If you'd like an illustration of how the folks in Bristol, Connecticut can play both sides of the fence, look no further than this piece. Well, if you have ESPN In$ider, I mean.
Matt Williamson of ESPN has gone through all of the NFL teams and ranked them in terms of their 25-and-under talent. In direct contrast to another piece on ESPN. . .one that I did a post about just a little bit ago. . .Williamson says that the Vikings are loaded with young talent, as he has them rated 4th in the NFL in 25-and-under talent, and 2nd in the NFC behind the St. Louis Rams. He also lists the five most important young players in each organization, and a little bit of commentary as to why he chose them.
Who does Williamson have for the Minnesota Vikings? Well, here's what he's got.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB (22): The Vikings' new franchise quarterback also happens to be the youngest player on the team. Bridgewater struggled early as a rookie, but the game looked like it slowed down for him as the season went on, and he already has a great understanding of how to distribute the ball. His lack of overwhelming arm strength and his slight frame worry me with regard to his long-term projection.
Anthony Barr, OLB (22): A running back-turned-edge rusher at UCLA, Barr now is expanding his role even further at the NFL level by playing off the line of scrimmage and dropping into coverage -- in addition to getting after opposing quarterbacks. He closes on the football really well. Just wait until he really gets comfortable at the position.
Harrison Smith, S (25): Smith does everything well, including covering tight ends, covering in deep zone and playing the run. He is already a foundation player for Minnesota.
Sharrif Floyd, DT (23): Head coach Mike Zimmer used Floyd in much the same way he did Geno Atkins in Cincinnati. A disruptive upfield penetrator, Floyd uses his quickness to get into the backfield, and he's improved as a run-stuffer as well.
Kyle Rudolph, TE (25): Minnesota had several strong candidates for this final position (I nearly picked CB Xavier Rhodes), but I went with Rudolph since he is the most proven. (OT Matt Kalil and WR Cordarrelle Patterson should be here from a talent standpoint, but both took steps back this season.) Rudolph's size and dependable hands are exactly what a developing quarterback like Bridgewater needs.
Others of note: Matt Kalil, Jarius Wright, Xavier Rhodes, Josh Robinson, Cordarrelle Patterson, Scott Crichton, David Yankey, Jerick McKinnon
The Vikings stack up quite favorably to the other NFC North teams on the list. The next-highest NFC North team on the list is the Green Bay Packers, who rank 9th (and are in danger of losing their top-ranked guy on Williamson's list for them, receiver Randall Cobb). Next is the Detroit Lions, who are in the bottom half of the list at #20. And the Chicago Bears are second from the bottom of the 25-and-under talent list at #31, better than only the Washington Redskins.
The two teams at the top of the list are the teams that faced off in the AFC Championship Game, the Indianapolis Colts (#1) and the New England Patriots (#2).
So, it's all a matter of perspective, I guess. One source says that the Minnesota Vikings are pretty far away from being in Super Bowl contention, while another says they're loaded with young talent.
Welcome to the off-season, folks!