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Is Defensive Tackle Harrison Phillips the Vikings' Most Underrated Player?

You can make a case for several Vikings as the team's most underrated. ESPN went with Phillips.

Who is the most underrated player on the Vikings' roster?

When I answered that question last week, I chose right tackle Brian O'Neill, citing his consistent excellence since coming into the league in 2018 and the relative lack of national recognition he seems to get for that level of play.

But with this Vikings team, in part because Minnesota isn't a huge coastal market, there are plenty of players who are justifiable choices as the team's most underrated.

You could make a case for Eric Kendricks. Or Harrison Smith. Or Adam Thielen. Or Danielle Hunter. The list goes on.

Interestingly enough, when ESPN and Football Outsiders chose the most underrated player on all 32 teams, their pick for the Vikings wasn't any of those names. Instead, they went with newly-acquired defensive tackle Harrison Phillips.

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Phillips blossomed as a player last season, particularly in the run game. He finished eighth in ESPN's run stop win rate in 2021, placing him just below the Rams' vaunted duo of Greg Gaines and A'Shawn Robinson. For a Vikings team that finished the 2021 season last in adjusted line yards, second-to-last in ESPN's run stop win rate and 25th in run defense DVOA, Phillips could make a major impact.

That's a pretty convincing argument to me. There wasn't much national fanfare, if any, when the Vikings signed Phillips to a three-year, $19.5 million deal to essentially replace Michael Pierce, who barely was able to play during his two years in Minnesota due to an opt-out and an injury.

But Phillips, who spent the first four years of his career with the Bills, could be an upgrade in both availability and fit. He should slot in nicely in the middle of Ed Donatell's 3-4 defense, playing a "gap and a half" technique against the run and allowing linebackers like Kendricks to make plays behind him. Phillips may have some underrated pass rush ability, too, with a career-high 25 pressures last year, including playoffs. He recorded at least two pressures in the final seven games of the season.

Now playing alongside a lot of talent in the Vikings' defensive front, Phillips could be in line for a breakout season that raises his profile as one of the NFL's best run-stuffing defensive tackles. It'll be interesting to see how he does during his first year in Minnesota this fall.

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