The season may be over for the Minnesota Vikings, but that certainly shouldn’t stop us from noting that some outstanding individual performances were put together by players wearing the purple this season.
Behind the great E$PN paywall, Seth Walder has gone beyond simply doing a Top 5 or a Top 10 list of the most valuable players in the NFL this past season, taking his list all the way to a Top 100. As it was a one-man show, here’s a description of the process Walder said he used to put his list together.
This is a purely descriptive exercise. It’s simply a measure of who generated more value in 2022.
The ballot, obviously, represents my opinion. That opinion is naturally inclined toward data-based evidence — ranging from pass block win rates to our Receiver Tracking Metrics. I also relied on qualitative analysis such as Pro Football Focus grades, awards (All-Pro teams) and the opinions of colleagues and people that work in the league.
How did I decide to reconcile valuing different positions? I focused on how much value a player created relative to an average starter at their position. This means quarterbacks will dominate the top of the list because the difference between the best quarterback and an average quarterback is much larger than the difference between the best guard and an average guard. But it also means there can be no more than 16 quarterbacks, because any player outside the top half is a relative negative, since a team can only start one QB at a time.
Walder wound up with four members of the Vikings on his Top 100 list. The highest-ranking one, as you’d probably imagine, is wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who checked in at #5 and was the highest non-quarterback on the list, behind Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, and Joe Burrow.
Here’s what Walder says about Jefferson:
There’s no way that Minnesota improbably goes 13-4 without Jefferson powering an offense that saw quarterback Kirk Cousins have a somewhat down year numbers-wise. Jefferson led the league in receiving yards (1,809), and his Receiver Tracking Metrics were exceptional, with an 83/81/51 Open/Catch/YAC Score triple-slash. That gave him an 87 Overall Score, behind only two receivers who ran substantially fewer routes than Jefferson.
I don’t know how the Receiver Tracking Metrics are calculated, but they’re impressive enough to apparently make Jefferson the most valuable non-quarterback in the NFL, so we can only assume that they’re amazingly accurate.
No, I’m not biased, you’re biased.
Walder didn’t do commentary for every player in the top 100, so the other three Vikings on the list don’t have individual blurbs or anything. Next on the list were the Vikings’ two offensive tackles, Christian Darrisaw and Brian O’Neill. They checked in at #53 and #66, respectively, on Walder’s list. There were six offensive tackles ahead of Darrisaw on the list and none between Darrisaw and O’Neill. That means that, by Walder’s estimation, the Vikings had two of the eight best offensive tackles in the National Football League this season. That’s pretty good, isn’t it?
(Now, let’s get the interior figured out.)
Last, but not least, coming in at #100 on Walder’s list is a guy that might already be one of the best trade acquisitions in team history, tight end T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson was outstanding since the Vikings acquired him from the Detroit Lions at the trade deadline, and finished this season with more receptions (86) and receiving yards (914) than any tight end in the NFL not named Travis Kelce. For the price of a (low) second-round pick, that’s a pretty good get.
Those four outstanding performances from the Vikings this season are worth highlighting.