As I've stated numerous times in this space before, I like Bill Barnwell. I really do. He's a great writer and has treated us pretty well over the years when we've asked him for stuff. But there are times where I disagree with what he has to say.
This is one of those times.
As a follow-up to his ranking of the NFL's offensive "triplets," he went through and did the same with each team's defensive "triplets" from behind the great E$PN paywall. You would think that a great, young, talented defense like the Minnesota Vikings would rank fairly high on this list.
You would think that. And you would be incorrect.
Barnwell ranks the Vikings' defensive trio of defensive end Everson Griffen, linebacker Anthony Barr, and safety Harrison Smith as the 18th. . .yes, eighteenth. . .best trio in the National Football League. Here's the commentary that was supplied with the ranking:
Even I'll admit that this feels low for a defense as promising and exciting as Minnesota's under Mike Zimmer. This is a defense that's really built upon its depth. Their best pass-rusher after Griffen is reserve defensive tackle Tom Johnson, and after him, it's probably situational second-year end Danielle Hunter. The Vikings go five deep at corner after adding Mackensie Alexander in the second round. The only real hole on the roster is at safety next to Smith, but for all the young talent they have, they finished 14th in defensive DVOA, one spot behind the Colts. Players such as Barr and Eric Kendricks are likely to continue improving, and there's a ton of talent here, but this is a defense that looks better from a wider lens.
Seriously, I don't get this. I mean, Barnwell admits that this "seems low," but damn.
I love Everson Griffen as a player as much as anybody, but if we're looking at the team's three best defensive players, I'm not totally sure why Linval Joseph wasn't used in Griffen's place. When both were healthy, Joseph was the better player last season, in my opinion. It's not that Griffen is a bad choice, per se. . .I'm just not sure if he was the best one.
As far as the other two players that were chosen? Right now, you can count the linebackers in the NFL that are better than Anthony Barr on one hand, and you probably wouldn't use all your fingers. When it comes to safeties, if Harrison Smith isn't the best the NFL has to offer at the position, he's in the top two. If we use Pro Football Focus grades, which I understand aren't the be-all and end-all, Smith is the best safety in the National Football League, and Barr is better than every 4-3 linebacker not named Luke Kuechly.
I understand that the Vikings have tremendous depth on defense, as Barnwell states in his commentary. However, Smith and Barr are both ridiculously talented, and regardless of who the third member of the trio was going to be, those two players alone should have carried the Vikings to a much higher ranking, and certainly into the top half of the NFL.
So, there's your look at the defensive "triplet" rankings and the fact that the Minnesota Vikings appear to be much, much lower than they should be. Perhaps another season like these three men put together in 2015 would give them a little more respect.