It’s true, NFL.com’s list of the top 100 players in the league has not been released in totality yet. The top-10 are still yet to be revealed. However, based on those already announced, it is safe to say that the Vikings’ representation on the least is complete. And they come in with a whopping seven players in the top 100. Simple math dictates that each team on average will have just three top 100 players, so the Vikings are well above average in that regard.
Now, we can question to the cows come home the legitimacy of the list, how indicative it truly is of NFL talent and the process by which these rankings come to be. Still, year after year, the list creates discussion, anger, excitement and confusion. With the seven Vikings players, I will evaluate each player’s placement on the list: Whether I think they are too high, too low or about right. Plus, I will project future rise or falls for the players’ career.
The only real Viking snub I could see was Anthony Barr. Barr’s numbers are not eye-popping, which would help explain his exclusion. Even so, given that players make the list, one would think his versatility and three-straight Pro Bowls would earn him a spot. It truly is what makes these rankings so confounding sometimes. The players make the decisions, yet it so often comes down to numbers and profile rather than true value. It is the only reason why Carlos Hyde would deserve a slot ahead of Barr.
But I digress. Let’s dive in.
94. QB Kirk Cousins
Cousins’ spot on the rankings has nothing to do with his performance as a Viking, but he is clearly the face of the franchise right now. Assuming Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz and Drew Brees are top-10, that means Cousins will end up being the 16th quarterback on the list. That number in a vacuum is not so egregious. The issue comes from the guys ranked ahead of him. Even factoring in last season’s performances, it would take a lot to convince someone that Jimmy Garoppolo, Deshaun Watson and Case Keenum deserve higher slots. In Keenum’s case (no pun intended), he ranked 43 spots higher. Given that the general majority of fans and experts think Cousins is a relatively large upgrade to Keenum, that discrepancy is jaw-dropping.
Reading off a stat sheet, one could maybe justify Keenum’s high ranking. But watching Weeks 10-18 of last season, it is a baseless argument. As for Cousins’ overall ranking, I see no issue with it. Placing him around the back end of the top-100 players in the league seems fair. It is his placement among his quarterback peers that I have a real problem with. That being said, if all goes as expected for Cousins with a much better team and far more dangerous weapons, his ranking should sky rocket next year.
My Evaluation: Overall ranking about right, QB ranking too low
83. DT Linval Joseph
It has been a long journey for Joseph to become one of the league’s most respected big men. He has been an effective player for the bulk of his career, including starting on a championship team. However, now he is the face of the Vikings’ stout run defense, the frightening visage of a mean, tough, aggressive defensive line. And coming off his best season, he earned his first selection on the NFL Top 100.
The players really screwed up defensive tackles this year. While Aaron Donald will be in the top-10, he is the only one getting just due among players at one of the league’s more loaded positions. Fletcher Cox, a top-five defensive player last year, ranked 69th. Geno Atkins, Jurrell Casey and Ndamakong Suh also placed in the 60s. These are some of the most dominant players in football getting no love. That being said, I think Joseph was placed pretty well. He will finish sixth among his peers and fairly high among all defensive players, both of which are fair assessments in my view.
My Evalutaion: About right
65. WR. Stefon Diggs
For the second straight year, Diggs’ overall numbers were hurt a bit by a couple missed games due to injury. Had that not happened, he likely would have surpassed 1,000 yards. Still, he has earned a reputation as a play-maker, particularly in the red zone. Plus, his profile rose ever higher by his catch and run that created the Minneapolis Miracle. Perhaps more than any other player on the Vikings, Diggs’ stock is on the rise.
Diggs will likely rank 11th among receivers, which while perhaps a little low, is not an egregious undervalue. He should probably rank higher than Davante Adams and Jarvis Landry, but 11th instead of top-10 is a decent placement for him.
My Evaluation: A little low, but not terrible
55. CB Xavier Rhodes
Rhodes has slowly been creeping into the upper echelon of NFL corners over the past few years, and with his first All-Pro appearance in 2017, he has finally achieved greatness it seems. And yet, there still seems to be a lack of value for corners on the NFL 100 list. Among cornerbacks, Rhodes ranked sixth. That in itself is not bad, though it is debatable he should have been top-three. No, the real problem is ranking in the bottom half of the list, despite being one of the league’s best at a premium position. There is likely something to being a star on a stacked defense, as I will get to soon with another Viking player. But Rhodes did his part to shut down star receivers from Antonio Brown to Julio Jones to A.J. Green, all of whom rank in the top quarter of the list.
For comparison, NFL players believed that Keenum was a better player last year than Rhodes. Not more valuable, that is not what the list says (though I would argue Rhodes was more valuable than Keenum, as well). The list is best players in order, and NFL players thought Keenum is a better player. Let that sink in.
My Evaluation: Way too low
46. S Harrison Smith
If Rhodes’ low ranking was not enough to get Vikings fans mad, Smiths’ name getting called not much later sure was. Smith was unarguably the best safety and one of the five best defensive players in football last year. He set records with his Pro Football Focus grade. He was the anchor of the defense as a run stuffer, a man cover or a deep safety. Virtually every decision (save for the NFC Championship Game) he made was the correct one.
To be fair to the player selections, this was clearly a matter of position value. Smith was second among safeties despite ranking in the 40s. The only safety ahead of him, Earl Thomas, placed 42nd. So safeties were getting no love whatsoever. Still, Smith has done enough to prove his value transcends position.
My Evaluation: Way too low
36. WR Adam Thielen
There may not be a player on this list with a less likely trip en route to elite status. Undrafted out of Minnesota State-Mankato, earned a tryout and a spot on the practice squad before ultimately making his way into the lineup. And then he had a year of quality play in 2016 before becoming an All-Pro last season. Perhaps only Antonio Brown can even sniff the trek from obscurity to stardom that Thielen took.
With Brown and Julio Jones likely in the top-10, that will place Thielen at the sixth-best receiver in the NFL. Given his production of last year, his relative youth and his new, pass-happy quarterback, that number seems both fair and subject to a rise next season.
My Evaluation: About right
19. DE Everson Griffen
Griffen’s first half of 2017 deserved every accolade in the world. He looked on pace for a Defensive Player of the Year campaign, sack records, the whole nine yards. Then his sack and hit numbers tailed off a bit. His pressure numbers were still excellent, but his play-finishing went down a little. There were other players at his position that maintained a more consistent level of dominance, yet rank behind him on the list, namely Chandler Jones, Cam Jordan and Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence in particular somewhat quietly had the best season of any defensive linemen in the game. According to STATS’ metrics, Lawrence was the top defensive lineman both as a pass rusher and run stopper, yet he ranks 15 spots behind Griffen. So while he may be the heart and soul of the defense and their top pass rusher, I think he is getting just a hair too much love on this list.
My Evaluation: Too high
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