The Vikings had eight players selected to the 2020 Pro Bowl in Orlando, which was the third-most of any team in the NFL. That included a trio of players – Dalvin Cook, C.J. Ham, and Eric Kendricks – who made the cut for the first time in their career. As we look ahead to the upcoming season, let's take a minute to consider which Vikings could accomplish that feat next.
SI's Conor Orr recently came up with ten potential first-time Pro Bowlers in 2020-21, including players like Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Jacobs. There were no Vikings on Orr's list, but there are quite a few players on Minnesota's roster who could conceivably appear in their first Pro Bowl (in Las Vegas!) next January. Before we get to the top five, here's a refresher on the Vikings who have already made at least one PB appearance:
- Kirk Cousins
- Dalvin Cook
- C.J. Ham
- Adam Thielen
- Kyle Rudolph
- Danielle Hunter
- Anthony Barr
- Eric Kendricks
- Harrison Smith
- Dan Bailey
These are the top five Vikings who could make their first Pro Bowl this season.
1. Anthony Harris
We begin this list with a player who absolutely should've made it to the most recent Pro Bowl. Harris was the best safety in the NFL in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus's grading system. He tied for the league lead with six interceptions, broke up 11 total passes, and set a career-high with 60 tackles. Xavier Rhodes making it over Harris after a disastrous 2019 season kind of sums up why the game's selection process is flawed.
Rhodes only made it because three corners ahead of him dropped out, but his inclusion is still a great example of how the Pro Bowl – which gives even weight to the voting categories of fans, players, and coaches – isn't a great measure of determining the league's best players in a given season. Budda Baker and Eddie Jackson making the NFC roster ahead of Harris is pretty difficult to defend when you look at their numbers from last year.
Harris's future with the Vikings was unclear heading into this offseason, but he signed the franchise tag and will almost certainly be in Minnesota for at least the 2020 season. If he continues to play at the level he's demonstrated since 2018, Harris should again be deserving of a Pro Bowl nod.
2. Brian O'Neill
The Vikings haven't had an offensive lineman selected to the Pro Bowl since Matt Kalil made it as a rookie in 2012-13. That could change this year if O'Neill continues to build upon two strong seasons to start his NFL career. Seen as a developmental prospect when he entered the league as a second-round pick in 2018, O'Neill has been rock solid from day one. His athleticism in the running game was always there, but the Pitt product has turned into an outstanding pass protector as well: through two seasons, O'Neill has only been charged with allowing one sack.
O'Neill has already established himself as the clear best player on the Vikings' offensive line. With another step forward in 2020, his name recognition should continue to grow and he could have a very real chance at making it to Vegas.
3. Mike Hughes
This pick requires a bit of a leap of faith, as Hughes doesn't have the production of players like Harris and O'Neill over the past couple seasons. However, the 2018 first-round pick hasn't had a full chance to show off his talent because of a major injury he suffered early on in his NFL career. Hughes tore his ACL in Week 6 of his rookie year, costing him the remainder of that season and affecting the beginning of his 2019 campaign.
If Hughes can stay healthy in 2020, it's possible we could see a breakout season in year three similar to the one Dalvin Cook just had last year. The stage is perfectly set: with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander no longer on the roster, Hughes is suddenly the Vikings' No. 1 cornerback. We know he can put up numbers, too; Hughes had a pick-six in his first career game and broke up 12 passes last year. If he steps up and reaches his lofty potential, he could garner some serious Pro Bowl consideration.
4. Michael Pierce
The Vikings' one big free agent acquisition of the offseason was Pierce, who is a younger, marginally cheaper replacement for Linval Joseph. Pierce was affected by an ankle injury last season, but prior to that, he was one of the best nose tackles in the NFL across 2017 and 2018. Joseph made the Pro Bowl twice during his tenure with the Vikings, so it's possible for Pierce to do the same.
In order to do so, he'll almost certainly need to improve his sack numbers. Joseph had at least 3.5 sacks in both of his Pro Bowl seasons, while Pierce has 3.5 total in his four-year career. The presence of Andre Patterson and expanded playing time are two reasons why Pierce could break out with the best statistical season of his career.
5. Ifeadi Odenigbo
Making the Pro Bowl is almost entirely about name recognition and stats. Achieving both of those things requires opportunity. And opportunity is something that Odenigbo has plenty of as we head towards the 2020 season. With four-time Pro Bowler Everson Griffen departing this offseason, Odenigbo is primed to step into a starting job at defensive end. After breaking out with seven sacks as a pass-rushing specialist last season, he'll now have the chance to prove he can handle a three-down role.
If Odenigbo shines as a starter and reaches double-digit sacks, he'll have a shot at making it to Vegas. With Danielle Hunter commanding tons of attention on the other side and the potential for an improved interior pass rush, it's not out of the realm of possibility.
- Britton Colquitt
- Garrett Bradbury
- Irv Smith Jr.
- Jeff Gladney
- Justin Jefferson
- Alexander Mattison (if Cook is traded or holds out through the season)
Join the conversation at InsideTheVikings by clicking the follow button in the upper right-hand corner of this page (mobile users, tap the bell icon – you may have to click ‘News’ first), and follow @WillRagatz on Twitter.