We know that the Minnesota Vikings were very good in 2017, and the odds of them being very good in 2018 are pretty high. According to the folks from ESPN, we can probably expect them to be pretty good for quite a while beyond that, too.
Behind the great E$PN paywall, their NFL insiders have put together their annual “Future Power Rankings,” which take a look at how they expect NFL teams to fare over the next three seasons. They think pretty highly of what Rick Spielman, Mike Zimmer, and the rest of the Vikings’ organization has done, as the Vikings sit at #4 overall in their rankings.
The way that the rankings are compiled is that each team is rated in five categories from 1 to 100, and those numbers are weighted as follows:
- Roster (30%)
- Quarterback (20%)
- Coaching (20%)
- Front Office (15%)
- Draft (15%)
The Vikings rank in the Top 5 in four of those five categories. Their roster is rated #2 (88.7), their draft is #3 (82.3), and both their coaching (87.7) and front office (83.0) are rated #5 in their respective categories. Here’s ESPN’s explanation of why they rank so highly in those categories:
Why they’re here: There are elusive positions on an NFL defense, led by pass-rushers and cornerbacks. The Vikings -- guided by GM Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer -- have done an impressive job of identifying those positions through both the draft and free agency. Cornerstone players are in place on all levels of the defense, with a homegrown nucleus that includes Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen.
The one category they don’t rank as highly in, as you’ve probably figured by now, is quarterback. On that scale, the Vikings are at #17 with a score of 79.0.
Biggest worry: This one is easy. Kirk Cousins. Is he or isn’t he worth the investment that the Vikings made in him, because as I see it, he must be the difference between being a contender and winning it all. I’m not a believer, and maybe I am not giving him enough credit for his play in Washington, but we will know very soon on this one.
What could change for the better: Some think Cousins is an average or slightly better than average starting quarterback. While Minnesota has the talent to contend even if Cousins is near average, the Vikings need their $84 million man to be an upper-tier quarterback to beat our projection for the future (we ranked the Vikings among the top five in every category but quarterback, where we had them 17th).
Well, they’re right about one thing. . .they’re not giving Cousins enough credit for his play in Washington. As we’ve mentioned numerous times since his acquisition, he’s the only quarterback in the NFL to throw for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in each of the last three seasons. He did that with a supporting cast that, as has been detailed before, isn’t nearly to the level of what he’ll be working with in Minnesota.
Kirk Cousins is going to
silent silence a lot of critics this year. Once he does, the Vikings should easily top these rankings for the next year or two, given that they’re locking up nearly all of their young talent and they still have one of the best coaching staff/front office combos in the National Football League.
As you’d imagine, the outlook for the other NFC North teams isn’t quite as rosy. ESPN does have the Green Bay Packers at #8 in their rankings, based largely on the infallible “Aaron Rodgers exists” logic. To find the next NFC North representative, you have go scroll down a bit to find the Detroit Lions at #18. Bringing up the rear are the Chicago Bears, who check in at #25.
Bottom line. . .the Vikings are a pretty good football team, folks, and we shouldn’t expect them to drop off any time soon.