I was wondering if the Vikings are looking better or worse than last year's version, so I figured I'd take a look at all the position groups and see what I thought. I'll assume Cook is gone and they basically keep everybody else.
QB: Still Kirk, 1 year older so potential decline but also another year in the system and statistically a bit of a down year last year, so probably a wash?
RB: A little worse. Cook's contract is a lot, but I don't think you could argue the replacement players are better than him. I think you could credibly argue that he's not a good pass blocker or pass catcher and his replacement is likely to be better at the things he did the most last year... but for now we will call it a little worse.
WR/TE: I grouped them here because I think whether Addison replaces Thielen's numbers is a question... but if you also include Josh Oliver it's definitely an improvement. I suppose you could slide some of Oliver into Oline or RB/running game in general, but I'll just consider him part of the TE/WR group which is definitely better. Also Hock for a full year. Let's say noticeable improvement.
Oline: Basically the same. I'll say even since we've been hearing good things about O'Neill's rehab. But if that changes this could easily change. I could see how you could assume better with improvement from 1 or 2 of the young guys but the O'Neill uncertainty is enough for me to stand pat at even here.
Overview: So basically the Offense is probably a little better overall because the WR/TE group has gotten better by more than the RB has gotten worse? That'd be my takeaway on this side of the ball. Especially if you think about it this way... the combo of Oline improvement (young guys) and Oliver's addition very likely means the run blocking will be appreciably better this upcoming year. Also, some Oline improvement plus whatever replacement RB is in on passing downs probably means the pass blocking is appreciably better as well.
D line: I thought about splitting out the edges, but the simplest way to do this is the improvement at edge (assuming they keep everyone) outweighs Dalvin Tomlinson leaving for sure. Especially if you factor in passing downs where instead of moving ZDS inside and having Wonnum come in, you now have Davenport coming in. I'd say small improvement.
ILB: The same? I don't know, this one is hard. Kendricks was a great player, but not last year, but Asamoah is super unknown. I guess comparing Kendricks in that terrible system last year to Asamoah in presumably a better system I'd give a slight edge to Asamoah largely due to the system. Kendricks could easily outplay him next year, but Asamoah could pretty easily outplay the last year version of Kendricks. I'd say the depth is worse this year (maybe Pace changes that) so we will call it a wash.
CB: Last year's CB's were a dumpster fire with the possible exception of Duke Shelly who is gone. Murphy is better than PP was last year (maybe his PFF grade will be worse but he will not hamstring the defensive coordinator's choices). Essentially Duke Shelly is being replaced by guys who couldn't stay healthy last year or rookies. That's probably a downgrade. But Chandon Sullivan was so terrible last year that an unknown rookie/injury risk guy is actually an improvement. Plus the system is likely to be better for these guys as well leaning into their strengths. I'll say small improvement.
Safety: Who knows if Cine will beat out Bynum (we can dream), but at the very least I'll say Harrison Smith in Donatell's system is worse than Harrison Smith in Flores' system. Small improvement.
Overview: One could credibly argue that the defense will be a little better at every single position group. At least 3/4 pretty easily. Or 3/5 if you want to split up he D line. I would not have guessed this prior to doing this exercise. This leaves me hopeful that this unit can get from the basement to the merely sorta bad. If the offense improves a little bit and the defense does that, this team could be looking at a playoff win or two.
It is the season of hope!