I have been trudging along through all the stats on Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus and finally found enough free time to finish Part 3 covering Special Teams and I just published it to my blog. If you've been following along, I ranked all the offenses already in Part 1 here, and the defenses in Part 2 here. Very shortly, I'll be putting all the pieces together in Part 4 for the final overall "Ultimate Power Ranking". But until then, I thought I'd share the results of the Special Teams ranking with you all. Once again, as I'm sure you are only interested in the Vikings, here are the results:
5t. Minnesota Vikings 381
The Vikings have completely remade their Special Teams unit in recent years by replacing Ryan Longwell with Blair Walsh, replacing Chris Kluwe with Jeff Locke and trading Percy Harvin. And so far, those have all been good moves. Walsh took the NFL by storm his rookie year ranked as the #1 placekicker overall. Marcus Sherels sits atop the depth chart at returner, and he’s an underrated player ranked as the #5 punt returner and #13 kick returner. Mike Priefer has completely turned around what used to be a weakness and now the Vikings have above average coverage units too with a kicking coverage unit ranked #11 and a punt coverage unit ranked #12. The only question mark is rookie punter and 5th round draft choice Jeff Locke. If he can perform as an above average punter, then the Vikings could easily shoot to the top of the Special Teams ranking. As a side note, if they had kept Chris Kluwe, they would have moved up only 1 spot. Locke likely has more upside than Kluwe, but until he can prove his worth, the Vikings sit tied for 5th with the Bengals.
I think the Vikings have dramatically improved their Special Teams over the last few years, and I remember not so long ago when we had a place kicker who couldn't put it in the end zone, a punter who frequently out kicked his coverage units, and coverage units that were abysmal. But Mike Preifer did an incredible job during his first season with the Vikings last year, and I expect similar results in 2013. We'll see what Jeff Locke can bring to the table, and if he can live up to the hype of being a 5th round draft pick, the Vikings could have the best Special Teams unit in the NFL going forward. Yes, I think they're that good.
As for the rest of the NFC North, the Bears are better than the Vikings ranked #2, while the Packers are in a three-way tie for 10th place and the Lions sit dead last in 32nd place. The Ravens claim the #1 spot. For more details on the rest of the rankings, check out the link above to the original article.