We’ve seen the transformation that the Minnesota Vikings’ roster has gone through over the course of the past two years. Thanks to the Vikings’ front office and the developmental abilities of the new Mike Zimmer-led coaching staff, the Vikings have built themselves a solid base for the future.
Over behind the great E$PN paywall, Scott Kacsmar from Football Outsiders has gone through each team and ranked them based on how much "under-25" talent they have. Those calculations are based on the following:
We wanted to create a ranking that balanced opportunity with performance and potential, so we used the following criteria
-The number of games in 2015 started by players under the age of 25
-The number of snaps played in 2015 by players under the age of 25
-Whether a team's young starters last season were simply injury replacements
-The number of under-25 first-team All-Pros and Pro Bowl players a team has on its roster (All-Pros were given more weight than Pro Bowls)
-Positional value (young quarterbacks and positions impacting the passing game carry more weight; backup running backs and kickers are devalued)
-The amount of value a team added in the 2016 draft, with a focus on the first two rounds (premium picks)
-The expected number of key starters and reserves under the age of 25 in 2016
-A team's recent track record of developing and retaining young talent
-Players with significant injury or suspension issues in 2016 are downgraded
The Vikings are very close to the top of the list. . .even higher than they were on last year’s rankings. Football Outsiders had them at #7 on last season’s list of under-25 talent, and they’ve moved up to the #6 spot this year.
Here is what Kacsmar has to say about the purple:
The Vikings are the only team in the league to have multiple U25 Pro Bowlers, but one of them -- quarterback Teddy Bridgewater -- is about as polarizing as they come. No, he was not a top-10 quarterback in 2015, but he has been better than his bland numbers, namely the 14 touchdown passes per season, suggest. Bridgewater's passing plus-minus, which adjusts for where and how far the ball was thrown, ranked fifth in 2015. Plus, despite being pressured on a league-high 36.0 percent of his plays, Bridgewater still ranked in DVOA's top 14 with and without pressure.
Bridgewater still has plenty of improving to do, but for now, he's the best U25 quarterback in the NFL. He got a great start from wide receiver Stefon Diggs last season, and first-round pick Laquon Treadwell figures to add a boost to the passing game.
Minnesota's other Pro Bowler was linebacker Anthony Barr, who combined for 97 stops with fellow under-25 stud Eric Kendricks last season. Their main responsibility is not pass-rushing, but Barr's all-around game saw him register 11 hurries and defend the pass well in coverage. While rookie corner Trae Waynes looked lost at times last year, he charted well on a small number (23) of targets. If Waynes or second-round rookie Mackensie Alexander can contribute to the secondary this year, then expect to see the Vikings in the top five of these rankings next year.
Well, Bridgewater has been much better. . .significantly better. . .than his raw numbers suggest. This means that he’s much, much better than the folks that do their scouting through the boxscore will give him credit for being. (Seriously, I don’t think he could be worse than what the boxscore jockeys portray him as.) Looking at all the other names that Football Outsiders lists, particularly on the defensive side, it is hard to imagine things getting a whole lot worse for the Vikings any time soon.
The Vikings’ #6 ranking puts them significantly ahead of their NFC North rivals. The next highest NFC North team in the list is the Gr. . .the Chicago Bears? Yes, Kacsmar has the Bears at #17 on the list, with the Green Bay Packers right behind them at #18. To round out the division, the Detroit Lions are languishing all the way down at #31 on this list.
Yes, the Vikings have done an outstanding job of acquiring and developing young talent. As long as Rick Spielman is doing the drafting and Mike Zimmer is doing the coaching, there’s little reason to expect this trend to change any time soon.