Nebraska running back Devine Ozigbo is a power back with strong lateral skills which fit the Vikings’ new rushing scheme. But with other draft needs glaring, will he last until the Minnesota Vikings have an ideal chance to grab him?
I’m no scout. But I like what I see in Devine Ozigbo from Nebraska. It’s not quite the feeling I had when I watched Dalvin Cook play at Florida State in 2017, but it’s nonetheless one of enthusiasm.
Where Cook was a star, busting games open with his vision, wiggle, and burst, Ozigbo is a role player, a runner without such razor-sharp talent, but with a much bigger frame, more power and a head for improvement as an offensive weapon.
The Minnesota Vikings have now met with Ozigbo twice. With but a cursory examination of his experience with Nebraska head coach Scott Frost’s zone-run offense–very similar to what Gark Kubiak is establishing in Minnesota now–Ozigbo is a fit with a bullet.
Pounding The Beef
Let’s talk about tough yards. Ozigbo is no Christian Okoye, but as the Minnesota Vikings redraw their offensive run scheme under Kubiak and “run game coordinator” Rick Dennison, they will need to find someone to bang into defenses and let them know they mean business.
Currently, Minnesota has no back that can do such a thing. Ozigbo could change that. The soon-to-be drafted rookie is six-foot tall, 236 pounds, and carries the bulk of his weight in his legs. At Nebraska, he has clearly shown that he can move a pile as well as find a hole in a moving zone-run concept.
A run-first offense ideally assists a conservative defense, but as Mike Zimmer can be a calculating but aggressive play-caller, it helps to have a squad that takes some rest to attack. That formula failed miserably last season.
In 2018, the Vikings lost decisive games when they couldn’t run consistently (twice against the Bears, where they compiled a mere 85 yards on the ground), and when they wouldn’t run (against New England and Seattle, where they had 34 total attempts to the Patriots and Seahawks’ 81, and were out-rushed by over 200 yards).
That’s four of their seven losses on an 8-7-1 season. The Vikes need to pound the rock, folks, and they need to get themselves a pounder.
Yes, there are urgent needs at the guard, linebacker and defensive line positions. But–besides the obvious requirement to draft a starting offensive lineman–the RB2 position is the most compelling argument of liability remaining.
A Tried And True Approach
Why does Ozigbo look so good? He’s not a first-round talent in the eyes of league scouts and general managers. And because Gary Kubiak probably sees Ozigbo as a durable back, high in potential, one-cut fundamentals, and experience with the zone-run concept, he may be eyeing a jewel in the rough.
To say that Kubiak has any experience with off first-round power backs is the understatement of the weekend. Check out these rookie leading rushers of the early Kubiak Era in Denver.
Terrell Davis, 5’11, 210 (6th round, 1995)
1995, 1117 yards
Olandis Gary, 5’11”, 218 (4th round, 1999)
1999, 1159 yards
Mike Anderson, 6’ 0”, 230 (6th round, 2000)
2000, 1487 yards
Clinton Portis, 5’ 11”, 218 (2nd round, 2002)
2002, 1508 yards
Does Devine Ozigbo last until the Vikings’ 114th pick in the fourth round? Probably not. But if Kubiak pounds the table a bit, they can get him by moving up in the mix. If Rick Spielman is good at anything, it’s draft day trading.
To some, it may not seem vital to draft a running back when Dalvin Cook is poised to make a fully healthy start of things after his 2017 ACL, but I don’t think the new guys in the Vikings’ coaching class (Kubiak and Dennison) are interested in taking chances. They want a plugger beside him ready to take the load off short yardage situations and be ready for a starting role if Cook misses a game or two.
From a fan perspective, it would be really cool to see a giant dude in a purple number 21 jersey (a number that reminds me of scat backs), grinding down defenses by trucking over defensive lines late in the game. You know? Holding leads, sealing wins?
After a season where we all watched a pass-first Minnesota Vikings offense come up short in its most deciding situations by being out-coached and out-executed, that might be nice.