The Vikings have released Pat Elflein but he’s an unlikely answer for the Chiefs.
The Minnesota Vikings have released offensive lineman Pat Elflein, and fans for nearly every NFL team are wondering whether or not he could be a potential fit—just like they (we) do with every new veteran released. This time around, the idea of Elflein might sound good for a couple reasons, but it’s an unlikely answer for many more.
We can quickly spout off the reasons why the Chiefs might be interested in a new free agent center/guard fairly quickly.
First, the team was in need of upgrades all along the offensive interior before the season began, but that’s even more true after losing Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Lucas Niang, Kelechi Osemele, and Mitchell Schwartz to injuries and opt outs. Mike Remmers has been forced to fill in at right tackle and even he was injured for a spell in Week 9. Essentially, the Chiefs have been working (and somehow winning) with a patchwork offensive line all year long.
Second, when it comes to centers, Elflein is a familiar name to many NFL fans, likely draftniks, as one of the more heralded members of his 2017 draft class. Elflein entered the NFL as a versatile prospect from Ohio State with experience at both guard positions and, in his final season, a first-team All-American season at center. He came out for the draft with high praise for his intangibles, leadership, versatility, and effectiveness as a run blocker.
Fast forward three seasons and the Vikings decided to simply dump Elflein instead of employ him any longer on a line where talent and depth are both lacking. Elflein was the team’s starting center during his rookie season and turned in a decent enough season. Unfortunately it went all downhill from there.
Despite the Vikes clear needs up front—and the fact that they’d traded up to No. 70 overall to draft him—Elflein could never turn the corner to the pro level. Injuries certainly didn’t help along the way, as nearly every single season of his pro career so far has been affected. A shoulder held him out 2 games during his rookie season. An ankle injury cost him a couple more during the 2018 campaign. A thumb issue knocked him out of every game but one this year.
Beyond the health concerns, Elflein’s play got worse with experience in the league. The Vikings finally pulled the plug on him at center after a disastrous 2018 season in which he regressed unexpectedly. His pass blocking has been forgettable to frustrating all along. Now that the team has decided to drop him even though he’s healthy again says quite a bit.
There is reason for hope here. For a confident team convinced it’s all coaching concerns. The Vikings offensive line has been a mess for years, and Elflein wouldn’t be the first significant draft investment to disappoint there—from Matt Kalil to Garrett Bradbury.
If a team like the Chiefs really believed that Elflein, in a half season, could turn the corner and become a significant enough upgrade, then by all means the team should go for it. But the Chiefs have already passed on bringing in a proven vet like Stefen Wisniewski and it’s hard to see why Elflein would get a call instead. Then again, if pre-draft internal scouting reports on Elflein were strong back in the day, it could be fun to see what Andy Heck, the team’s o-line coach, could do.