The Vikings will send four players to the Pro Bowl in January assuming they do not skip out for Super Bowl reasons. Four is a decent amount, but given they have been one of the NFC’s best teams from start to finish, some fans feel there should have been a couple more Vikings named.
Here, the Full Press Coverage Vikings staff makes their pick for Minnesota’s biggest Pro Bowl snub.
Kyle Rudolph. While there are some more obvious snubs, particularly on defense, I will go with Rudolph, who is quietly having a tremendous year. On the season, he has 55 catches for 523 yards and eight touchdowns. He has been an absolute matchup nightmare in the red zone for opponents and has been extremely reliable catching the football. If you compare his stats to Jimmy Graham, who made the Pro Bowl, Rudolph has more receiving yards and only one fewer touchdown catch on the season.
Eric Kendricks. He is one of the best linebackers in the NFL, but unfortunately for him, he is the best because of things that do not show up on the stat sheet. The guy is all over the field on every play. I implore you to keep track of how many times you see number-54 near the ball at the end of a play. He uses his great speed and instincts to close in on running backs and to defend backs and tight ends in the passing game. On the stat sheet, Kendricks is the league’s 10th-best tackler with 101 total tackles. He also has one sack, seven passes defended and a pick-six. Not only does he have the best hair on the team, Kendricks is a huge piece of what makes this defense the best in the NFL. But the Pro Bowl is all about name value and what is on the stat sheets, so players who do the dirty work that will not show up in the game summary are not recognized.
Case Keenum. It seems as though name recognition played a larger part in the selection process than it should have. Despite an admirable performance this season, Drew Brees has seen better years. Brees manages an offense shouldered by its two elite backs, Kamara and Ingram. Seen at the beginning of the season as essentially a third string quarterback, Case Keenum has emerged as an elite talent and has lead the Viking’s charge to clinch the NFC North. Keenum has performed at a level certainly elite enough to qualify for the pro bowl, but it seems as though the selection committee favored bigger names despite lower production this season.
Linval Joseph. Joseph is arguably the key to the Vikings’ defensive success. He consistently requires a double team, eating up blockers so as to free up another defender to make the plays. Not to mention he is one of the league’s best run stoppers. Joseph is rated as the third best run stopper in the NFC, behind Rams’ tackle Michael Brockers and Giants’ tackle Damon Harrison. It seems that the voters decided to go with tackles who are a little more well-rounded as Joseph is not as pronounced as a pass rusher, though he is productive in this, as well. If it were my choice, I would put him in place of Buccaneers’ tackle Gerald McCoy. He may be having another good year, but his impact on defense pales in comparison to that of Joseph.
Harrison Smith. Smith was the one guy on the Vikings’ defense that I had penciled in as a mortal lock. He is the most versatile free safety in the game, spending a huge chunk of his time in the box and in man coverage. Smith is currently far and away the highest-graded safety on Pro Football Focus and one of the highest-graded players period. He ranks third on the Vikings in solo tackles, first in interceptions and first among non-linemen in sacks. Zimmer uses Smith quite often in his blitz schemes, either through the A gap or off the edge. Oh, and he also plays 39 percent of his snaps in deep coverage. When he does so, he is one of the best center fields in the game. The lone free safety selected, Earl Thomas, is a great player. But A) he plays deep almost exclusively, rarely entering the box and B) he has missed two games this season. Smith’s all-around great play was overlooked in favor of the big name and in my view, that is a travesty.
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– Anthony Talanca writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Minnesota Vikings. Like and follow @atalanca.
– Adam Pearson writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Minnesota Vikings. Like and follow @APwrites3.
– Mark Gabreski writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Minnesota Vikings.
– Clayton R. Brooks II writes for Full Press Coverage and covers the Minnesota Vikings. Like and follow @ClaytonRBrooks2.