Harrison Smith has a little something to hold over those who denied him a Pro Bowl nod. He is now a First Team All-Pro safety.
Smith was one of four Vikings players to earn All-Pro honors today. Xavier Rhodes, Everson Griffen and Adam Thielen joined him among the NFL’s elite. Minnesota’s four selections are tied for the second most; the Rams lead the way with six players, three of whom are special teams players. Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Jacksonville also had four.
Smith earned a First Team nod alongside Tennessee’s Kevin Byard. Coincidentally, Byard also did not make the Pro Bowl. Smith finished the season leading the Vikings in interceptions and pass defenses and was third on the team in tackles. He also recorded a Pro Football Focus overall grade of 98.8 in 2017. That mark is not only the highest grade for any player in the NFL this season, it is the highest grade for a safety in the history of Pro Football Focus’ grading system. Of the safeties selected ahead of him for the Pro Bowl in the NFC, only Earl Thomas was named to an All-Pro team.
Rhodes earned First Team honors, as well, due in large part to his performance against high profile opponents. Rhodes shadowed four Pro Bowl receivers in 2017, Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and A.J. Green. In the four games, the receivers combined for just 14 catches, 171 yards and zero touchdowns. That is an average of just 3.5 receptions and 42.8 yards allowed to elite targets.
Griffen was a Second Team selection, behind Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell and New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan. His selection was all but a certainty midway through the season as he recorded a sack in each of the first eight games. Though he had a relatively quiet second half, recording just three sacks after the bye, Griffen still had the numbers to earn his first All-Pro team. He ultimately finished tied with Jordan and Washington’s Ryan Kerrigan for fourth sacks with 13, a career-high. He also led the Vikings in forced fumbles with three.
Finally, with the break-out performance of the year, Thielen picked up a Second Team spot. Thielen finished 2017 top-10 in receptions, targets, yards, receptions for first down, receptions over 20 yards and yards per route run. His route-running and hands proved an enormous asset to Case Keenum as Keenum transitioned into the starting role. Thielen simply has a knack for always being open and the numbers proved it out. Keenum targeted Thielen 48 more times than any other Minnesota receiver.
In contrast with the Pro Bowl, there are no clear snubs as far as the Vikings go. Granted, a case could be made for Linval Joseph, given that Campbell made the Second Team as an interior lineman and the First Team as an edge. But Akiem Hicks, Geno Atkins, Jurrell Casey and Damon Harrison would all have strong cases for that spot, as well. Beyond that, it seems everyone on the Vikings who should have earned a spot did.
The mere fact that four Vikings made the All-Pro team this year as opposed to none last year is just a small indicator of the difference 365 days make. Minnesota has star power from different places coming into their own at the same time.
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