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Minnesota Vikings Player Power Rankings: 2008 Final Edition

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Back at the halfway point of the season, I put forth a set of Player Power Rankings for everyone's viewing pleasure.  Now that the season is over and we've had a chance to see some of our players grow and mature while some others fell off the map, it's time to take a look at how those have changed since late October.  The table comes after the jump.  Remember, these are strictly my opinions, and are certainly open for discussion. . .in fact, discussion is encouraged, as I'm sure there will be some disagreements.

Player Power Rankings
Rank

Player

Mid-Season Rank Change Comment
1 Jared Allen, DE 4 +3 When you're made the highest-paid defensive player in the National Football League, you'd better be prepared to go out and prove why that was.  Jared Allen did that this season, and then some.  14.5 sacks and three forced fumbles during the regular season, followed up by two sacks and a forced fumble in the playoff loss to the Eagles, showed the world what Jared Allen was brought here for.  He's clean, he's tough, and he's the best pass-rushing DE in football.  Oh, and he turns 27 in April.
2 Adrian Peterson, RB 2 0 I know he's getting the ball, you know he's getting the ball, the guys in the booth know he's getting the ball, everyone in the stands knows he's getting the ball, everyone on the other team knows he's getting the ball. . .and he led the NFL in rushing anyway.  Sure, he had a case of the yips toward the end of the season. . .but is there a running back in the National Football League that you'd trade him for right now?  Yeah, I didn't think so.
3 Kevin Williams, DT 1 -2 Tailed off a little bit at the end of the season, certainly, but still finished with 8.5 sacks and was his usual tremendous self against the run.  Albert Haynesworth is going to end up getting paid more than #93 this off-season. . .but given the choice, I wouldn't trade Kevin Williams for him.  In my opinion, Kevin Williams is still the best all-around defensive tackle in the NFL.
4 Pat Williams, DT 7 +3 The game against the Giants at the end of the year showed us what a valuable asset Pat Williams is to the Minnesota defense.  As a run-stuffer, he's absolutely without peer, and was a huge part of the reason why the Vikings' defense was #1 against the run for the third consecutive year.  One has to wonder how many more years we can get out of the big man, but if Ted Washington played at a fairly high level until he was 85 years old, I think Pat Williams can do the same.
5 Antoine Winfield, CB 5 0 The biggest little man in the NFL has finally been rewarded for his high level of play with his first trip to Honolulu for the Pro Bowl.  Everyone knows about his ability against the run, but this year the Vikings' pass defense was 5th in the NFL in DVOA against #1 wide receivers, and the #1 guy on the other team almost always lined up against #26.  It's about time he got the recognition that he deserves.
6 Steve Hutchinson, G 5 -1 Having the best guard in the NFL this far down on the list isn't so much about how he played in 2008. . .it's more about the high level that the five guys in front of him performed at.  He's blocked for a 1,000 yard rusher every year he's been in the NFL, and as long as Adrian Peterson is in Minnesota, that streak should continue for a few more seasons, at least.
7 Ryan Longwell, K 8 +1 Tremendously consistent, and in fact might be getting better with age.  He was 6-for-6 from 50+ yards this season, including the kick that put the Vikings into the post-season.  Why?  Because that's what Ryan Longwell does.
8 Chad Greenway, LB 17 +9 One of the big risers on the list, Greenway was an absolute monster over the second half of the season, despite the absence of fellow LB E.J. Henderson.  He led the Vikings in tackles with 115, managed to throw in 5.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and got markedly better in coverage as the season went on.
9 Visanthe Shiancoe, TE 11 +2 Shank has developed into a serious threat at the TE position, particularly over the second part of this season.  He was in the top 10 in receiving yards at the tight end position, and averaged 14.2 yards/reception.  The only two TEs in the NFL that had more touchdowns than he did are a couple of guys that you might have heard of. . .Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates.  Finally appears to be worth the money that was spent on him in 2006.
10 Bernard Berrian, WR 6 -4 Berrian certainly did what he was asked to do when the Vikings signed him away from the Chicago Bears.  Minnesota wanted him to come in and stretch the field, and his 20.1 yards/reception says that he did just that.  But he did have a couple of games where he completely disappeared, and is probably more suited to be a #2 guy than a true #1.  Hopefully we can find that true #1 here very soon and let Berrian do what he does best.
11 Madieu Williams, S NR NA After he finally got himself healthy, he got on the field and was pretty effective for the most part.  With the likely departure of Darren Sharper this off-season, Williams will likely move into more of a free safety/center fielder type of position, with Tyrell Johnson moving into the strong safety spot.
12 Matt Birk, C 9 -3 Another player that has, more than likely, played his last game for the Vikings.  While still one of the best at his position, it certainly appears that he's lost a little bit.  He'll turn 33 in July. . .he's the last holdover from the 1998 squad. . .and it probably won't be cost-efficient to bring him back at this point.  Stranger things have happened, though.
13 Bobby Wade, WR 18 +5 The Vikings caught a lot of flack for signing this guy after the 2006 season, but you know something?  This guy can play on my team any time.  He led the Vikings in receptions again this season, he makes tough catches, he gets first downs, and he knows what his role in the offense is.  I'm quite happy to have him here for another couple of years.
14 Ben Leber, LB 10 -4 Leber was his usual understated self in 2008.  He goes out there every week and does his job in a solid, but not spectacular, fashion.  He might be someone that the Vikings need to look at replacing in the near future, as he'll turn 31 this season, but he's still a good veteran leader and an asset to the defense at this point.
15 Cedric Griffin, CB 25 +10 Another big riser here, Griffin looked like a completely different player in the second half of the season.  It appears that the coaching staff finally realized that Griffin isn't a "lay back and play zone" cornerback.  He needs to be allowed to get up in people's faces and be physical.  With Antoine Winfield getting up in age, Griffin will probably face more of a burden in the near future. . .oh, and he has a contract year coming this next season, too.
16 Artis Hicks, OL 15 -1 Played well in Bryant McKinnie's stead when he was called upon to do so, and filled in on other spots in the line as well.  His versatility makes him a valuable part of the roster, but injuries clearly hampered him down the stretch, causing him to miss some time.
17 Gus Frerotte, QB 12 -5 Gus was brought here to be the backup, and he performed the way a backup quarterback would be expected to.  He had some moments of brilliance, coupled with some throws that make you wonder how the heck he's lasted in the league as long as he has.  His comments after the Eagles' game were particularly grating, since I really don't think he would have given us any more of a chance than Tarvaris Jackson.
18 Tarvaris Jackson, QB 28 +10 In the last 4 1/2 games of the season, we caught a glimpse of both what's so intriguing about Tarvaris Jackson, and what absolutely drives us crazy about him.  Again, he's got all the physical ability in the world, but at this point, I don't think he's going to be able to put it all together as a consistent NFL QB.  He gets bumped up the list, though, based on his performance at the end of the regular season when the Vikings were fighting for a division title.
19 Darren Sharper, S 14 -5 The greatest safety in Green Bay Packer history has probably played his last game in purple.  As the season progressed, Sharper looked older and slower than he has at any point in his career, and started taking bad angles to the football.  He's given us a few great seasons as a member of our secondary, but it doesn't look like he can get it done any more.  If Sharper does prove me wrong, he'll more than likely have to do it in another uniform.
20 Chester Taylor, RB 23 +3 He didn't get nearly the number of touches that he got over the past couple of seasons, but Taylor proved why he and Adrian Peterson are still the best 1-2 running back punch in the National Football League.  One of the best pass-catching backs in the league and a vital asset on third downs, he's approaching that 30-year old point where running backs tend to start declining, but he hasn't had a lot of carries over his career for the most part.  We'll have to keep an eye on him.
21 Bryant McKinnie, OT 16 -5 Paid like an elite LT.  Not an elite LT.  Not to mention one stupid, drunken incident away from taking a year's vacation from the NFL.  There are few players on the Vikings' roster as disappointing as Bryant McKinnie.  Need more proof?  I listed three other offensive linemen, one of whom is a backup, before I got to him.
22 Brian Robison, DE 29 +7 An interesting study. . .he played well this season, largely when spelling Pat Williams at DT on obvious passing downs.  He also played pretty well when called upon against the Eagles as well.  If nobody else is brought in this off-season, I firmly believe that he should be starting opposite Jared Allen at DE in 2009, but we'll have to see.
23 Tyrell Johnson, S 13 -10 His drop isn't because he played horribly or anything. . .but with Madieu Williams insertion into the lineup, he simply didn't get to contribute in the same way he did during the early part of the season.  I think he's still got some promise as an in-the-box type of safety, and he's likely going to be a starter in 2009.
24 Anthony Herrera, G 19 -5 Still solid against the run, but his pass protection seemed to slip a bit in the later stages of the season.  It seemed that whenever the quarterback had pressure on him, it was generally coming from his right. . .although I'm not sure how much of this is a function of Herrera's play as much as the play of someone we'll get to here in a while.
25 Ray Edwards, DE 21 -4 Talked a lot in the pre-season about Michael Strahan's single-season sack record.  Came up roughly 17 sacks short of that mark.  He's solid at DE, but with the talent that he's playing next to, he should be significantly better.  The competition between him and Brian Robison in training camp in 2009 should be interesting.
26 Fred Evans, DT 24 -2 Again, solid, but not spectacular.  At least he managed not to get tasered this season, which is always a plus.  He is a pretty valuable backup, however, all joking aside.
27 Jim Kleinsasser, TE 27 0 How much fun was it watching ol' Jimmy K rumble downfield with that little slip screen in the Eagles' game?  But his purpose here isn't to catch passes, it's to crush people as a blocker, something he still does tremendously well.  Hopefully he'll be back next season.
28 Naufahu Tahi, FB 22 -6 I've said it before, and I'll say it again. . .good blocker, but for the love of God, STOP THROWING HIM THE FOOTBALL!
29 Napoleon Harris, LB NR NA Same Napoleon Harris we saw the first time he was in Minnesota. . .solid against the run, can't blitz, can't cover.  Good depth, but I really hope we don't have to rely on him to start for any length of time.
30 Charles Gordon, CB 31 +1 Showed some real juice as a punt returner, and was starting to improve as a cornerback as well. . .up until he got his ankle mangled against the Packers.  His comeback from that injury is going to be interesting to watch.  He really gives us a solid nickel option if he can come back.
31 Cullen Loeffler, LS 35 +4 Hey, let's give the guy some more props. . .again, I ask, when was the last time we saw a bad snap on either a field goal or a punt?  It was before Cullen Loeffler came along, that's for sure.
32 Marcus Johnson, OL 30 -2 Played well in the early part of the season, particularly against Indianapolis, when he was asked to play LT (a position he had no experience at).  Just didn't get a lot of chances as the season wore on.  Still, he's the only member of Minnesota's 2005 draft class that has any chance of being worth anything in the NFL.
33 Benny Sapp, CB 41 +8 He committed some dumb penalties, to be sure, but overall wasn't completely awful or anything like that.  He should be back competing for a spot next season.
34 Ryan Cook, OT 20 -14 By far the weakest link on the offensive line.  Seems to be good for at least one drive-killing false start penalty a game, and gets beaten far more often than a third-year guy should be getting beaten.  He probably won't be starting in 2009, and it wouldn't surprise me if he was off the roster all together.
35 Chris Kluwe, P 26 -9 A very disappointing season for Kluwe, to say the least.  After the Eagles' game, DeSean Jackson came right out and basically said, "Man, that guy outkicks his coverage on almost every play."  And you know what?  He's right.  Part of the Vikings' punt-return woes this year came from lack of special teams discipline, but a lot of it came from opposing returners having a lot of space to work with after they catch the ball, too.
36 Husain Abdullah, S 37 +1 Minnesota's leading special teams tackler in 2008.  Given the state of the Minnesota special teams, I'll let you decide whether that's good or bad.
37 Vinny Ciurciu, LB 32 -5 This guy, on the other hand, was brought in a few years ago to be almost exclusively a special teamer, and he hasn't been up to snuff.  Should be fighting for his job this coming training camp.
38 Marcus McCauley 42 +4 Actually wasn't all that bad when he got on the field. . .but for someone that was a third-round pick and showed a lot of promise a year ago, he should be getting on the field more frequently than he is.
39 Eric Frampton, S 38 -1 Another guy whose main job is to bolster the special teams.  Have you noticed that a lot of these "special teams" types are going to be fighting for their jobs next season?  Curious, that.
40 Ellis Wyms, DT 48 +8 Hey, at least I noticed he was on the field in the later part of the season. . .that's more than I can say for him over the first half.
41 David Herron, LB 33 -8 Played well in place of E.J. Henderson until Napoleon Harris was brought in.  Then we really didn't hear from him much.
42 John Sullivan, C 47 +5 Barring a change via the draft or free agency, this is probably our starting center in 2009.  Didn't do much this year.
43 Sidney Rice, WR 36 -7 Like I said on the mid-season list, it absolutely kills me to put Sid the Kid this low, but he had a terrible season.  Injured for most of it, and when he did play, he didn't perform terribly well. . .and the route he ran on the play against the Eagles that wound up being a pick-6 was as horribly lazy a route as you're ever going to see.  I don't know how much of that was the lingering effects of his knee injury, but he's on the verge of being a bust here.
44 Maurice Hicks, RB 43 -1 I expected nothing, and he delivered.  Bravo, Maurice.
45 Otis Grigsby, DE 39 -6 Was actually hoping for big things out of Grigsby this season, but with the way the line rotation set up, he just didn't get a lot of chances.
46 Jeff Dugan, TE 45 -1 Probably should be a little bit higher, but I'm not sure where else I'd slot him at this point.
47 Erin Henderson, LB 44 -3 Has the potential to be more than "E.J's little brother," but didn't get a lot of opportunities to show it this season.  He's one to watch for the future, though.
48 Aundrae Allison, WR 34 -14 Another guy that had huge expectations going into the season, and had next to nothing in production.  There were questions about his work ethic when he came out of college, and it appears that it might be catching up to him once again.  I hope he snaps out of it here soon, or he might find himself without a job.
49 Garrett Mills, TE 40 -9 Again. . .3 catches for 49 yards in the season opener.  2 catches for 16 yards the rest of the way, and spent most of the second half inactive.
50 Letroy Guion, DT NR NA Was expected to be a project, and spent most of the year inactive.
Non-Ranked Players/Incomplete Grades
Rank

Player

Comment
NA E.J. Henderson, LB The Minnesota defense was #6 in the NFL in total yardage, #1 against the run, one of the best in terms of DVOA for the season. . .and they played without this guy from Week 5 onwards.  I can't wait to see him back next season.
NA Heath Farwell, LB Based on the performance of the Vikings' coverage units this year, Heath Farwell may be the greatest special teams player in the history of the universe.  Hopefully he'll be back healthy in 2009.
NA Dontarrious Thomas, LB He was here.  I don't know how many games he was active for, but he was here.
NA Drew Radovich, OL Future prospect.  Went on IR with a "shoulder injury" early in the year.  Should compete for a spot in training camp.
NA John David Booty, QB Didn't see the field after the pre-season finale.  Thank goodness.
NA Robert Ferguson, WR "Veteran leadership" and "downfield blocking" will only get you so far in this league.
NA Jayme Mitchell, DE It would have been nice to have him around to work into the line rotation.
NA Michael Boulware, S IR'd in pre-season.  Hasn't seen the field as a Viking.
NA Kenderick Allen, DT IR'd in pre-season.  Hasn't seen the field as a Viking.
NA Thomas Tapeh, FB Epic fail.  What else can be said, really?
NA Jimmy Kennedy, DT Interesting signing, I think. . .brought in late in the year as Pat Williams insurance.  Was a first-round pick a few years ago, so he's got some talent.  I think he might stick. . .because, hey, if anybody can tap into the talent that he has, it would be Karl Dunbar.  Keep an eye on him this off-season.