June 11, 2019; Eagan, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings center linebacker Eric Kendricks (54) talks to outside linebacker Anthony Barr (55) during practice at the TCO Performance Center. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden – USA TODAY Sports
Athleticism put the Vikings at 20th; ESPN had Minnesota ranked 23rd. Peter King’s Recent Football Morning in America puts Minnesota in a slightly better position. In King’s mind, the Vikings rank 19th in the NFL.
Take a look at the writing it provides:
There’s some fresh air on the Vikings with the sacking of Mike Zimmer. Many players found him too negative at the end of his reign. Despite above-average talent over the past four years, including quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings have only had a 33-31-1 regular season record since Cousins arrived in 2018, and they averaged 19th in the league in team defense during those four Seasons. That was Zimmer’s area of expertise, of course. Now the head coach is a sunny offensive guy, Kevin O’Connell, with a veteran head coach in defense, Ed Donatell. He ran 3-4 recently, but promises to merge the three-and-four fronts in Minnesota. Anyway, two defensive imports – end Harrison Phillips (Buffalo) and OLB Za’Darius Smith (Green Bay) — should play a big part if the Donatell system gets the Vikings back to playing quality defense.
23rd seems too low, but I can’t argue too much with a power ranking that puts the Vikings around 20th or 19th in the NFL.
Perhaps the only nuance I’ll add is that it won’t be shocking if Minnesota ends up considerably higher than these offseason plays suggest. The first seven have the ability to be dominant. We’ll have to wait for the actual season to find out if that happens. Still, it won’t be at all surprising to see Hunter & Smith form a dominating pass-rush pair. Eric Kendricks should thrive in this system, and Harrison Phillips is underrated.
Additionally, the offense should show noticeable improvement (with a warm emphasis on the word “should”). Kirk Cousins has very few excuses: 2022 has to be dominant. If successful, the Vikings will knock on the door of the top 10.
Finding meaningful success in the NFL is very difficult, as Vikings fans know all too well. It’s going to take a lot of things going well for Minnesota to not only make the playoffs, but – hopefully – make some noise once they get there. Even still, there is a purple path to success. Ideally, power rankings in the 2023 offseason will put Minnesota in a much more flattering position.