I put the ESPN.com "Ultimate Depth Chart" listings in the previous post. Not to be outdone, Football Outsiders (in conjunction with Fox Sports) has started ranking all of the units in the NFL, position by position. Rather than go through everything on each one, I'll simply link to it for those that haven't seen them. They've gotten through 2 positions so far.
We'll start with the running backs, where the folks at FO have put the Vikings' stable in the top half of the league. The last sentence of the assessment says it all:
I think this team should give Chester Taylor every opportunity to be the starter. Plug Moore in as your third-down guy (provided he can start picking up the blitz well enough to not get our QB's killed), mix Fason in for a few carries here and there, and since he's the biggest back we currently have on the roster, we can give Adime. . .Adimn. . .Joe Echema a stab at the goal line back. If nothing else, it'd be worth it for the comedic value of the announcers totally annhiliating his name every time he goes in for a score.
Of course, I'm not sure if they're factoring our O-line into the RB rankings or not. I mean, running behind McKinnie, Hutchinson, Birk, and Tony Richardson, half the people that read this blog could probably pick up 4+ yards a carry. If this offense is going to accomplish anything this year, the running game is going to have to carry it for the first time in a long time. Why?
Well, go back up to the link above and click on the "quarterback" rankings. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Okay, you're back. Did you see where the Vikings are located? Yeah, way down at #31. Worse than all but one team in the NFL. And, to be quite honest, there's really very little about their assessment that I can find fault with. The fact that we're banking on Brad Johnson being healthy AND effective for 16 games should scare the crap out of every Viking fan out there.
Now, let me establish something here. . .I don't DISlike Brad Johnson in any way, shape, or form. I think he's a good fit for this system, and I'm sure he's a decent guy. I've never heard reports of him kicking puppies or eating babies or anything like that, certainly. And people love to point out the fact that "he" went 7-2 last season as the starter. Unfortunately, whenever "he" went against a team that couldn't be classed under the heading of "terrible," "he" looked awful. The second half of the Pittsburgh game might be the single worst quarterbacking performance I've ever seen, and all the Vikings needed to do to beat the Giants under his leadership was make history on defense and special teams, as well as intercept Eli Manning 4 times.
Against average to good defense, Johnson was quite bad. Against below average defenses, Johnson looked good. Have you gotten a good look at our schedule? The first three games. . .@ Washington, Carolina, Chicago. At last check, those defenses all qualify as being better than average.
And God help us if Brad DOES get hurt. Because then we're staring straight down the barrel of the Mike McMahon era. Mike McMahon is the kind of QB that Spergon Wynn points at and says, "Man, that guy's terrible." (And yes, I know Spergie was terrible, too. . .but hey, at least the guy can get a starting job in Canada.) And Tavaris Jackson is at LEAST a year away from being a factor, and maybe farther. I love the kid's talent, but I don't want to see him on the field in 2006 after the last pre-season game.
(This is part of why I think the trade of Daunte Culpepper is going to end up being, at worst, the second dumbest trade in the history of this franchise, behind the obvious #1. . .but that's another rant for another time.)
So yes. . .as these rankings continue to come out, I'll continue to look at them from the purple perspective.