If you're not reading the website known as Pro Football Focus, you're really missing out. It's a very well-done site in the vein of Football Outsiders and other sites that go beyond the regular football statistics and probe a little deeper, a lot like sabermetrics has done for baseball over the course of the past few years.
Over the course of the past couple of weeks, the folks at PFF have put forth a "secret superstar" for each NFL team. . .somebody that doesn't always get the top billing in the box score or the SportsCenter highlights or whatever, but is still doing an outstanding job for their football team. According to Pro Football Focus, the Minnesota Vikings' secret superstar is none other than everyone's favorite NoDak. . .well, outside of myself, obviously. . .that being tight end Jim Kleinsasser.
Obviously, the focus for Kleinsasser isn't what he brings in the passing game for the Minnesota Vikings. . .after all, the guy only has 39 receptions in the last three seasons combined. But as we all know, Kleinsasser has never been about catching passes from the tight end spot. . .he's been about smashing the hell out of the guy on the other side of the line of scrimmage. And according to PFF, there probably isn't anybody in the league that's better at that from the tight end position than Jim Kleinsasser.
In 2008, he not only had the highest run blocking score for the Vikings, but led all NFL tight ends as well. To boot, he gave up just four total quarterback pressures despite being asked to stay in to pass protect on 97 plays. In 2009, he had dropped to fourth in the league but was the only Viking to have a positive run grade on the year. And again, he was an impressive pass blocker, not giving up a single pressure in 76 chances. The guy can block. Not something you can say about many Vikings.
Then there was 2010. Truth be told, it was one of his weaker years, but he was still the only Viking to grade positively in run blocking. With a strangely dwindling snap count (he had 66 less opportunities to run block,) he just wasn’t able to put in the kind of performances we’d come to expect. The pass protection was still there (two hurries allowed on 113 instances he was left in) but he wasn’t quite as dominant as before. It was all summed-up by his worst display in a long while in Week 17 – it’s not often the big man will go all game without making a single positive block.
Yep. . .with guys like Bryant McKinnie, Phil Loadholt, and even Steve Hutchinson on the offensive line, the only Minnesota Viking that was an above-average run blocker last season according to PFF was Jim Kleinsasser. As much as I like #40, I can only hope like hell that this is more due to injuries on the part of Loadholt and Hutchinson than it is for either of them dropping off (in Hutchinson's case) or not really developing (in the case of Loadholt).
I've been a huge fan of Jim Kleinsasser since he was playing at Carrington High School and I was going around with my dad while he was doing games with KQLX-AM/FM in Lisbon, ND. Seriously, watching guys try to tackle him back then was like watching people attempt to bring down a school bus. He may be getting towards the end of his career, but hopefully he'll be remember for what he's contributed to this team after he hangs it up. . .and it's nice to see him getting a bit of recognition for his work now, too.