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Filed under: ranks Vikings’ defensive line as 4th-best in the NFL

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NFL: NFC Divisional Playoff-New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

You like-a the rankings? Well, we gotta more rankings for you!

This time, it’s Gregg Rosenthal from ranking the best defensive lines in the National Football League. As you’d probably expect, the Minnesota Vikings ranked pretty highly on the list, but maybe not as highly as you might think.

According to Rosenthal, the Vikings have the 4th-best defensive line in the National Football League. Here’s what he had to say about the group as a whole.

The Vikings’ starting front four fits together like a starting five in basketball. Every player has a defined role and complements the rest of the group. Everson Griffen is the leader, a premier pass rusher with a complete game who plays better after every contract extension. Danielle Hunter is his young apprentice, teeming with untapped athleticism. Linval Joseph is the dogged veteran who has been among the league’s best run stoppers since he came into the NFL. Free-agent bargain Sheldon Richardson is more disruptive against the pass from the inside -- and the Vikings hope he’s not disruptive in the locker room.

As great as the starting group looks, there is less depth than usual here. Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen left this offseason, taking more than 1,000 snaps with them. Brian Robison is now 35 years old and not expected to have a huge role. Coach Mike Zimmer doesn’t rotate his starters as much as some teams and risks leaning on his top four too much. He can only hope the group, like Griffen, gets better with age.

The three teams that were ranked above the Vikings on Rosenthal’s list were the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Los Angeles Rams. The primary reason that the Vikings ranked behind those four teams, as Rosenthal mentions, is the depth factor.

If we were to just rank the starting defensive lines for all of these teams, you’d be hard-pressed to not put the Vikings at the top. Everson Griffen is a Pro Bowler, Linval Joseph is a Pro Bowler, and Danielle Hunter is a big-time force and hasn’t even reached the age of 24 yet. Richardson, if he plays up to his ability level. . .and only being on a one-year contract and surrounded by all this talent, there’s no excuse for him not to. . .he could be the best 3-technique this team has fielded since Kevin Williams left town.

In order to compete, though, the team is going to need depth at these spots. On the outside, that shouldn’t be a problem, as the Vikings have no shortage of talented edge rushers that just need to get some more opportunities. The Vikings have players like Stephen Weatherly, Tashawn Bower, and sixth-round pick Ade Aruna to complement Robison as backups on the outside.

The interior might be cause for a bit more worry. Obviously, second-year man Jaleel Johnson is going to be expected to take a big step forward this season, and the team did sign former Indianapolis Colts’ starter David Parry to potentially add some depth on the interior, but if something were to happen to either Joseph or Richardson, it might get a little scary on the interior of the Vikings’ defensive line.

However, of all of the Vikings’ assistant coaches under Mike Zimmer, maybe none have given more reason to be optimistic about the position group they coach as Andre Patterson has been with the defensive line. The Vikings have some talent on the defensive line, and Patterson has shown the ability to develop it. If I were a betting man, I’d be willing to wager that the team will get something worked out by the time September comes around.