A couple weeks back Adam Patrick of Vikings Territory approached Eric and I about a project they were doing, and asked us to contribute. They got a panel of Vikings bloggers and writers together to compile a list of the top 30 Vikings for 2016, and you can read about the first ten players on that combined list right here.
But Eric and I got to talking, and we kind of thought it would be cool to reveal our own personal top 30, and then give you our reasoning. So, we have. We'll do five players at a time, starting at number 30 and working our way to number one, over the next week or so.
So, what makes an important player? Is it the guy that is most indispensable? is it the guy that has the most statistics? I would argue that it's a combination of a number of things. For me, it's the level of play, the position they play, and what the expectations are for that player. So I approached my list that way, and as we get towards the top, you'll see that stats aren't going to be the be all end all for me in terms of importance to the team.
Eric: I simply did who I thought the 30 best players on the team were. Of course it's nearly impossible to define who's the "best" across positions, but I went ahead and tried anyway. I looked at everyone on the current Vikings roster, chose my top 30, and then asked myself "OK who's the better football player?" when comparing them. Is my list unassailable? No. Did I rearrange it at least 15 times before submitting it? You bet I did. But that's what the offseason is for--debating needless listicles to pass the time before Training Camp.
So without further ado, here are the players Ted and I deemed the 30th through 26th top 2016 Vikings:
|30||Matt Kalil, T||MyCole Pruitt, TE|
|29||Anthony Harris, S||
Marcus Sherels, CB/PR
|28||Mackensie Alexander, CB||
Andre Smith, T
|27||Trae Waynes, CB||
Tom Johnson, DT
|26||Rhett Ellison, TE||
Jarius Wright, WR
Eric: Matt Kalil, T—C'mon. Admit it. He wasn't THAT bad in 2015, especially compared to the two previous seasons. That said, you're still completely justified in your outrage that a middling (at best) left tackle is making $11 million this year. Before you go wishing Kalil was off the team, make sure there's someone more competent that could fill in for him-I'm not sure there is right now. Hopefully he can make a new Vikings contract worth discussing this year.
Ted: MyCole Pruitt, TE—Pruitt might be a surprise to some, but if Kyle Rudolph can't step up and deliver the goods, I think Pruitt has the talent to step in and fill the void. He only had 10 catches for 89 yards last year, but he has the potential to be a starting TE in the NFL, and if Rudolph gets hurt again, Pruitt will get an opportunity.
Eric: Anthony Harris, S—All indications are that Andrew Sendejo will be the starting safety opposite Harrison Smith when the Vikings open camp in Mankato. But from what I saw last year, I'm hoping that Harris can wrestle that title away from Sendejo by the time the regular season starts. Harris saw only 147 defensive snaps last year but for my money he showed the best overall defense of any of his competitors on the team. I think he'll take another step forward this year and see much more action.
Ted: Marcus Sherels, CB/PR—A lot of you are probably thinking ‘man, Marcus Sherels ain't even making the 53.' To you I say HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA YOU CAN'T KILL MARCUS SHERELS, nor should you. He's one of the best punt returners in the league, and as a reserve nickel or dime back he'll do. Look, just get mentally prepared for Sherels to make the final 53, whether you like it or not, because as our Fearless Leader has said, when the Apocalypse hits, the only things that will survive are cockroaches, Twinkies, and Marcus Sherels
Eric: Mackensie Alexander, CB—It's hard to gauge the value of a player that has yet to take an NFL snap, but I think the second round draft pick might be able to make an immediate impact. The fact that Spielman and Zimmer chose him despite not having the usual size of a Zimmer cornerback speaks volumes to what they think of his coverage skills.
Ted: Andre Smith, T—Brought in to provide competition and more consistency on the right side of the line. Has a solid chance to beat out Phil Loadholt and T.J. Clemmings. Loadholt is coming off a bad Achilles injury, and Clemmings, who did okay as a ‘hey you' rookie, was wildly inconsistent. Smith can play at a high level, and if he does, this Vikings line will go from a source of angst to one of the strongest units on the team.
Eric: Trae Waynes, CB—I put Alexander and Waynes next to each other on this list because I think their competition heading into the season will be one of the best position battles in camp. Captain Munnerlyn and (especially) Terence Newman aren't getting any younger, and I expect either Waynes or Alexander to take some of their snaps in 2016. I'll give the initial edge to Waynes because of his year of experience and surprisingly strong showing at the end of a relatively disappointing rookie season.
Ted: Tom Johnson, DT—Johnson is arguably the best backup defensive lineman in the NFL. He's not Linval Joseph, but when used in a constant rotation, the level of play from the line as a whole has very little drop off. There's a difference between depth and quality depth, and Johnson is that difference. You could make the case he's the most under rated player on the Vikings defense.
Eric: Rhett Ellison, TE—In an odd way I hope the inclusion of Ellison on this list seems silly after the season. Not because I don't think Ellison will be the same after his injury last year. It's because I hope the Vikings will depend a little less on his talents with their offense this season. Ellison has been the perfect compliment for the run-first, heavy, under-center packages that Norv Turner has favored since his arrival in Minnesota. I'm anticipating a more open, shotgun-friendly offense in 2016, which might mean less snaps for Ellison. But either way, there's no denying that Ellison might be the most underappreciated member of the Vikings offense, so I had to give him some love here.
Ted: Jarius Wright, WR—Wright provides depth at wide receiver, and is the best slot receiver the Vikings have. His number doesn't get called a lot, but if the WR corps improves like I think it will, Wright is going to make some huge plays in the middle of the field this year, as defenses spread out to stop guys like Diggs, Treadwell, and (hopefully) Patterson.
So, there you have it, players 26-30 from us. Stay tuned for 25-21.