Not too long ago, we talked about the Football Outsiders list of the best young prospects in the NFL and the two members of the Minnesota Vikings that were on that list. Now, we’re shifting to the other end of the spectrum to see a pair of players from our favorite football team get some respect as well.
NFL.com has put together their list of the league’s top 30 players that are over the age of 30. As mentioned, two members of the Vikings are on the list. One of them definitely won’t come as a surprise (except, possibly, to say “damn, he’s that old”) and the other one will likely be a surprise to those that just aren’t paying attention.
Yes, the second part of that statement refers to quarterback Kirk Cousins, who checks in on the list at #24.
Less was certainly more for Cousins last season, as he completed 69 percent of his passes and boasted a career best 107.4 passer rating (destroying his previous PR by 6 points) while throwing the ball 130 fewer times than he averaged over the previous four seasons. So why after a career year doesn’t he rank higher on our list? Because so much of his success depended on newly crowned Vikings captain Dalvin Cook. Thirty-eight percent of Cousins’ total passing yards last season came off play-action, per PFF. That was third-most behind Ryan Tannehill and Jimmy Garoppolo (both at 42 percent) — two guys also bolstered by elite rushing attacks. The Vikings passer (who turns 32 in August) was the only quarterback last season who threw more than 50 percent of his touchdown passes off play-action (14 to 12) even though his play-action attempts accounted for just 32 percent of his total passes. I’m not suggesting Cousins isn’t a really good player — obviously that’s not the case because he’s on this list — but unlike the QBs ahead of him, he’s yet to prove he can consistently be the primary reason his team wins.
Loosely translated, the Vikings installed an offense that plays well to Cousins’ strengths, and as a result he played pretty well. Strange how that works.
A little higher on the list, we find safety Harrison Smith. Yes, Smith is 31 years old now. . .I know he’s been with the team for a while, but he just seems younger, I guess. He’s on the list at #15.
One half of the NFL’s best safety duo, Smith helped clean up a lot of the Vikings’ sloppy coverage miscues last year. While offseason departures Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes were too often game-wrecking liabilities, Smith continued to be the consistent, reliable safety net in Mike Zimmer’s defense. The five-time Pro Bowler ranked among the best at his position when he was the nearest defender in coverage, totaling 11 passes defended while limiting opposing passers to a 50.3 rating. With Minnesota’s CB group high on potential, but light on experience, Smith will need to conjure up another all-star effort in 2020 for the Vikes to make a legit run.
The Vikings are the only NFC North team with multiple players on this list. The Lions have one (Matthew Stafford, #11), as do the Packers (Aaron Rodgers, #4). The Bears don’t have any players on the list of the 30 best NFL players age 30 or older.
Taking a look at the list, do you think Smith and/or Cousins are too high? Too low? Or are they in just about the right spot? I can’t think of any other Vikings that might have deserved a spot on the list, though I’m a bit surprised that Everson Griffen wasn’t on there somewhere.