above average was related to the competition he was facing that year.  Kalil did well against below average DEs and looked below average against above average competition.  That pretty much makes him average -- a huge improvement over Charlie Johnson.  Average, however isn't really as good as we remember his rookie year.  Many of us think he was better than average that year.  It just happens that Kalil faced below average competition more often than not during his rookie year (10 of 16 weeks according to PFF). In the six weeks Kalil played above average competition he was PFF rated above average just twice.

Then three years later look at TJ Clemmings.  I think we all know that he didn't have a great rookie year but we all saw reason for optimism that he made it through the year starting as a rookie.  I don't think anyone thought highly enough to want him to be starting again in his second year but we generally did give him a lot of grace for the troublesome spots he had as a rookie. Many (I don't know about on this board in particular) thought that he was a player that the team would be able to groom into an average starter after maybe a sophomore year on the bench. Again, Vikings fans vastly overrated Clemmings after seeing his rookie year play. There wasn't as much over the top adulation for him owing to the fact he was clearly worse than his immediate predecessor, Phil Loadholt.

Another couple years along and the Vikings were starting another rookie offensive lineman, Pat Elflein.  Again, the rookie clearly performed at a below average level. There were a couple years between Jon Sullivan and Elflein to give the Vikings a bit of a gap in seeing what good center play looked like, and Berger really wasn't that bad, but still Vikings fans exhibited optimism for Elflein after his rookie year. Some of that may have been because the giant step forward the line as a whole took over the unmitigated disaster of a line that the Vikings fielded in 2016.  Once again, the player's sophomore season came nowhere close to living up to expectations fans had after their rookie year.  This seems to be a trend with the Vikings fan expectations versus actual results of sophomore offensive lineman that started as rookies.

So why didn't we like Elflein as much after his rookie year?  Other than injury related regressions I think it has a lot to do with our tendency to be overly optimistic with these sophomore linemen thus setting them up for not meeting our expectations -- becoming a disappointment.

I don't know what this says about Brian O'Neill, but I have went for the cheese again myself. I am optimistic with the rest of you that he'll be an above average offensive lineman for the Vikings. He was just average last year, but that is so much better than some of the tackle play to which we had been recently exposed. Average is a pretty good place from which a rookie can grow. I think that he'll progress better than Matt Kalil did from Kalil's rookie campaign.

 

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1 hour ago, Cearbhall said:

There were a couple years between Jon Sullivan and Elflein to give the Vikings a bit of a gap in seeing what good center play looked like, and Berger really wasn't that bad, but still Vikings fans exhibited optimism for Elflein after his rookie year.

Berger was very good to excellent in 2015-16, Elflein was in no way an upgrade (though Berger was still playing well next to him at RG in Elflein's rookie year).

1 hour ago, Cearbhall said:

Some of that may have been because the giant step forward the line as a whole took over the unmitigated disaster of a line that the Vikings fielded in 2016.

There you go -- this is the actual reason. 

Elflein showed up, they also added Reiff and Remmers, the scheme improved (bye Norv), the OL played better (in part thanks to Keenum making them look good, but they were pretty good anyway until late in the year when the injuries started to mount), and the team won a bunch of games. 

Almost as importantly, the team won games with a QB the fan base and media were inclined to discount (Keenum) instead of pump up (Bridgewater, and now Cousins), because Keenum wasn't part of the team's long-term plans. 

So instead of the OL getting blamed for everything the QB did wrong, they were credited (along with Diggs and Thielen and Rudolph) with everything he did right. 

Vikings fans tend to be happy with the OL when the team wins and mad at the OL when the team loses. So in 2013 most fans were upset about the OL even though they played pretty well (Sullivan and Fusco were excellent, Loadholt was good, Kalil and Johnson were mediocre) -- because Ponder was busting and the team was losing a lot. And in 2017, Elflein got a ton of not-actually-deserved credit because Keenum had a horseshoe and the team kept winning games. 

And that dynamic wasn't just from fans, it also shows up in the media. The ESPN guy Coller made a big deal about Elflein in 2017, along with the OL analyst Brandon Thorne. The fact that Elflein wasn't playing nearly as well as Berger had the last couple of years at the same position was never mentioned. 

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I’m not worried about Elflein at all.  I don’t think he will be a multi year pro bowler or anything, but he can easily be an above average IOL.  We didn’t have a specific need at C going into the draft.  We just needed to improve our interior line in general so we drafted BPA IOL who just happened to be a C.  Sure Elflein struggled last year, but the whole OL struggled.  I’m a firm believer that OL play is a group effort and is dependent upon the sum of all of their parts.  If you have on weak link on the OL it is going to make the rest of OL look bad as well.  Unfortunately for Elflein he was stuck playing between two sieves.

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2 hours ago, Kparty15 said:

I’m not worried about Elflein at all.  I don’t think he will be a multi year pro bowler or anything, but he can easily be an above average IOL.  We didn’t have a specific need at C going into the draft.  We just needed to improve our interior line in general so we drafted BPA IOL who just happened to be a C.  Sure Elflein struggled last year, but the whole OL struggled.  I’m a firm believer that OL play is a group effort and is dependent upon the sum of all of their parts.  If you have on weak link on the OL it is going to make the rest of OL look bad as well.  Unfortunately for Elflein he was stuck playing between two sieves.

So in other words, the o-line is only as strong as its weakest link?

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4 hours ago, Kparty15 said:

 Unfortunately for Elflein he was stuck playing between two sieves.

Compton and Remmers were mediocre, and they both got embarrassed a few times, but they were easily better than Elflein last year.

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2 hours ago, Krauser said:

Compton and Remmers were mediocre, and they both got embarrassed a few times, but they were easily better than Elflein last year.

I'd buy that on Compton (in terms of pass pro), but Remmers? Maybe I'm just remembers the REALLY bad of Remmers, and my assessment is biased because of it.

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19 minutes ago, RpMc said:

I'd buy that on Compton (in terms of pass pro), but Remmers? Maybe I'm just remembers the REALLY bad of Remmers, and my assessment is biased because of it.

Yeah I agree that Remmers was worse than Compton, but he was still better than Elflein. 

PFF grades show the gap between Elflein and the rest of the line: 

  • Reiff 73.6, 22nd of 61 tackles
  • O'Neill 63.0, 47th of 61
  • Compton 60.6, 32nd of 55 guards
  • Remmers 59.2, 36th of 55
  • Elflein 41.9, 27th of 27 centers

Other notable grades for the Vikings:

  • Hill 57.8
  • Isidora 53.5
  • Jones 53.1

Josh Kline scored a little worse than Remmers last year, at 58.0. His 3 years as a starter before that were quite a bit better, 75.3 in NE in 2015, then 70.4 and 67.7 in Tennessee.

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Posted (edited)
11 hours ago, Krauser said:

 

  • Reiff 73.6, 22nd of 61 tackles
  • O'Neill 63.0, 47th of 61
  • Compton 60.6, 32nd of 55 guards
  • Remmers 59.2, 36th of 55
  • Elflein 41.9, 27th of 27 centers

Yikes.  Reiff was the only above average player on the Vikings line last year according to PFF.  I was hoping that O'Neill was average but it looks like he graded towards the top of the bottom quartile of tackles.  I assume that was mostly because of his struggles in the run game.

Edited by Cearbhall
Clarity

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