Pro Football Focus recently came out with its 'PFF50' ranking of the top 50 players in the NFL, and three Minnesota Vikings made the list. Here's what PFF had to say about each of the three.
No. 26: Dalvin Cook
Cook continues to out-perform the blocking in front of him and just earned a 90.2 PFF rushing grade, the best of his NFL career. The Vikings back has averaged 3.1 yards after contact per carry over his NFL career, racking up 91 first down runs in 2020 alone.
No. 32: Harrison Smith
Smith remains one of the best and most consistent safeties in the league, and while he isn’t coming off his best season, the same is true for most members of the Minnesota defense. Smith has elite versatility to play any safety role within any coverage shell the Vikings dial up, giving them the ability to play a little bit of every type of coverage in the book. The Vikings didn’t line up in any single coverage shell more than 17% of the time last season, and a huge part of that diversity is because of Smith’s ability to move around and fill any missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle. He should bounce back in 2021, too, as the Vikings defense looks far stronger on paper.
No. 33: Eric Kendricks
Kendricks has become arguably the best coverage linebacker in the NFL at a time when it has never been more difficult for linebackers to play in coverage. Over the last two seasons, Kendricks has not only forced more incompletions than any other linebacker, but he's also forced them at the highest rate in the league. He's allowed a passer rating of just 75.0 into his coverage over that same period, 30 points lower than the average passer rating when targeting linebackers. Receivers were charted as “open,” per PFF's accuracy data, on fewer than 50% of targets when targeted against Kendricks since 2019, making him one of the few linebackers who can claim that feat.
The Vikings were one of just seven NFL teams with at least three players on the list, the others being the Saints (5), Chiefs (4), Packers (4), 49ers (4), Browns, and Titans.
I don't have much of an issue with where Cook, Smith, or Kendricks were ranked. They're all special players who clearly deserved inclusion on this list. Kendricks should arguably be closer to Fred Warner at 20, but it's not egregious. The two Vikings who one could argue were snubbed are Justin Jefferson and Danielle Hunter. I think both are top-50 players in the league, but I get that Jefferson has only done it for one season and Hunter missed all of last year with an injury. Adam Thielen, Kirk Cousins, Brian O'Neill, Cameron Dantzler, Michael Pierce, and Dalvin Tomlinson all have arguments to be included in the 50-100 range, but it's hard to justify any of them being in the top 50.
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