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Matthew Coller: How good are the Vikings right now?

A dive into the depth chart in comparison to last season

On Tuesday the Minnesota Vikings added another player to their defense. They signed cornerback Shaq Griffin to a one-year, $6 million contract. Griffin, who spent last year between the Texans and Panthers and played 459 total snaps, is the latest in a string of second-wave free agency adds to fill out the roster that has included bringing back receiver Brandon Powell and signing DT Jerry Tillery, DT Jonah Williams and G Dan Feeney.

Put those together with the Vikings signings in the first week along with the exits of a few big names and what do you have? Well, a pretty different looking team. As the free agency flurry winds down, are they better or worse than last year?

Let’s have a look position by position where things stand, how they have improved or where improvements still need to be made…

*Players who signed to futures contracts are not included in additions and players who did not appear in games in 2023 are not included in subtractions*


  • Returning: Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall
  • Added: Sam Darnold
  • Subtracted: Kirk Cousins, Josh Dobbs

There isn’t much comparison between Cousins and Darnold. One of them is a Pro Bowl regular with a career 98.2 QB rating and seven seasons between 78-88 PFF grade (out of 100), the other has become a backup after posting a 21-34 record with a 78.2 rating and zero seasons above 70 PFF grade.

However, if we compare Darnold’s most recent play against the totality of the Vikings’ QB play in 2023 that included Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens and Jaren Hall, the drop-off doesn’t look quite as severe. The Vikings’ team QB rating was 92.4 with 6.1 Adjusted Net Yards per attempt last season. Darnold in 2022 and 2023 posted a 90.8 rating and 6.5 ANY/A. That would have ranked around 15th and 10th in rating and ANY/A.

Darnold’s supporting casts in his career were also nowhere near what he will inherit with the Vikings if he has to play for an entire season. When he did play in Carolina with a star receiver Darnold went 21-for-36 with 386 yards and four touchdowns over six games when targeting DJ Moore (an 1,100 yard pace).

Of course the assumption is that the Vikings will be looking to start a rookie quarterback but there is a chance that Darold has to be QB1 for an extended period of time. He gives them a chance to remain competitive but it would take a significant leap in his play to come close to posting Cousins-like numbers.

Running back

  • Returning: Ty Chandler, Myles Gaskin, Kene Nwangwu, DeWayne McBride, CJ Ham
  • Added: Aaron Jones
  • Subtracted: Alex Mattison

The difference in pedigree between Jones and Mattison is significant. Over the last three years Jones has averaged 4.9 yards per attempt and played at a near 1,500 total yard 17-game pace. At 5.4 yards per touch (rush or catch), Jones is 1.1 yards per touch ahead of Mattison’s last three years. The only concern about the level of upgrade is about Jones’ health. He only played in 11 regular season games last season and sputtered out of the gate in 2023 because he wasn’t at 100%. His first 75-yard game came in December.

Ty Chandler’s emergence late last season gives him something to build upon as a duo with Jones. If he continues to create explosive plays with his speed the Vikings’ run game could shoot up the rankings from the bottom to a quality (if not very good) running game overall.

Wide receiver

  • Returning: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor, Trishton Jackson, N’Keal Harry, Lucky Jackson
  • Added: Trent Sherfield
  • Subtracted: KJ Osborn

The 2023 season was Osborn’s toughest since becoming a starter in 2021. He dropped from 60 to 48 receptions dropped seven passes after having only dropped two (per PFF) in his first two seasons. Despite his ineffectiveness, Osborn was still targeted 75 times, which shows the value of the WR3 position in Kevin O’Connell’s offense.

So far the Vikings have not found a replacement for that type of workload. Sherfield’s career high in receptions is 30 (2022) and Brandon Powell’s is 29 (2023). Nailor has shown promise but hasn’t been able to stay on the field and Jackson, Harry and other Jackson are in-case-of-emergency players.

The team could elect to have everyone battle it out along with a Day 3 draft pick and see who emerges but it would appear to be a safer option to chase some of the remaining free agents like Hunter Renfrow, DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds, Tyler Boyd or Michael Gallup.

Tight end

  • Returning: TJ Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse
  • Added: N/A
  • Subtracted: N/A

With Hockenson recovering from an ACL injury the Vikings elected to re-sign Mundt and Muse to keep continuity in their quality TE room.

Offensive line

  • Returning: Garrett Bradbury, Blake Brandel, Ed Ingram, Christian Darrisaw, Brian O’Neill, David Quessenberry
  • Added: Dan Feeney
  • Subtracted: Austin Schlottmann, Oli Udoh, Dalton Risner, Chris Reed

The offensive line is still under construction. The only add so far is Feeney, who hasn’t started regularly since 2020. He appears to be a replacement at backup center with Schlottmann signing elsewhere. The hole at left guard might not be so easy to fill with an above average player considering that the vast majority of quality free agents have already signed — many of them at big dollar figures.

Risner could return but if the Vikings are aiming to improve their run game then bringing back the 10th lowest graded run blocker by PFF probably isn’t the way to go. The options are limited to players like Mark Glowinski (NYG), who struggled as a pass blocker last season, Chicago’s Cody Whitehair, Miami’s quality IOL Connor Williams (recovering from a serious knee injury), journeyman Greg Van Roten, Laken Tomlinson and a handful of other veterans who were underwhelming last year.

Unless Brandel is ready to step into the role, it feels like the game of guard musical chairs stopped and the Vikings were without a seat. Save for a trade, the days of filling the spot with patchwork seem ready to continue.

Luckily returning at least four starters is a benefit, particularly since two of them are top-notch tackles. It may not end up being a perfect line but it should be serviceable in pass protection at very least.

Defensive tackle

  • Returning: Harrison Phillips, Jonathan Bullard, Jaquelin Roy
  • Added: Jerry Tillery, Jonah Williams
  • Subtracted: Dean Lowry, Khyiris Tonga, TJ Smith, Sheldon Day

The Vikings appear to be taking the approach of throwing numbers at the defensive tackle position. Last year Tillery had his best career season by PFF, ranking 31st and 40th (of 76) as a pass rusher. While that is quite a bit better than any Vikings DT in 2023 it still isn’t a massive upgrade unless he continues an upward trajectory as a former first-round pick. Williams played more than 600 snaps for the Rams last season and ranked 58th.

If the Vikings do not add an impact player inside they will be banking on Roy improving in 2024 or the group having more options to rotate and create matchups. Even performing at a capable level would be an upgrade from last year but presently that doesn’t seem like it will be the case without another free agent or early draft pick.

Defensive end / outside linebacker

  • Returning: Pat Jones, Andre Carter
  • Added: Jonathan Greenard, Andrew Van Ginkel
  • Subtracted: Danielle Hunter, DJ Wonnum, Marcus Davenport

From the perspective of 2024 it’s an interesting discussion whether Greenard and Van Ginkel will be better than Hunter and Wonnum were last year. The sack total was higher between Hunter and Wonnum but Greenard still was a pass rushing force himself and Van Ginkel is one of the most versatile players in the NFL, which adds and element that Wonnum did not have to his game. By PFF standards Van Ginkel was an elite overall performer ranking 7th while Wonnum was 45th of 60 edge rushers.

Last year depth was a serious struggle and when Wonnum went out the Vikings’ defensive line sputtered. They still need to bring in more rotational rushers because Jones rarely made waves (60th of 60 by PFF) and Carter hardly saw the field.


  • Returning: Ivan Pace Jr., Brian Asamoah
  • Added: Blake Cashman
  • Subtracted: Jordan Hicks, Anthony Barr, Troy Dye, Nick Vigil

The Vikings certainly benefitted from Hicks’ leadership over the last two years and he performed at a high level in 2023 as well. Hicks finished 20th by PFF, though teams did have success targeting him in coverage with an 82% completion percentage and the seventh highest yards per completion. Cashman ranked as the 12th best cover linebacker and 9th in yards per completion allowed. He’s quite a bit younger and faster at this point in his career than Hicks.

The Vikings very likely got better if Cashman can remain healthy but they still must fill out the rest of the room with key special teamer/fill-in LB Troy Dye signing elsewhere.


  • Returning: Mekhi Blackmon, Byron Murphy Jr., Akayleb Evans, Joejuan Williams, Jaylin Williams, NaJee Thompson
  • Added: Shaq Griffin
  • Subtracted: N/A

The best way to describe the Vikings’ 2023 cornerback group is that they survived the season. The group went through a lot of bumps along the way, particularly at the beginning when they got rocked by Justin Herbert and end when they were run out of the building twice versus Detroit. In the middle the unit had a lot of high points. Still it was clear coming out of 2023 that they needed to be better going forward. The only addition so far is Shaq Griffin, who was a starter for five years to begin his career but hasn’t cleared 500 snaps since 2021. Last year the Texans waived him mid-season after he performed admirably (66.3 PFF grade) but was not a difference maker.

Right now this unit would be unlikely to be above average, even under Flores’ coaching. They still need more help. With other needs and free agent dollars starting to run thin, will they make it a priority or is Griffin the only signing we’ll see?


  • Returning: Harrison Smith, Cam Bynum, Josh Metellus, Theo Jackson, Jay Ward, Lewis Cine
  • Added: N/A
  • Subtracted: N/A

With Smith returning, nothing changes. The Vikings simply have one of the best groups of safeties in the NFL.

Special teams

  • Returning: Ryan Wright, Andrew DePaola
  • Added: John Parker Romo
  • Subtracted: Greg Joseph

Over the last three seasons Joseph has been between average and below average. The Vikings may be hoping for better going forward. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see punting competition in camp after a rough year for Wright.

The bottom line

From the perspective of the 2023 Vikings vs. what the 2024 Vikings have on their roster right now there are arguments to be made that they have gotten stronger as a complete unit on defense and that their new-look running game should have a trickle-down effect on the results. It’s also plausible that Sam Darnold, should he be asked to play, could build on his most recent play and fit in better in Minnesota than elsewhere.

But the reality of the 2024 offseason is that the Vikings aren’t approaching it from only the perspective of winning next season. The aim is to put together a roster that can stay together over multiple years and build around the next quarterback. Signings like Van Ginkel, Greenard and Cashman allow them to do that while other positions will require somebody stepping up the way we saw Metellus and Pace Jr. rise to the occasion last year.

As for the rest of the offseason, there were no less than a half dozen more significant signings the Vikings would need to make in order to suggest they had a roster that could go toe-to-toe with the best of the NFC. They aren’t there yet. We’ll see if they make more moves of significance to try to get as close as possible or let camp battles determine who takes those spots at WR3, LG, CB etc. 

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell, with wide receiver Jordan Addison in the foreground.

Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell, with wide receiver Jordan Addison in the foreground.