In recent years, the Minnesota Vikings have had no shortage of talent at the skill positions. Players like Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson, and T.J. Hockenson have put up very good numbers for the purple in recent seasons, and even with the departures of a few of those names, the Vikings’ list of “playmakers” remains among the league’s most talented.
Behind the great E$PN paywall, Bill Barnwell has ranked the 32 NFL teams in terms of the strength of their playmaking corps. The Vikings check in at #6 going into the 2023 season, which is a slight drop from where they ranked in 2021 (#5) and 2022 (#4). Barnwell thinks that the addition of rookie Jordan Addison across from Jefferson in the passing game will end up being a positive for the Vikings this season.
The Vikings also upgraded their biggest weakness this offseason by swapping out Adam Thielen for first-round pick Jordan Addison. Even allowing for the wide range of outcomes we see from first-round picks in their debut seasons, Thielen had grown long in the tooth. He ranked 83rd among 97 wideouts in yards per route run last season, just one spot ahead of teammate K.J. Osborn. Kirk Cousins’ QBR was nearly 20 points better (in a small sample) with Thielen off the field in 2022; Addison should make an immediate impact across from Jefferson.
Honestly, I can’t explain why Cousins was (apparently) that much better with Thielen on the sidelines than on the field in 2022, unless Thielen really is at the end of the line as far as his ability to be productive. That just makes me even more excited to see Addison get onto the field.
Barnwell might have ranked the Vikings even higher if not for their uncertainty at the running back position.
Running back is also less of a strength than it was a year ago after the Vikings cut Dalvin Cook. It’s true Cook’s rushing efficiency declined dramatically last season, but he had generally been an above average to very good back before 2022. The release pushes Alexander Mattison into a leading role, and Mattison wasn’t very good last season, either; he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, didn’t do much as a receiver and averaged minus-0.6 rushing yards over expected per carry. (Cook was at minus-0.1.) The concerns at running back are enough to keep Minnesota out of the top five.
I’ve already said that I thought the Vikings would be just fine at running back this season, adopting more of the committee-style approach that so many teams around the league favor now. We’ll have to see how that works out when it’s all said and done.
Having Jefferson on the squad long-term (and Hockenson as well) will hopefully keep the Vikings around the top of rankings like these for a pretty long time. If this is going to be Kirk Cousins’ final year in Minnesota, whoever his successor will be could have a much easier time if the Vikings continue to field this sort of weaponry at the skill positions.