According to Pro Football Focus, these two men were both among the top 100 players in the NFL in 2011, as were four of their teammates. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Apparently Top 100 lists are all the rage these days around the football media, and the folks from Pro Football Focus are no different. They've put together a Top 101 list of NFL players, and there are significantly more members of the Minnesota Vikings on this one than there are on most of the other lists you'll see of this nature.
A contentious pick, some argued Henderson shouldn't have made the list because he was limited to a two down role for most of the season. It says something about just how good he was in 2011 that he still earned a spot in our Top 101, helped by finishing fourth overall in our 4-3 outside linebacker rankings. His numbers don't particularly jump out at you and scream excellence, but when you factor in his more limited snap count, you start to see a very special player
Best Performance: Week 4 at Kansas City (+3.1)
Key Stat: Was the top-ranked 4-3 OLB in our Run Stop Percentage "Signature Stat" that looks at how many defensive stops a player made solely on running plays relative to how many snaps he is on the field for running downs.
Henderson thought he was going to get a pretty hefty contract in free agency, but the market for free agent linebackers really wasn't there this off-season, and he came back to Minnesota on a one-year deal. I would be shocked if he wasn't in a larger role in 2012.
More Vikings' goodness after the jump!There are five other members of the Minnesota Vikings on this list, and the next one is defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who hits the list at #83.
It's easy to look at Kevin Williams and think he isn't the player he was, when he was clearly and demonstrably the best there was at the defensive tackle position. That may be true, but he's still a fine player and it's reflected in another year that earned him the fifth-highest grade of all defensive tackles playing over 500 snaps. A complete DT, Williams earned positive marks for his work rushing the passer (+6.6) and playing the run (+12.8), helping the Vikings cope with the loss of Pat Williams.
Best Performance: Week 14 at Detroit (+3.1)
Key Stat: Ranked No. 5 on the list of combined sacks, hits and hurries of all defensive tackles with 37.
Two seasons of starting had seen Sullivan grade negatively in both. We'd heard the chatter that he played hurt, but given that seems to be a universal excuse for every sub-optimal performance, thought little of it. Then he turned in a career year that had him ranked third in our center rankings. He did this chiefly with his run blocking, where he earned an impressive +16.8 grade for his efforts. Apologies Mr. Sullivan, we were wrong about you.
Best Performance: Week 8 at Carolina (+4.5)
Key Stat: Gave up just 12 combined sacks, hits, and hurries all year.
Percy Harvin does, indeed, make this list, jumping in at #61.
We often bemoan that as good as Harvin is, the Vikings don't do a good enough job of making the most out of him. Managed 1,320 yards from scrimmage as well as making a couple of game-changing plays on special teams. Essentially, if you get the ball in his hands he's going to make something happen, and that's reflected with his sixth-overall grade in our receiver rankings.
Best Performance: Week 13 versus Detroit (+3.8)
Key Stat: The seventh-most productive receiver in the league averaging 2.5 Yards Per Route Run.
I'm surprised that Harvin's game against Denver with the two long touchdown catches wasn't on top of his list for the year, but hey. . .I'm not doing the grading.
In something that will probably look a lot more shocking than it should actually be, Adrian Peterson is a ways down the list, coming in at #55.
Injuries hurt the numbers Peterson produced and created some long-term concerns. Let's not forget how good he was in turning his 208 carries into 970 yards ... only one running back had a better pure rushing grade than his +17.6. With just one fumble and better play in the passing game, he eliminated a lot of the negatives that have held him back to a degree. Simply put, when Peterson is healthy, he will make things happen regardless of what blocking he gets.
Best Performance: Week 7 versus Green Bay (+4.7)
Key Stat: Despite missing four games (and parts of others) finished the year with 12 rushing touchdowns; the second-highest amount of all running backs.
Last, but certainly not least, Jared Allen was the highest-rated Viking by Pro Football Focus. . .and, unlike most of these other lists this off-season, he managed to make it into the top 10, coming in at #10. That actually gets Allen his own article, which is pretty cool. But the folks at PFF have an interesting take on his "Key Stat," insisting that he sacked the quarterback not 22 times in 2011. . .but 24.
The official NFL statistics will tell you Jared Allen ended the season with 22 sacks, a half sack shy of Michael Strahan's NFL record achieved in dubious circumstances when Brett Favre flopped to the ground rather weakly to surrender the record-breaking take down. What Pro Football Focus can tell you, however, is that Jared Allen actually got to the QB 24 times last season. We don't differentiate between sacks and half-sacks, instead choosing to award both players a full sack if they happened to meet at the quarterback at the same time, rather than penalizing both for making simultaneous big plays.
As it happens, though, that isn't an argument for Allen holding the all-time record, because when you take half-sacks out of Strahan's record-setting season, he finished the year with 25-separated from Allen once more by that infamous sack of Brett Favre. Whichever way you choose to look at it, though, taking down the quarterback for a loss 24 times in a single season is an incredible achievement, and one that goes a long way toward earning the Viking his spot in the Top 10 players on our list.