The Minnesota Vikings have one of the most complete rosters in the league. General manager Rick Spielman has front-loaded the roster with stars at every level of the defense as well as the skilled areas on offense. Their depth and the offensive line are unknowns, but the rest are among the best units in the league.
Here are the best players on the Vikings roster and some predictions for this season.
Best Skilled Offensive Player
Diggs is a difference maker for the Vikings. He has very good hands, speed, agility, balance, route running and the ability to make difficult catches. He has come a long toward becoming an elite wide receiver from being selected in the fifth round of the draft. The knock on him is that he has yet to play all 16 games in a season and doesn’t have the size to be physical with big corners. He has been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, NFL All-Rookie Team and NFL’s Top 100 list.
Best Offensive Lineman
Elflein was a bit of a revelation for the Vikings at center. There are very few centers that have immediate success as rookies. It is even rarer for a third-round pick to do it. However, Elflein bucked the trend and started all 14 games he played last season. He is very smart and athletic. Those are two things that can separate elite centers from good ones. He is able to read the defensive line and make the blocking calls before the snap and then get out into space and lead the way for the ball carriers. He was named to the NFL All-Rookie Team.
Best Pass Rusher
Griffen is a three-down defensive end that excels when he can pin the ears back and go. He anticipates the snap count and can beat tackles around the edge with his first step. He also has the size to hold up in run support. He had a career-high 13 sacks last season but had at least one in each of the first eight games of the season. He has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week twice, to the Pro Bowl three times and NFL’s Top 100 list twice.
Best Pass Defender
Rhodes has developed into one of the most dominant shutdown cornerbacks in the league. He is big and strong and likes to be physical with receivers. He has no problem getting his hands on the receiver and knock them off their route. He also has no problem hand-fighting with the receivers down the field. Rhodes does not collect a lot of interceptions because he completely takes the top receivers out of the game. Quarterbacks don’t test him very often. He has been named NFC Defensive Player of the Week once, First-Team All-Pro, to the Pro Bowl twice and NFL’s Top 100 twice.
Cook blew out his knee in Week 4 and missed the rest of the season. He is back and reports say that he doesn’t look like he has missed a step. Cook is an electrifying player with the ball in his hands. He is a slashing-style runner with the ability to get in space and make defenders miss. He also has terrific hands and understands blocking in pass protection. He is poised to have a huge year in 2018.
Best New Addition
The one weakness the Vikings had on defense was an interior pass rush. Tom Johnson, who signed with the Seahawks in the offseason, had a breakout year at 30-years-old in 2014 but saw his sack total decrease each season since. The other starting defensive tackle, Linval Joseph, is not a pass rusher. Richardson will help fix that. He has the quickness to slip between blockers and strength to push them backward. Richardson could end up being the best free agent signing this offseason.
Not So Out On A Limb Prediction
The Vikings will lead the league in scoring defense.
The Vikings had the league’s best defense last season. No team gave up fewer yards and fewer points than the Vikings. The addition of Richardson will make them even better. The Vikings will allow less than 275 yards and 15 points per game in 2018.
Dalvin Cook will break the Vikings running back receiving yards record.
Cook is an electrifying player with the ball in his hands. He is also an advanced receiver for a second-year running back. Add the addition of Cousins and Cook is going to have the best receiving season by a running back in franchise history. The current mark is 704 receiving yards set by Rickey Young in 1978. Cook will top that by plenty and will challenge for the league lead in receiving yards by a running back. Last season, Alvin Kamara did it with 828.