Over at Pro Football Focus, they're releasing their list of the top 101 players of the 2015 NFL season to review how things went last year. They've been going at the rate of 25 players a day, starting at the bottom of the list, and it took until Day Three for anyone from the Minnesota Vikings to appear on the list. Today, the Vikings placed two players on PFF's list, neither of which will surprise anyone that's been paying attention to this site.
The lower of the two players, coming in at #48, was defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Joseph notched the third-highest grade of the season for an interior defender according to PFF, despite battling foot issues for most of the second half of the year.
But for injury, Joseph could have found himself far higher up this list. For a stretch the season, the DT was one of the most dominant forces in the league. Against the Rams in Week 9, he was virtually unblockable, and almost single-handedly destroyed the rushing attack, notching seven stops and three total pressures that day. Joseph even put forth an excellent performance in Minnesota's lone postseason game, returning to cause problems for the Seahawks' rushing offense. This was by far the best season of Joseph's career, and could signal the emergence of a new defensive stud.
By the way, the two interior defenders that PFF rated higher than Joseph this season? A couple of guys named J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald. If Joseph can stay healthy and put up a similar season in 2016, it will no longer be surprising to hear him mentioned in the same breath as those two.
Speaking of surprising, the other player that made PFF's list today might come as a bit of a surprise to people that didn't watch the Vikings closely this season. At #40, we see the name of center Joe Berger, who received the highest run-blocking grade of any center in football from PFF this season.
Joe Berger was one of the stories of the 2015 season—or, at least, would have been, if you could convince the league to care about center play. Thrust into a starting position when Pro-Bowler John Sullivan went down, Berger ended up starting all season and playing well enough to win the inaugural PFF John Hannah Award, given to the best run-blocker in the league. For a journeyman backup lineman to step in and play at an All-Pro kind of level is truly extraordinary, and should be far more talked about than it has been.
What's going to happen to Berger is going to be one of the more interesting stories in Training Camp for the Vikings. He's obviously proven that he can play center in the National Football League at a high level, but now has to fend off the challenge of another guy that's pretty good at that job in the returning John Sullivan. We know that the Vikings have preached competition this offseason, and if the Vikings decide that Sullivan should recapture his center spot, Berger could easily figure into the mix at guard.
The final installment of PFF's list will be released on Thursday. Given how highly PFF talked about players like Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr during the season, I think we can reasonably expect to see them in that final installment tomorrow.