Vikings Depth Passing the Test?

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN Insider takes a look at team depth across the NFL.

I ran across an article today over at ESPN about team depth across the NFL, and if you're a subscriber of ESPN's Insider service, you can check out the entire article here.  As is obvious, the Vikings have dealt with a metric ton of injuries this season, which could partly explain why the team sits at 3-9-1.  If you compare the starters on offense during the first game of the season to the starters on offense for tomorrow's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, they will look quite a bit different.  In fact, here are the starting 11 from Week 1, side-by-side with the projected starting 11 for Week 15.  As you'll see, only 5 players are the same:

Position

Week 1 Starter

Week 15 Starter

Quarterback

Christian Ponder

Matt Cassel

Running back

Adrian Peterson

Toby Gerhart

Fullback

Rhett Ellison/Zach Line

Jerome Felton

Wide Receiver

Greg Jennings

Greg Jennings

Wide Receiver

Jerome Simpson

Cordarrelle Patterson

Tight End

Kyle Rudolph

Rhett Ellison

Left Tackle

Matt Kalil

Matt Kalil

Left Guard

Charlie Johnson

Charlie Johnson

Center

John Sullivan

John Sullivan

Right Guard

Brandon Fusco

Joe Berger

Right Tackle

Phil Loadholt

Phil Loadholt

So our depth has been tested.  And in that ESPN article, they rank our depth 4th best in the entire NFL.  Crazy, right?  Here's what they had to say:

4. Minnesota Vikings

Backups grade: 35.4 | Deepest position group: Fullback
Shallowest: Wide receiver | Best non-starter: FB/TE Rhett Ellison (+21.5)

With Adrian Peterson on the roster, it's no surprise the Vikings have acquired depth with run-blockers. Both Jerome Felton (+15.0) and Ellison are among the better run-blocking fullbacks in the league, even though neither has topped 250 snaps this season. Rarely-used third tight end Chase Ford (+2.3) can be an asset run-blocking as well, and backup halfback Toby Gerhart (+5.7) is averaging 7.9 yards per carry this year. Outside of the defensive line, there isn't much proven depth at linebacker or defensive back.

They used Pro Football Focus player grades as a guide when determining their rankings, which is good news for us.  They note that we've got fullback depth (MOAR FB!) going for us, but they still list our depth at wide receiver as shallow.  It's a heck of a lot better than it was last year that's for sure.  I can't simply reprint the entire article, but I can tell you that the Saints ranked #1 overall, and that our NFC North brethren all rank in the bottom half of the NFL, with the Chicago Bears ranked dead last.  But as they also note, we are seriously lacking depth on the defensive side of the ball.  In fact, here's a similar table as above, for the starters on defense.  And as you can see, only 6 of them are the same when you compare week 1 to projected week 15 starters (and if Chris Cook doesn't play, it will be only 5!):

Position

Week 1 Starter

Week 15 Starter

Right End

Brian Robison

Brian Robison

Nose Tackle

Fred Evans

Letroy Guion

Defensive Tackle

Letroy Guion

Kevin Williams

Left End

Jared Allen

Jared Allen

Middle Linebacker

Erin Henderson

Audie Cole

Strong Linebacker

Chad Greenway

Chad Greenway

Cornerback

Chris Cook

Chris Cook

Cornerback

Xavier Rhodes

Marcus Sherels

Cornerback

Josh Robinson

Robert Blanton

Safety

Harrison Smith

Andrew Sendejo?

Safety

Jamarca Sanford

Jamarca Sanford

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am ready for this season to be over.  Let's get our players back healthy, and reload the roster via the draft and free agency.  Throw in some improvements in the coaching staff, and this team could be ripe for a massive turn around in 2014.  As our own Eric Thompson has pointed out over and over again via Twitter and here in the comments, if our games only lasted 59 minutes instead of the full 60, we'd be sitting at 8-5.  Our depth has definitely been tested this season, and so far, it would seem that they are passing the test in most areas.

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