As you probably already know, we're big fans of the folks from Pro Football Focus here at The Daily Norseman, and they've finally reached the Minnesota Vikings in their look at each team's projected lineup for the 2014 NFL season. They take a look at both sides of the ball, and we'll take a look at what they have to say on both sides.
PFF has put each player into one of eight categories. Those categories are "elite," "high quality," "good starter," "average starter," "below average starter," "poor starter," "not enough information," and "rookie."
We'll start with the defense because. . .well, frankly, it's not as nice-looking from PFF's perspective as the offense is. There are no players with the elite label on Minnesota's defense (as you'd expect), and none that even breach the "high quality" category. The defense has four players that PFF has classified as good starters. . .those players being Brian Robison, Linval Joseph, Captain Munnerlyn, and Harrison Smith. Four more players fall into the "average starter" category. Those players are Everson Griffen, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes, and Jamarca Sanford.
Middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley and (projected) starting cornerback Josh Robinson (they have Munnerlyn listed as the slot cornerback) are classified as below average. . .and then there's Chad Greenway, the only projected starter on either side of the ball for the Vikings to be classified as "poor."
The good news is that a lot of the Vikings' top players on defense are still relatively young, and with a new and more aggressive scheme coming for the team on defense, perhaps those guys will have more of an opportunity to make plays and show themselves to have the talent to significantly outplay their current PFF grades. In the case of guys like Greenway, we'll have to see just how much a scheme fit helps or hinders them, or whether they've simply lost a step that they're not going to get back.
The offense, on the other hand, is a much more promising picture according to PFF. Obviously, Adrian Peterson stands alone for the Vikings in the "elite" category, and they have three more players in the "high quality" category. . .all on the right side of the offensive line, as center John Sullivan, right guard Brandon Fusco, and right tackle Phil Loadholt have been given that designation by PFF. In fact, the only currently projected first-line player that doesn't merit a rating of at least "average" is left guard Charlie Johnson, which shouldn't come as a surprise to any Vikings' fan. I still fully expect that fifth-round pick David Yankey will be lining up for the Vikings at left guard in St. Louis in Week 1 barring an injury.
Seeing the talent on the offensive depth chart has also served to reinforce my belief that rookie Teddy Bridgewater will, indeed, be the Week 1 starter at quarterback for the Vikings as well. The rest of the PFF depth chart at quarterback for the Vikings doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. . .they have Matt Cassel listed as "below average" and Christian Ponder listed as "poor." And you'd be hard-pressed to make an argument to the contrary.
(See, all you folks that got your pwecious wittle feewings hurt the other day when I suggested that Matt Cassel might not be all that great? It's not just me that thinks that way.)
But Bridgewater. . .who is obviously the most talented quarterback in Minnesota right now. . .wouldn't have to come in and be a savior right away. He would be able to make the most of the talent around him (guys like Cordarrelle Patterson, Greg Jennings, and Kyle Rudolph in the passing game along with Peterson in the backfield behind him), and nobody is better for his development than Norv Turner. Turner would put Bridgewater into a position to succeed right away while not having to carry the weight of the entire team on his back.
Basically, Cassel and/or Ponder have the potential to, at best, be average. Bridgewater has the potential to be significantly more than that, and if he has the opportunity, he could make this Vikings' offense into something very special very quickly.
What do you think of the Pro Football Focus depth charts and projected starters for the Minnesota Vikings, folks?