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ESPN rates Vikings roster as average, but still best in NFC North

Not by much, but it is

Minnesota Vikings v Miami Dolphins Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

In a little more than three weeks we’ll all be talking about the Minnesota Vikings (finally) reporting to Training Camp and getting the 2023 NFL season started in earnest. Until then, list-a-mania season continues with more opinions on where the purple stand in the NFL’s hierarchy as we head into the new year.

Behind the great E$PN paywall, Mike Clay and Seth Walder have racked and stacked all of the 32 starting lineups around the league and ranked them from best to worst, as well as identifying their greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses. The Vikings are right in the middle of the league, checking in at #16 on the list.

The Vikings’ strongest unit, in their eyes, is not wide receiver as one might expect. They’ve actually selected the offensive tackle position, which also makes sense given that Christian Darrisaw was the #2 ranked tackle in the NFL by Pro Football Focus last year with Brian O’Neill checking in at #9. It’s been a long time since the Vikings have had a pair of bookends as reliable as Darrisaw and O’Neill, and hopefully the position is set for many years to come.

Less of a surprise is their selection for the weakest position, that being the cornerback spot. The Vikings let go of all of the players that were in the top four in snaps at the position last year for the team (Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, Chandon Sullivan, and Duke Shelley) and while they seem to like the signing of Byron Murphy, they rightly point out that everyone behind him is unproven.

It’s not surprising then that Walder feels the Vikings fate will be tied pretty directly to a couple of those young cornerbacks.

X factor for 2023: CBs Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth Jr.. I’m echoing Mike here, but that pair of young, unproven corners are the clear leverage point for this team. If they struggle, the defense will too. If they succeed, the Vikings will suddenly be a team with solid pass-rush and coverage abilities.

We knew when the Vikings were letting all of those corners go that someone was going to need to step up to make Brian Flores’ defense work this coming season. Booth and Evans, along with rookie Mekhi Blackmon, will be called on to contribute very early on. Here’s hoping that Flores will have them and the rest of the defense ready to go when the Vikings hit the field for real against Tampa Bay just ten weeks from today.

As far as how the Vikings compare to the rest of the NFC North in these rankings, they’re the North’s highest-ranked team. The Detroit Lions, the favorite to win a division title for the first time since the Clinton Administration, check in at #17, right behind Minnesota. You have to go a little further down the list to find the other two teams, with the Chicago Bears coming in at #22 and the Green Bay Packers ranked at #23.

What do you think of the Vikings’ roster ranking here, folks?