When most people talk about how talented the Minnesota Vikings are, the focus generally moves to what the team has on the defensive side of the football. After all, there are All-Pro caliber players on every level of Minnesota’s defense, so it’s easy to look in that direction.
However, the offensive side of the ball shouldn’t be overlooked, specifically what the Vikings have done at the skill positions. Bill Barnwell of ESPN has rated all of the skill position groups around the National Football League, and he thinks pretty highly of the Vikings, placing them at #5 in the entire NFL.
You can read the criteria that Barnwell used to put his rankings together at the link above, but there’s one thing he wants to clarify right from the beginning:
These rankings are attempting to consider a team’s skill-position talent without including the impact of the quarterback, offensive line or scheme. Let me repeat that again. These rankings are attempting to consider a team’s skill-position talent without including the impact of the quarterback, offensive line or scheme. It’s not possible to totally extricate one from the other, but this will be an educated guess.
Here’s what he had to say about the Vikings specifically:
Even the Vikings didn’t expect Adam Thielen to turn into one of the most productive wideouts in the NFL, given that they offered Alshon Jeffery a multiyear deal that would have consigned Thielen to a role in the slot. Jeffery is obviously happy with the choice he made in free agency, but the Vikings ended up with one of the biggest bargains in football. Thielen finished fifth in receiving yards, and the only wideout duo to top Thielen and Stefon Diggs in receiving yards was Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster. It seems safe to give up on former first-round pick Laquon Treadwell, but new slot receiver Kendall Wright could be an upgrade on Jarius Wright.
At the other spots, the Vikings have high-ceiling options. Kyle Rudolph’s target share went down with the departure of Sam Bradford and the emergence of Thielen, but he still managed to catch eight touchdown passes. He also has played all 16 games in each of the past three seasons after missing nearly a full year between 2013 and 2014. Running back Dalvin Cook is coming off a torn ACL, and he looked promising before going down, as the 2017 second-round pick was averaging 4.8 yards per carry and generating first downs on more than 20 percent of his rush attempts. Cook is coming off early fantasy draft boards as the 10th-highest back by ADP, which speaks to his potential. The 22-year-old was on pace for more than 1,400 rushing yards when he was hurt; if Cook stays at that level in 2018, the Vikings might have the league’s best big three.
A couple of things here:
- I’m not sure that it’s time to give up on Treadwell yet. Yes, it’s going to be very important for him to establish a chemistry with Cousins, and yes this is probably his last chance. . .but I don’t think we can write him off yet. That’s my personal opinion, though.
- The Vikings’ receivers are incredibly diverse. Diggs, Thielen, and Wright can all play outside or in the slot, and that should allow John DeFilippo to help find mismatches.
- Don’t underestimate Rudolph’s importance. He’s been money inside the 20 over the past few seasons, and you can bet that he’s going to be one of Cousins’ primary reads in every red zone situation.
Speaking of Cousins, his former team, the Washington Redskins, checks in at #18 in these rankings. Based on that, given the sorts of numbers that Cousins produced with what appears to be inferior offensive personnel, the sky is pretty much the limit for him this year for Minnesota.
The rest of the NFC North doesn’t rate quite as highly, though there is one significant surprise. Barnwell has the Chicago Bears all the way up at #9 on his list, based mostly on the strength of guys that weren’t in Chicago last season (since the Bears overhauled just about their entire receiver corps). After that, you have to drop all the way to #21 to find the next NFC North representative. . .the Detroit Lions. Yes, according to Barnwell, the Green Bay Packers have the NFC North’s worst skill position group, as he has them at #23 overall.
The Vikings have plenty of talent on the offensive side of the football this season, folks. Now, if they can just get that whole offensive line thing sorted out. . .