Minnesota comes in as the 17th ranked team in my power rankings, meaning we are halfway through these rankings. Minnesota comes in .014 ahead of Arizona at 18, and .405 ahead of Houston at 19. Teams 19-14 are separated by .945 points, so these are the closest batches of teams, and they can be ordered really anyway. Minnesota had an awkward offseason, stripping most of their secondary and their star receiver is now in Buffalo. The Vikings retooled their roster, making an astronomical 15 selections in April’s draft, taking a player at almost every spot other than running back and tight end, two of their best positions.
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- Overall – 80.455 (17th)
- Offense – 79.81 (19th)
- Defense – 82.425 (9th)
- Coach and Culture – 84.5 (8th)
- Home Field Advantage – 86.5, 5th (4% Defense, 2% Overall)
Quarterbacks – 78.5, T-16th (36% Offense, 27% Overall)
Kirk Cousins is a large topic of conversation in the league today following the contract Minnesota gave him. Last year, he completed over 69% of his passes for 3,600 yards, and 26 touchdowns compared to six interceptions while throwing for the least amount of passes since 2014. Cousins and Stefon Diggs butted heads last year and resulted in Diggs being sent to Buffalo.
The backup job is going to be a battle between long-time journeyman, Sean Mannion, and rookie, Nate Stanley. Mannion played four years for the Rams before moving to Minnesota last year. He started one game last year where he completed 57% of his passes and two interceptions. Stanley is an intriguing developmental project that will need to show out in the preseason. At Iowa, he completed 58% of his passes for 8,297 yards, 68 touchdowns, and 23 interceptions. Jake Browning rounds out the room and will attempt to compete for a roster spot.
Running Backs – 89, 6th (4% Offense, 3% Overall)
Dalvin Cook played the most in his short career and still missed two games. He finished with 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground and added 519 yards receiving as well. He has recently said he will hold out for the season unless he is given a “reasonable” contract extension. The contract extension that Christian McCaffrey was given from Carolina is out of the realm of possibilities for Cook. McCaffrey has played all 16 games each year since he came into the league, totaling 48 games, while Cook has only played 29 games.
Cook totaled over 1,600 scrimmage yards last year, while McCaffrey almost totaled 2,000 in his second year and almost 2,400 last year. If I had to guess, Cook could get a contract around 12-15 million a year, similar to Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson. Minnesota has another reliable back behind him as well with Alexander Mattison.
Mattison had 100 carries last year for 462 yards and added 82 yards through the air as well. He had an ankle injury of his own last year that caused him to miss some playing time. Fortunately though, if Cook sits out, the offensive scheme won’t have to change to counter Mattison’s playing style.
Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah are the depth pieces in the backfield. Boone could potentially factor in early in the season if Cook sits out. He finished with 273 yards and three touchdowns on the ground last year. Abdullah is the kick returner as of now and caught 15 passes last year. He has never lived up to being taken in the second round by Detroit.
Pass Catchers – 80, 19th (17% Offense, 8% Overall)
Diggs being traded to Buffalo opens up 94 targets. Adam Thielen returns after missing six games due to injury last year. He only caught 30 passes for 418 yards and six touchdowns last year. Thielen will now be dealt with dealing with double coverage as Diggs is gone. Minnesota spent their first first-round pick on LSU receiver, Justin Jefferson. He exploded onto the scene just like everyone else from LSU, catching 18 touchdowns and having over 1,500 yards. Jefferson will now take the role that Diggs had last year.
After Thielen and Jefferson, things get ugly. The third receiver spot is a wide-open battle between a bundle of players. Bisi Johnson will likely get the first crack at that role as he caught 31 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns last year. Tajae Sharpe was once a hidden gem for the Titans receiving core but fell out of touch with the additions of Corey Davis and A.J. Brown. He caught 25 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns last year. Chad Beebe is a fan favorite and is back this year and should be in a battle for the third receiver and slot roles as well.
A trio of young bucks will also be competing for a role on offense. Dillon Mitchell showed some flashes last preseason but didn’t snag a single catch last year. Fifth-round pick, K.J. Osborne, is the perfect player for Minnesota’s offense. He will most definitely take over the role as the team’s punt returner. The Vikings not only drafted a receiver, but they also picked up one of the best receivers that was undrafted, spoiling Packer fan’s hopes and dreams. Quartney Davis was just outside my top-15 receivers in the draft class and went undrafted. Davis had 99 catches for 1,201 yards and 11 touchdowns during his time at Texas A&M. He could battle for the starting slot role early in the season.
Offensive Line – 76, T-20th (24% Offense, 12% Overall)
Minnesota’s offensive line was schemed up to do well by running the ball down opposing defense’s throats. As I said earlier, Cousins didn’t throw as many passes as he usually had, making the offensive line look better. In fact, PFF ranked Minnesota’s offensive line 27th in the league in pass protection. The tackle duo of Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill desperately needed to be upgraded. Ezra Cleveland was selected in the second round and should start at one of those two spots. Pat Elflein succeeded last year with the addition of Garrett Bradbury. The right side of the offensive line is a mess as Dakota Dozier and Dru Samia will battle for the right guard spot and O’Neill and Cleveland will fight for the right tackle spot.
Rashod Hill and Oli Udoh are above-average athletes for offensive linemen and could be interesting if given playing time. The offensive line is getting better, but the scheme Minnesota ran last year hid some of their discrepancies.
Run Defense – 82, 15th (6% Defense, 2% Overall)
Linval Joseph went to the Chargers in free agency, opening up a gap on the defensive line. Almost immediately, Minnesota filled that gap by adding Michael Pierce. The Vikings also start Shamar Stephen and he is a great run stopper. Behind those two, the Vikings have a ton of depth as well. Jaleel Johnson and Jalyn Holmes are looking to improve, while the Vikings drafted James Lynch from Baylor. Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, and Eric Wilson are all solid tacklers at the second level who all had over 60 tackles last year.
Pass Rush – 81.5, T-16th (21% Defense, 10% Overall)
Danielle Hunter is now the main pass rusher in Minnesota as the team hasn’t retained Everson Griffen. Hunter had 14.5 sacks last year to go along with 18 tackles for loss. Griffen had eight sacks last year but the Vikings felt comfortable letting him walk with the production and development that Ifeadi Odenigbo has shown. Odenigbo had seven sacks and eight tackles for loss last year and will line up opposite of Hunter this year.
Johnson had three sacks last year from the interior and should continue that trend this year without Joseph and Griffen. Minnesota selected a duo of intriguing prospects off the edge in Kenny Willekes and D.J. Wonnum, who both had excellent production in college. Hercules Mata’afa was one of my favorite prospects to go undrafted recently and hasn’t gotten much playing time in Minnesota but could surprise if given the opportunity.
Linebackers – 84, T-6th (15% Defense, 4% Overall)
As I said earlier, the trio of Barr, Kendricks, and Wilson is one of the best in the league at the second level. Kendricks is the tackling machine, Barr is the coverage specialist, and Wilson is the hybrid edge rusher. Behind those three, the Vikings have Cameron Smith and Ben Gedeon who are both similar to Kendricks as tackling machines. Minnesota got a steal (sensing a trend?) when they selected Oregon’s Troy Dye in the fourth round. Dye could line up in some nickel packages this year opposite of Barr as he is great in coverage as well.
Secondary – 79.5, T-18th (26% Defense, 17% Overall)
The Vikings are without their top three cornerbacks from last year as Xavier Rhodes was a cap casualty, who went to Indianapolis, while Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes both went to Cincinnati. 2018 first-round pick, Mike Hughes looks to take over as the team’s number one cornerback this year. Hughes has been plagued by injuries his first two years in Minnesota as he has missed 12 games in his first two years. Hughes has nine pass deflections, three forced fumbles, and an interception in his career and has been Minnesota’s punt returner. Kris Boyd and Holton Hill are holdovers from last year who return this year to get some playing time.
Minnesota addressed the secondary heavily during the draft, using five of their selections on players in the secondary. Jeff Gladney was my second-ranked cornerback in the whole class and was, once again, a steal for Minnesota with the 31st selection. Cameron Dantzler was selected in the third round and will take over in the third role. Dantzler is more of a lengthy, press coverage corner while Gladney plays a ton of man coverage. Harrison Hand was also another fifth-round selection Minnesota used on a cornerback.
Harrison Smith is still one of the best safeties in the league and will now be the leader of the secondary. Anthony Harris will once again line up opposite of him. Before the draft, Minnesota only had Smith and Harris as the only safeties on the roster. The Vikings added two safeties during the draft and another high-profile undrafted free agent by adding Josh Metellus, Brian Cole, and Myles Dorn.
Coach and Culture – 84.5, 8th (19% Offense, 28% Defense, 15% Overall)
Kevin Stefanski has moved on to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns, opening the door for Gary Kubiak to be the offensive coordinator after being on the team in a specialty role last year. Kubiak brings over 25 years of experience to Minnesota and even won a Super Bowl as the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Thanks to Kubiak’s experience, Minnesota comes in 10th for offensive coach and culture.
Minnesota lost a ton of starters on the defensive side of the ball, including their top three cornerbacks. Usually, that would affect a team’s defense tremendously, but Mike Zimmer is one of the best defensive coaches in the league. Also, the Vikings addressed their needs, sometimes attacking that need with multiple selections instead of completely ignoring it. With Zimmer, Minnesota comes in tied for fifth in defensive coach and culture.
An average quarterback, below-average offensive line, and secondary with a ton of unproven players is the main reason Minnesota ranks this low. This isn’t to say that the Vikings aren’t playoff contenders because they most certainly are. Cousins needs to prove his worth this year and might have to without his star running back, forcing him to throw more passes. Minnesota has a ton of young options and intriguing depth pieces that should get playing time and should challenge the Packers for the top step in the NFC North.
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