Name: Dalton Risner
Position: Offensive Line
School: Kansas State
Since 2019 draft prospects began to take shape, Dalton Risner has been the consensus Vikings fan choice for the 18th overall pick. And given his tape, it is easy to see why. Risner is a tough as nails, aggressive, efficient blocker who excels both in the run and pass game. Whether he ultimately settles at tackle or on the interior is to be determined, but whoever ends up with him will more than likely have a day one starter on their hands.
Size and Strength
Risner is a perfect fit physically for any NFL interior. He has good length for a guard or center, carries no bad weight and has elite functional strength. At 6-foot-5, there is still some chance he fits in at tackle at the next level, but he is not quite as long as most NFL tackles.
His strength is where Risner really separates himself. From head to toe, he has as much power as anyone in the draft pool, as he can manhandle virtually anyone he comes into contact with. While he mostly went against ends as a collegiate tackle, even some of the best prospects in this year’s class, namely Montez Sweat and Charles Omenihu, had difficulty breaking from his grasp. Risner’s leg drive is perpetual and his power creates movement, even as his leverage comes and goes.
Risner’s style is to always push for dominance rather than merely completing his assignment. He gets to his spot quickly and fires his hands to gain early advantage. From there, his lower body leverage can be spotty, as he has a propensity to carry out the block high. But because of his hand placement, power and leg drive, he usual wins the battle. As long as he doesn’t overextend himself, even powerful interior linemen have difficulty escaping him.
Risner shows promise as a space blocker. He pulls efficiently and aggressively, with great awareness of who his man is. Kansas State ran some zone, but not an overwhelming amount. As such, Risner would have to adapt to the Vikings’ zone-heavy scheme. He has quick feet and good awareness, so that bodes well for him. Risner also has plenty of tenacity to make plays at the second level, which figures well into screen- and zone-heavy NFL offenses.
Risner’s discipline and hands rule his pass blocking success. He rarely gets out over himself, receiving the defender while delivering first blow. That allows him to mirror most pass rushers without having overly quick side-to-side movement himself. His hand resets always maintain his advantage on speed rushes, and his inside control and strong base allow him to counter any bull rush. He may get beat around the edge a time or two, but Risner will never get overpowered.
For all those positives, however, Risner’s feet are likely the biggest reason why he is destined to be on the interior at the next level. His lateral quickness was adequate for college, but likely not enough to excel against the best edge rushers. He also has some footwork issues, which limit the depth on his kickstep. To put it simply, he picks up and puts down his outside foot without gaining ground before beginning his slide with his inside foot. That quick misstep can lead to more instances of him riding defenders by the quarterback as opposed to holding them in place.Those issues will be mitigated as a guard or center.
In terms of pass rush awareness, he is top notch. Risner’s patience means he is always prepared for stunts and blitzes, and he is never panicked or caught out of position. His intelligence may ultimately make him a hot commodity as a center.
Minnesota’s interior line was their greatest weakness this year. Whether it be missed assignments, getting overpowered or simply whiffing on the block, Pat Elflein, Tom Compton and Mike Remmers were a significant liability in 2018. Elflein is almost certainly the starting center next year. But the other two spots are open for business, and Risner is as good an interior line prospect as there is in the draft.
The combination of his mauling mentality, his intelligence and his ability to move in space are a perfect match with the Vikings’ offensive philosophy. He would have to adapt to scheme a little bit, with the heavy zone and screen emphasis. But if the number one goal is to put a stout, steady body in front of Kirk Cousins, then Risner is a good choice.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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