As we speculated in yesterday's posting on the subject, two more members of the Minnesota Vikings were named on the Pro Football Focus list of the top 101 players of 2015.
The analytics site revealed their top 25 on Thursday, and both linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith were deemed by PFF to be among the 25 best players in the National Football League in 2015.
We'll start with Smith, who was. . .appropriately enough. . .listed at #22 on the Pro Football Focus list. According to what they had to say about him, he was the only safety in the NFL last season with a top-ten "grade" in pass coverage, pass rushing, and run defense.
Harrison Smith has become arguably the NFL's best safety, capable of doing everything you need a player at that position to do—and do all of it well. He graded highly in every facet of play PFF measures, including discipline and penalties, and is the fulcrum around which the Minnesota secondary swings. He was the only safety to break into the 90s and the "blue-chip elite" band of PFF's new grading system, with a mark of 92.8 for the season.
It's nice that somebody finally recognized Smith for how good he is. Usually, when discussing the best safeties in the NFL, the conversation usually goes "Blah blah Earl Thomas blah blah Eric Weddle blah blah Kam Chancellor blah blah" and that's sort of where it stops. Frankly, I'll take Harrison Smith over any of those guys.
Speaking of guys I'd take on my team over darn near anybody, Barr popped up on the list at #20.
An edge rusher in college, Anthony Barr has developed into one of the league's more impressive young off-the-ball linebackers. He graded well as a pass-rusher in 2015, but it wasn't as a situational edge rusher for Minnesota, rather just on the blitz from conventional linebacker alignment. He also graded well against the run and, most impressively for a pass-rushing convert, in coverage. Barr closes on plays in front of him very quickly, can hit landmarks, and gets in the way of passes, as he demonstrated by picking off Peyton Manning when facing Denver in Week 4.
According to PFF, the only linebacker that finished with a higher grade on the season in the entire NFL was Carolina Panthers' star Luke Kuechly. Barr's been an NFL linebacker for two years, and a linebacker at any level for a total of four years (remember, he started out as a running back at UCLA), and he's already nearly on the level of a guy that won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2013.
With the list being fully announced, a couple of fairly prominent members of the Vikings didn't make the list. . .most notably running back Adrian Peterson and defensive end Everson Griffen. I'm not sure what the overall grade was for either of those players, but I don't think the analytics have ever looked terribly favorably on Peterson, in part due to the fact that in the past he hasn't contributed much as a receiver or a blocker. Griffen is a little surprising, though. . .I'm pretty sure he had at least a few games where he scored relatively high on the PFF scale.
But there's your look at Vikings on the PFF Top 101 of 2015. Is it a perfect list? Probably not. But it's got to be better than the annual farce the NFL Network runs. . .if you're a Vikings fan, you generally only have to tune into that one for the last episode or two to see where Adrian Peterson wound up.