VikesCentric is written by Twin Cities football writers Bo Mitchell of SportsData, Arif Hasan of Vikings Territory, Aj Mansour, who hosts Minnesota Vikings Overtime on KFAN, and Joe Oberle a long-time Minnesota based writer. The VikesCentric crew crunches numbers, watches video and isn't shy about saying what's on their minds.

VikesCentric: Should We Be Wary of Promised Super Bowl Riches?

Posted by: Joe Oberle Updated: January 30, 2015 - 12:48 PM

If there’s anything that we can be grateful for regarding Deflategate it’s that it buried news of the annual debate over the inflated figures a Super Bowl brings to the host city. Still, this year’s host, Glenadale, Ariz., is not so happy about those numbers, and may be saying to future host cites (such as the Twin Cities in 2018), “Super Bowl buyer beware.”

The Super Bowl and all its hoopla and fans and money and frenzy descended on Glendale this week, yet the city’s mayor, Jerry Weiers, is not totally enamored of all the giddiness. Every year, promises are heard of hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity surrounding the Super Bowl in each host city, but many say those numbers are exaggerated and much of it is difficult to quantify, and once the NFL leaves town, they aren’t really concerned in tracking it. They are on to the next town.

“I totally believe we lose money on this,” Weiers told ESPN the Magazine.

The host city and state are always very generous when it comes to putting on the big game, shelling out millions of dollars themselves for infrastructure, logistics and public safety, in hopes of recouping it in revenue from the money spent by 100,000 visitors coming in town for the week. Unfortunately, when the Super Bowl arrives, it is not unlike the circus coming to town, as much of the economic activity is transpired between the NFL and its invited guests rather than the local economy—and it leaves tucked away in the NFL coffers. People coming for the Super Bowl will likely buy more NFL licensed souvenirs than they do little cactuses from gift shops that they can bring home and put on their plant shelf—unless those cacti have little SB XLIX’s printed on them.

Now it should be stated that Glendale is in a unique situation when it comes to hosting a Super Bowl, since the city and Phoenix Stadium are located 20 minutes from the epicenter of where all the economic activity is designed to take place in Phoenix/Scottsdale. Weiers learned from the city’s hosting of the Super Bowl in 2008 that the majority of the buying, eating, drinking and lodging revenue takes place in the big city and never really makes it to Glendale.

Similarly, at the 2014 Super Bowl in New York City—which was held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford—host state New Jersey lost out on plenty of revenue since all the hoopla took place in the Big Apple. What’s to say that the same thing can’t happen in between Minneapolis and St. Paul?

Well, St. Paul is already making plans to capture the attention of Super Bowl visitors despite most of the action taking place in the shadow of that glimmering new edifice being constructed across the river in downtown Minneapolis. St. Paul has the Winter Carnival events, plus they have plans for a big ice castle downtown and the Red Bull Crashed Ice skating races, which has become a winter staple in the city. Not to be outdone, Bloomington, with the Mall of America as a huge attraction, will certainly want to get in on the act.

The truth be told, the triad of cities will likely be needed just to house the visitors who will be coming to town. A look back on the projections of visitors for the Super Bowl that took place here in 1992, experts were predicting 58,000 visitors coming to Minneapolis, close to just half of the 100,000 in Arizona as we speak. In Minnesota, the Super Bowl will be a case of no metro city left behind.

Another advantage that the Twin Cities has over Glendale, the visitors are coming to town during the dead of winter, when few if any visitors typically head to the snow-covered tundra. The visitors to Arizona are crowding out other visitors who certainly would be looking for a place to golf in Scottsdale this time of year. The Twin Cities will be awash in “found money” in 2018, as the New York Times called it in 1992.

Therefore, even though this is the frozen north, and some of the usual Super Bowl revelers might stay away because of that fact, we should take some of the grumbling from Glendale with a grain of salt (and then put it on the roads here for better traction). A Minneapolis Super Bowl should do fine. But what we should be concerned about are all the revenue projections that come out every year and are fuzzy calculations at best.

“We have guaranteed that [more than] 100,000 visitors will descend on this community, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity,” members of the Super Bowl committee told the Star Tribune after they won the bid last summer.

We need to remember that while parking, lodging, bar and restaurant revenue will come here to stay, plenty of monies do not—and it is hard to say how much more of the promised “hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity” stays. Since the NFL has tax-exempt status, its employees don’t have to pay local sales taxes for their dinner or hotel while they are working in Minnesota during Super Bowl week. According to the website, that resulted in a loss of $800,000 in sales tax revenue for New Orleans in 2013.

Furthermore, there are always assurances that having the national (and international) spotlight shining on the Twin Cities for a week will have all kinds of future benefits. Well, that too is very hard to quantify, and at least one Glendale city official agrees:

“There has not been any corporations that moved to Glendale because the CEO came to the Super Bowl,” former councilwoman Joyce Clark told ESPN the Magazine about the benefits of the publicity.

Once again, Glendale is really doing a service to Phoenix by hosting the Super Bowl for them (and here is hoping that Phoenix makes it worth their while). My guess is that the Twin Cities has done a better job of making this more of a metro-area Super Bowl than just a Minneapolis-based one. With the city having been through the experience once, it is doubtful they would join together again if it wasn’t beneficial to everyone.

From a personnel perspective, I had a press pass in 1992 and went to the media gatherings. It was great at the time (I had a blast putting on a Velcro suit and jumping into and sticking to a Velcro wall, until I pulled my face away and it ripped out of some my beard). At the time, I thought the whole week would be a once in a lifetime experience—and it will be interesting to see how the event will be ratcheted up in 2018. The NFL Experience was worth checking out at the Convention Center back in 1992—which was the first time it had ever been held—and it should be even better this time around.

In the final analysis, I am more doubtful of all the economic gain that is promised to the area (although it’s safe to say the Twin Cities will do better than Glendale), but I am excited to see what happens when the Super Bowl returns for a second time. It’s hard to look away when the circus is in town.

Head over to Vikings Journal and join in the conversation on the Vikings Journal forums, where everything Purple is dissected and discussed. 

Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.comcovers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.

VikesCentric: Ranking the Top Vikings Free Agent Targets: 15-11

Posted by: Updated: January 28, 2015 - 7:23 AM

As we close down on the list, be sure to check out the previous rankings!

15. Stevan Ridley, RB New England Patriots

A starting quality back who may suffer from the Toby Gerhart misstep Jacksonville seemingly took when signing the former Viking and Stanford ballcarrier, Stevan Ridley is a thumper between the tackles. If teams are wary of signing a running back in free agency, especially with what seems to be the deepest draft class for runners in years, Ridley could come cheaper than he expects.

Again, Adrian Peterson’s situation informs the strategy, but getting Ridley in to spell Peterson isn’t a bad idea. Two-back sets with a combination of Peterson, Ridley and McKinnon on the field could be just as interesting an answer as the tight end craze seems to be against teams’ continuing preference for nickel as their base defense.

Either way, Ridley represents a long-term investment while the Peterson investment at least looks like it’s nearing its end. It may be difficult to convince a starting caliber back to wait a year or two while seeing perhaps 100 carries a year if he’s lucky, but the alternative is him attempting to convince teams after coming off of an injury that he’s a starting quality back and not just a rotational option or the product of Bill Belichick’s genius—after all, LeGarrette Blount could only seemingly produce in New England, while Laurence Maroney petered out at his next stop and BenJarvus Green-Ellis was significantly less impressive in Cincinnati.

Ridley is a violent player whose intelligence isn’t just put on display with his vision and patience, but his use of leverage to maximize power at the point of contact. Ridley forced 23 missed tackles in 2013 despite only 178 carries and had 2.2 yards after contact per attempt.

It’s significant that New England, with their stable of running backs, had Ridley start all but one game for them this year before he went down. It helps that he happens to be one of the better pass blockers in the NFL, having allowed no sacks, two hits and three hurries in the last three years.

While he’s not the fastest player in the NFL, he’s a fair bit faster than most power backs, and that easily includes Matt Asiata. His acceleration stands out as a big point in his favor, even if he doesn’t have the stop-start ability of a player like Percy Harvin or Darren Sproles. He’s quick for his size and has decent breakaway speed (more than, say, Toby Gerhart) and is comfortable in the passing game, even though the Patriots preferred Shane Vereen in that role.

Ridley knows how to bait linebackers, both by pressing the hole as a runner and with relatively deceptive routes as a receiver and can find himself space that wasn’t otherwise there. He’s a consistent player (ranked seventh in Football Outsiders’ success rate metric in 2013 and fourth the year before) that can grind out short-yardage plays; his career conversion rate on third or fourth down and three or less to go is 64 percent, while league average for running backs is 55 percent—and his rate rises to 68 percent if you exclude his rookie year.

The injury issue is of course worrisome. There’s no need to project an Adrian Peterson or Jamal Charles-like recovery for him. Ridley was not only injured early in the year, but he may find himself in a situation (like with the Vikings) where he doesn’t have to carry a significant load (or run at all) early in the season. His timetable isn’t eight months, but 10.5 if he wants the first carry of the season, and over a year with the PUP list in effect.

Given his youth, he’s a worthwhile investment. His team history and injury will depress his contract far below his likely value—he was already underrated in New England—and if the injury has a long-term impact on his speed, agility and power, he’ll only be a rich man’s Matt Asiata. Given the contract he’ll command—probably no more than $1.5 million at best, that’s almost a sure upgrade for very cheap.

14. Jabaal Sheard, DE Cleveland Browns

Like Jerry Hughes lower on the list, Jabaal Sheard comes with the value of flexibility. He played defensive end for his first two years in Cleveland and outside linebacker in the next two, and moved between two weights to do it. He played at 273 at defensive end and reportedly didn’t shed too much weight to play outside linebacker, though it’s likely he did regardless of how often the team said he didn’t need to. His listed weight is 264, and that’s also a reasonable guess for how much mass he actually carries.

Sheard put together his best year this year, despite only grabbing two sacks, largely because of his dominant ability to set the edge and control the run game. Despite only four tackles for loss, Sheard recorded the highest “run stop percentage” of 3-4 outside linebackers—making sure that running backs lost the down, even if they picked up a yard.

His pass rush on film looks better than it does on the stat sheet (7.5 sacks in two years admittedly looks quite bad), but Sheard, as a much more raw rusher in 2011 and 2012 earned 15.5 sacks over those two seasons, forcing five fumbles his rookie year.

While not extremely productive on the whole, Sheard seems a more natural fit at 4-3 defensive end than 3-4 linebacker despite improving as a holistic package in the 3-4. Those edge-setting skills can come in handy with the Vikings, and he won’t be asked to play in coverage either, his biggest weakness (though the difference between 2013 and 2014 in that regard is stark).

As a pure pass-rusher, Sheard exhibits above-average strength and speed, though neither pop out, and he has good use of hands. Sheard displays exemplary field intelligence both as a rusher and run defender, but needs to clarify technique in finishing.

Given the scheme’s emphasis on defensive ends playing contain first and foremost, Sheard could be maximized in Minnesota.

For a starter, Sheard would be disappointing, though likely better than Robison was last year. As a high-snap rotational player, Sheard would be the perfect fit, likely not commanding much in free agency but still providing high value as a subpackage player. Sheard has improved his coverage responsibilities enough to be a legitimate zone blitz coverage defender while still having the rushing and run defending chops to force the offense off schedule. He’s not as good as other pass rushers on this list, but very few slot into a rotational role as well as he does from a price and scheme fit perspective.

13. Stefen Wisniewski, C Oakland Raiders

The Vikings don’t need a center, that’s not the point. Wisniewski at 313 pounds (occasionally listed at 307 or 315) is a perfectly acceptable size for a guard, and actually has guard experience with his time in Oakland, starting 13 games for them at left guard his rookie year, with a stint at center when Samson Satele went down.

The Raiders’ original plan was to have Wisniewski play center—the position he was rated at coming out of the draft (he played both guard and center at Penn State)—but they liked Satele in camp enough to keep him at center and put Wisniewski on the field at guard. They didn’t like Satele long enough to keep him there, and Wisniewski took over at center.

But he’s underrated as a guard. He doesn’t have the raw power as some of the NFL’s strongest linemen, but some of the best guards in the league don’t display dominating raw strength. Folks like Evan Mathis, Andy Levitre and Ben Grubbs have found themselves to play at the top level at their position despite average strength at their position. Like those players, Wisniewski wins with quickness, balance, footwork and leverage.

He can do that once more at the guard position, as he moves far better than people give him credit for, making him an ideal replacement for Charlie Johnson, who was the team’s pulling guard on the majority of pulling plays.

A quick look at his Pro Football Focus grade (-2.5) may be disappointing, but it’s a little misleading. He only had two games in the red (with a grade below -1.0) in 2014, and once in 2013 (where he finished with a total grade of +11.4). In 2012, he had a grade of +8.1, again with only one game in the red again. Over the last three years, his grade comes out to +17.0, with 12 games in the green (over +1.0) and four games in the red.

Further, his grade comes from a disappointing pass blocking grade (-5.6), where he still finished third of all centers in their Pass Blocking Efficiency rating, giving up only one sack, three hits and 12 hurries. All Pro centers Maurkice Pouncey and Travis Frederick had lower scores, with Pouncey giving up a sack, two hits and 16 hurries, while Frederick gave up a sack, two hits and 11 hurries—and Wisniewski had more pass blocking snaps than either of them (138 more than Frederick).

While this can be legitimately traced to the offense and Carr’s quick release, there’s a lot more talent at pass blocking than his grades imply, though less than those numbers. Oakland has left him one-on-one against defensive tackles often despite him being a center, and his only bad games in the last three years were against Terrance Knighton (who weighs more than 350 pounds), Barry Cofield (who weighs significantly more than his listed 306—laughing at the suggestion that he is at his listed weight), and 342-pound Paul Soliai.

Leaving any center alone against players who weigh 330-360 pounds is a recipe for disaster. Despite that, he handled Vince Wilfork, Justin Ellis and Ahytba Rubin with ease, all above 330 pounds. The point of these nose tackles is that they demand double-teams, and they surely would in most schemes, like the Vikings’—Sullivan almost always blocks them down onto a guard.

Further, the Raiders’ pass protection schemes seem stultifyingly complex at times. Asked to block players shaded over the tackle at times, Wisniewski wasn’t always put into a position to succeed. Despite that, he’s been playing excellently, especially as a run blocker and he’s been one of the best players in space and on the second level.

If Wisniewski can be tempted into playing guard, he’d be well worth the investment. Like Louis Vasquez was for the Broncos, he could be the young, hidden gem (he’ll be 26 to start next season and is 25 now) that explodes onto the scene on the interior. Simplifying his duties and using his quick footwork as a pulling guard, his keen understanding of leverage and growing strength makes him not just an adequate replacement at guard, but a potentially top-level one.

Wisniewski may be hard to pry from the Raiders—he’s one of the lucky few drafted to his favorite team, the team his uncle played for, and at the time, also the team that employed him. Uncle Steve was never fired either, resigning for personal reasons. His father wouldn’t be too much help bringing to the Vikings either, as Leo played for the Colts.

On the other hand, he’s turned down all offers from the Raiders thus far, saying it hasn’t been what he’s been looking for. The assumption has been that he’ll receive a “solid” contract for a center, which would be probably under $5 million. He’s probably worth over $6 million at either guard or center, and he can add strength, as he has every year for the past four.

12. Dez Bryant, WR Dallas Cowboys

This one isn’t difficult. Dez Bryant is in the conversation to be the best receiver in the league, and he’ll only be 26 years old to start the season. The Vikings, again, don’t count receiver as a top acquisition need for them entering the offseason despite questions with Patterson and Johnson with regards to their development, but Bryant can only help the offense, and in non-redundant ways.

Bryant’s major knock coming out of the 2013 season, if there were any significant ones, was his inconsistency, particularly when it came to concentration. He did have issues getting on the same page as Tony Romo, but that was resolved pretty quickly. His concentration drops have plummeted, and his drop rate of 5.4 percent is better than A.J. Green’s, Alshon Jeffery’s, Julio Jones’, Brandon Marshall’s, Calvin Johnson, Jordy Nelson’s and DeMarius Thomas’.

The mercurial receiver is noted for his size and speed combination, as well as his enormous catch radius, but while that’s all true, Bryant is a stellar route runner as well. He continues to have issues at times with option routes but he tells a story with his route running that allows him to deceive even high-level defensive backs and work his way open. Even if he won’t win with deception, he’ll win with fluidity and explosion.

The Vikings need a receiver to win contested balls. Dez Bryant is arguably the best in the league at it. It’s not just 50-50 jump balls he wins—though he wins his fair share of those—but catches in traffic, on slant routes, against in-breaking safeties, over a defender, in the middle, and so on. He knows how to use his body and size and has always had a natural understanding of leverage and positioning. It’s not just that he’s a deep threat, but he’s a threat anywhere on the field, and he’s the rare player—like Calvin Johnson and Rob Gronkowski—who is open when he’s blanketed in coverage.

Add to that his complete familiarity with the Coryell and Turner systems, and Bryant is a natural fit. It might be awkward for the Vikings to find a way to get all their receivers on the field, but it’s well worth that struggle to sign Bryant, as expensive as he may be.

Further, here seems to be an argument that Bryant may not command the salaries that Fitzgerald and Johnson commanded—his off-field concerns early in his career aside, his usage pattern doesn’t match them, and though he’s unique like they were when they signed. Given that he’ll be competing with Demaryius Thomas for a team, his salary could be depressed by ready market supply (though don’t expect too much).

If Bryant can be had for under $15 million a year—which is a somewhat absurd possibility given some of his performances—he should be targeted.

11. Joe Barksdale, OT St. Louis Rams

Barksdale has gone under-the-radar for the last two years as a viable and even “good” offensive tackle. The St. Louis Rams probably want to keep him, but have the flexibility to move on from him with tackle-capable players in Jake Long, Greg Robinson and Rodger Saffold.

The interesting thing about Barksdale is that his high level of play has not been met with commensurate plaudits or predictions of a good contract in this free agency. Barksdale earns barely a mention even as one of three players highlighted in the St. Louis Post Dispatch’s piece regarding Rams free agents and Fox Sports Midwest regards him as an incidental target to keep—because there’s “not many reasons not to keep” him.

It seems like the perception of his limited ceiling makes him the kind of free agent teams sign “for the right price” but only made a priority because he’s assumed to be cheap.

It’s true that Barksdale had a shockingly poor season as a pass protector after playing extremely well in 2013, but it’s also the case that neither Jake Long nor Greg Robinson did well at all from the tackle spot. Davin Joseph and Scott Wells also ranked near the bottom of the league in pass protection metrics. It may be the case that Austin Davis and Shaun Hill are not particularly adept at manipulating the pocket and avoiding pressure.

It so happens that the year before, Scott Wells was the best center in the NFL at preventing pressure, while Jake Long and Davin Joseph both outperformed their 2014 selves—with Long finishing well within the top half, unlike this year.

It seems unlikely that four members of the offensive line would suffer dramatic drops in pass blocking effectiveness at the same time (with some going worst to first) without an external factor at play, in this case the sack avoidance abilities of Kellen Clemens and Sam Bradford exceeding those of Austin Davis and Shaun Hill.

In 2013, the two quarterbacks combined to have an average pressure-to-sack conversion of 17.8 percent—less than a fifth of all pressures led to sacks. In 2013, Hill and Davis exceeded that, ranking as the eighth-worst.

It also isn’t a surprise that Austin Davis had the fifth-highest number of snaps under pressure; he had the 4th-longest time to attempt in the NFL. When the Rams switched to Shaun Hill, both the rank of snaps under pressure (19th of 39) and time-to-attempt (30th of 39) fell dramatically.

Barksdale isn’t a bad tackle, and there’s a good likelihood that he’s better than Kalil. Regardless, his struggles in Oakland and his recent run of play will depress his market despite the fact that he was a better than average tackle in 2013.

Further, he can play guard. His strengths are magnified there (leverage, power, punch, drive) and some of his weaknesses can be covered up (reading in space, quickness). At 326 pounds, he has the size for the position, and he certainly has the attitude. He can be a violent player and this year improved his run blocking from the tackle position quite a bit. His hand usage is frenetic but good, and he usually makes first contact against pass-rushers, something that can help him out at guard.

He wouldn’t replace Charlie Johnson as neatly as Wisniewski would, but he can be had for cheaper and offers more versatility at positions of need.

It’s a similar situation for some of the other offensive line signings on this list. Barksdale is a starting-quality player that can be had for replacement-level price (despite never being injured in his NFL career). The Vikings can start him at guard and let go of Charlie Johnson, while at the same time investing in an insurance policy in case Kalil’s late-season improvement was just noise and not a genuine return to form.

While not as talented as some other offensive linemen on this list, his potential price is tantalizing enough to move him up the rankings.

Head over to Vikings Journal to take a look at some of the most interesting wagers you can make, figure out why the Pro Bowl is even played or see where the Minnesota Vikings landed in a draft re-grade.

Arif Hasan is a senior writer for Vikings Journal and the editor-in-chief of Vikings Territory. He is a former political consultant and a Minnesota native.

VikesCentric: Jim Marshall's Hall of Fame case

Posted by: Bo Mitchell Updated: January 27, 2015 - 9:19 AM

Vikings fans have long been frustrated at the perceived injustices when in comes to Hall of Fame voting. One of those wrongs will presumably be righted on Saturday as Mick Tingelhoff hopefully gets his due, leaving one glaring omission from the Purple People Eaters.

Back in August, the Pro Football Hall of Fame Senior Selection Committee nominated Tingelhoff as their only finalist for consideration to join the class of 2015. The former Vikings center needs to garner 80 percent of the vote when the selection meeting is held on Saturday. The new inductees will be announced that night on the eve of the Super Bowl, and I fully expect Tingelhoff to finally get his place in Canton.

I explained Tingelhoff’s worthiness for the Hall of Fame back in August. In the comments section of said article, the name of the other prominent Vikings great not in the Hall of Fame naturally came up: Jim Marshall.

At the time I said I didn’t think Marshall had a strong case for the Hall. I called him a “borderline Hall of Famer.” That opinion aligned me with Hall of Fame voters -- who have yet to cast enough votes for Marshall to get him a bust in Canton -- and likely ticked off a few Vikings fans.

Believe me, I’d love to see Marshall make the Hall of Fame. I was a fan of his when he played, I recognize how important he was to the Vikings teams of the 1960s and 70s and he seems like a great guy by all accounts. I had the honor of meeting him once, many years ago, and I will never ever forget shaking his hand. It was like he was wearing a baseball mit. My hand disappeared up to the elbow inside his hand I think. At least that’s how I recall it. He’s a bigger than life man, great leader and was a great player.

I try to be objective about Hall of Fame matters, though. Marshall hasn’t played a game in more than 35 years and he isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He was a finalist for the Hall just once in that span (back in 2004). It’s difficult to spin that as a positive outlook for his Hall of Fame momentum.

The problem Marshall faces is that there aren’t a lot of counting stats to use when making his case. The two things defensive ends should be best known for are sacks and tackles. That’s their primary function. Unfortunately, sacks didn’t become recognized as an official NFL stat until 1982, which is three years after Marshall played his final game. And tackles still aren’t an official stat.

Without gaudy numbers to make his case, voters are left to look at other criteria such as Pro Bowl and All Pro selections and postseason success. That’s where the bigger problems arise. For all his greatness, Marshall made the Pro Bowl only twice and was never selected All-Pro. It’s tough to make a case that someone was among the greatest of all time when he was never deemed the best at his position in any season in which he played. And Marshall played 20 seasons.

As if that’s not enough to overcome, his teams lost four Super Bowls and the Vikings’ famed Purple People Eaters didn’t fare well in any of the three.

Throw in one of the most notorious gaffes in sports history back in 1964 -- his infamous “Wrong Way Run” in which he scored a safety for the 49ers, thinking he had run in a fumble recovery for a touchdown -- and you have quite a argument against his enshrinement, with a little embarrassing gravy on top.

I have always rested my case after considering all those obstacles.

Like any football fan or observer or media member, however, I’m allowed to change my opinion -- to let it evolve over time.

To that end, there’s a solid case that can be made in favor of Marshall being a Hall of Famer when you consider some more facts.

He was, without question, one of the most durable players of all time in any sport. He set NFL records with 282 consecutive games played and 270 consecutive starts. Both are still records for defensive ends. Marshall never missed a game. He also holds the NFL record for opponents’ fumbles recovered with 29.

While his sack total is not official, Marshall is credited with 127 sacks while with the Vikings, which is the second most in team history behind Hall of Famer Carl Eller. Consider this: in the 33 years since sacks started being counted as an official stat, only 13 players have recorded more than 127 sacks. Eight of those 13 players are in the Hall of Fame, and the other five (Kevin Greene, Jason Taylor, John Abraham, Jared Allen and Leslie O’Neal) have solid to slam dunk Hall credentials.

In light of his impressive, though unofficial, sack total, his record number of fumble recoveries and unmatched toughness, a solid Hall of Fame case can be made.

But what about the lack of Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors?

That’s always going to hurt his case, but it’s worth noting that he had Hall of Fame contemporaries such as teammate Carl Eller plus Elvin Bethea, Jack Youngblood, Willie Davis and of course Deacon Jones. There’s not a lot of elbow room at the All-Pro table when your career overlaps with those guys.

Only six Minnesota Vikings have ever had their number retired. The late Korey Stringer is one. Three others are in the Hall of Fame (Fran Tarkenton, Alan Page, Cris Carter) and a fourth (Tingelhoff) could join them on Saturday.

The only other Viking to have his number retired is Marshall -- the Vikings’ captain for 17 years.

John Randle and Randall McDaniel haven’t had their numbers retired. Neither have Ron Yary, Gary Zimmerman, Chris Doleman or Paul Krause. They’re all in the Hall of Fame, though. As is the man who coached most of those guys, Bud Grant.

Coach Grant was quoted extensively in the press release that accompanied the announcement of Marshall’s number being retired back on Nov. 28, 1999.

“Many times people ask coaches who their greatest player was,” Grant said. “It’s normally very hard to choose, but I don’t hesitate to say Jim Marshall.”

Who am I to disagree with Bud?

Maybe Marshall isn’t an “inner ring” Hall of Famer, but such a thing doesn’t actually exist; and if it did, there wouldn’t be many included anyway. The more I’m able to put his accomplishments into perspective, however, the harder it is for me to deny that Jim Marshall worthy of being enshrined.

Maybe Tingelhoff will save him a seat at the table for next year.

Go to for a look at the Vikings' biggest offseason question as well as who the Vikings should be targeting in free agency.

Bo Mitchell is the Vice President of Content at SportsData, head writer at, co-host of the Fantasy Football Pants Party at and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America.

You can follow Bo on Twitter at @Bo_Mitchell

VikesCentric: The $13 Million Offseason Question...

Posted by: AJ Mansour Updated: January 26, 2015 - 1:36 PM

For some, the offseason is the most wonderful time of the year. With speculation running rampant, fans of teams who are not performing in this weekend’s Super Bowl are already scanning the free agency list and looking deep into the Draft Class to compile their wish list for off season acquisitions. This fun is precisely why the NFL is the juggernaut that it has become.

But for fans of the Minnesota Vikings, this approach, this fun has been tempered by something that has hung over the heads of the organization for the past six or seven months. And as much as it is on the minds of the fans, it’s even more of a concern for those cutting the checks inside the offices at Winter Park.

As it stands now, running back Adrian Peterson is a member of the team and his $15 million contract is going to count against the books for next season. But his future with the team is still very much up in the air. Does he want to be here anymore? Do the Vikings want him to be here anymore? It’s a $13 million question that could decide the direction of the team not only for the next season but deep into the future.

For the Vikings, these are the two questions at the crux of the situation that could dictate their entire approach to the free agent market and the 2015 NFL Draft.

If Peterson goes, which would likely require an amended date to come out of his February 6th court hearing, the Vikings will have loads of money to take into the free agency pool. As outlined in a previous post (Cowboys Unlikely to Retain Bryant and Murray, Why Is This Good For The Vikings), with Peterson off the books, the Vikings will clear an extra $13 million of cap space. Make a few other cuts and restructures (Johnson/Felton/Ponder, Greenway/Jennings) and the Vikings will be sitting with somewhere in the ballpark of $30-$33 million to play with during free agency.  This sort of money would afford the Vikings some opportunities to rebuild with talented veterans that they have not had in a long time.

Building around the young core of Teddy Bridgewater on offense and Anthony Barr on defense, Spielman could target big name free agents at the offensive guard, wide receiver and linebacker spots to put this team back in contention very quickly.

But what if I told you that the other option, retaining Peterson, could have a better long-term outlook? What if I said that keeping Adrian and eating the $15 million he is owed would make the team better next season? Have I caught your attention?

At the center of this other path, it the retention of Adrian Peterson. Maybe the two sides have overcome the hurt feelings that surfaced during the past 8 months. Maybe Adrian wants to be here or maybe Adrian wants to keep his $15 million paycheck?

So Adrian stays, where does the team go from there?

With Peterson still counting against the books, the Vikings would still have somewhere in the ballpark of $17-$20 million to play with during free agency, barring some unforeseen bigtime cut. That still gives you a decent chunk of change to maybe target one top-level free agent and a few b-level guys. But the approach is completely different now, maybe diminishing the importance of free agency.

With Adrian in the backfield, your team gets better. We’ve seen it before, namely in 2012 when Christian Ponder was at the helm and Adrian went wild on the ground.

If Peterson is still effective, upgrading your left guard drops from your first priority maybe to your third or fourth. We’ve seen it before, Adrian Peterson has the ability to make a pedestrian offensive line look dominant. I mean seriously, with Adrian behind them, we once thought that Bryant McKinnie and Charlie Johnson were good linemen! It would allow the team to try their hand at a rookie LG through the draft rather than targeting Mike Iupati and forking over some serious cash in the process.

Adding the variable of Adrian to the backfield would take some of the pressure off of Bridgewater too. Having a serious ground threat to tag team with Teddy’s aerial assault ensures that the opposing defense will play more of a straight up style rather than leaning one way or the other.

It opens up the passing game for the wide receivers as well. You’ll see more one-on-ones on the outside and, seemingly, the passing game should jump up as well maybe deferring the need for another big time wide receiver one more year.

In essence, plopping Adrian Peterson back out on the field is the same as acquiring the top offensive weapon through free agency for this coaching staff. They weren’t afforded the opportunity to experience the benefit it is to have that weapon on the field last season.

In the long run, this scenario might fall in line more so with what the team is wanting to do with its new direction and new coaching staff.

We’ve seen it pretty clearly the past few seasons that Rick Spielman’s path to success comes through the draft. Identifying and retaining good, young talent is a solid way to find long term success. Just take a look across the border to Green Bay or jolt out west to Seattle and you’ll see this plan playing out only a few steps ahead in the process from where we are today.

Having Peterson act as your main offensive improvement will allow the Vikings to focus most of their free agent spending money on the defensive side of the ball, much to Mike Zimmer’s pleasure. Highlight some top level linebackers and cornerbacks and use the draft to rebuild some of the offensive holes, maybe a wide receiver or another corner at #11.

I think the common perception among fans is to turn away from Adrian Peterson as soon as possible. It is believed that the Vikings have mortgaged their future with this Peterson contract. A highly paid running back in a passing league just doesn’t seem to make sense anymore. But when you look at the two scenarios outlined above, the latter seems to be more Green-Bay-Packers-Esque while the former is very much Washington-Redskins-Esque. Looking at the recent histories of those two teams, you tell me which path might be the best to explore?

Coming Later This Week: We'll break down each of these two scenarios and outline what the offseason (free agency/draft) might look like depending on which direction the Vikings go with Peterson. Stay tuned for more...

VikesCentric: Ranking the Top Vikings Free Agent Targets: 21-16

Posted by: Updated: January 25, 2015 - 11:19 AM

The earlier rankings aren't too hard to find, and it wouldn't hurt to get a refresher:

20. Chris Culliver, San Francisco 49ers

The Minnesota Vikings probably need a corner. In that sense, the very talented (and extremely athletic) Chris Culliver is a fit. He played like one of the top corners in the league this last year and has the length, physicality and athleticism to seem like a natural pair with the Zimmer prototype.

With a 4.36 40-yard dash and a general weight-adjusted combine athleticism score in the 87th percentile, Culliver’s raw tools are a commodity and should by themselves fetch a price, as will his performance. Ranking sixth in cover snaps per reception, eighth in yards per snap in coverage and 18th in cover snaps per target (of 73 cornerbacks), Culliver was a high-end defensive back who also happened to allow only a 66.5 passer rating in coverage—sixth best in the NFL.

It further helps his case that his worst games of the year were early, and that he improved later on, despite going up against Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Russell Wilson.

He’s improved in his awareness and transition and has played this year with a natural feel for the position, closing on the ball better than most zone cornerbacks have done this year, breaking up his fair share of passes along the way. His burst is excellent and his instincts have begun to match his excellent physical capability.

Culliver was rarely beaten over the top and though he still has some footwork issues to work out, has done a much better job closing tight coverage and creating difficult windows.

All of that is great, but it hides the fact that the Vikings don’t necessarily need help on the outside, unless you’re sold on the idea that Josh Robinson’s true ability is closer to his midseason form than how he played at the beginning or end of the season. Culliver has played vanishingly few slot snaps, often kicking a cornerback inside when he gets onto the field in order to play left cornerback in 2011 and 2012 and right cornerback this last year.

Robinson himself provides a cautionary tale when it comes to attempting to project outside corners inside, even if they have the physical ability to do so. Robinson’s blazing 3-cone and short shuttle times (6.55 and 3.97, respectively) are arguably more impressive than his scorching 40-time (4.33), but all that quickness didn’t help him defending the slot.

For what it’s worth, Culliver also has high-level quickness from a combine perspective (6.88- and 4.08-second times) and though he’s had issue with the technique of his footwork on the field, has shown the kind of quickness that those scores imply. His fluidity has been a big asset on the field, but if he can’t translate that to slot duties, he’s a redundant contract.

Further, the 49ers’ emphasis on zone coverage has afforded him leeway when it comes to his struggle sin man coverage, something that doesn’t really speak well for a complete transition to the Vikings. He will too often in press-man situations allow receivers to get hip-to-hip with him, losing the leverage battle. Many times, this will happen at the line of scrimmage, limiting his recovery ability and creating a large window to throw to.

Still, he has the instincts and athleticism to be a good fit, and if Zimmer really is as good a defensive backs whisperer as he seems, then Culliver would be the kind of player worth signing a short-term (if somewhat hefty—though not too hefty given his 2011-2012 performances and 2013 injury) contract to provide real competition in the slot, even if he’s never played it before.

It also wouldn’t be bad to bring in someone familiar with Vic Fangio’s defenses now that Chicago has hired him.

19. Louis Delmas, S Miami Dolphins

It may be unusual to talk about Delmas the Dolphin, but that’s what free agency will do. The Lions were tired of his injury history (and more importantly, managed their cap poorly) so cut Delmas despite signing him to a new contract and seeing him play every single game for them (98 percent of snaps) after signing the contract.

He of course tore his ACL playing for the Dolphins with a month left in the season.

Delmas showed up on the Lions’ injury report as questionable, doubtful or out for 23 of the 33 eligible weeks of the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the vast majority of them related to his knee. He was on the injury list as probable every week of 2013 and suffered a non-contact ACL injury with the Dolphins in December. The knee issues ranged from irritation to persistent tendinitis and ligament tears (including a partial MCL tear) before his ACL tore with the Dolphins.

Though an ACL tear is on a different plane in terms of injury than his previous injuries, it’s worth pointing out that he has returned from each injury at full speed and recovered unusually quickly from each one of them. Perhaps he rushed himself back on the field each time, but that his play doesn’t drop off is remarkable.

Delmas would have to be on a somewhat accelerated timeline to get on the field on opening day (Adrian Peterson’s ACL tear was two weeks later into the season), but the PUP list rules do give the Vikings some additional leeway.

When Delmas is on the field, he’s a prototypical safety. Underrated for his coverage capabilities, Delmas is seen as mostly a strong safety who takes good tackling angles while hitting extremely hard. He doesn’t always wrap up and that creates issues, but for the most part makes an impact in the run game. Extremely fast, Delmas knows how to maximize the force he puts out with his body despite a 200-pound frame.

That speed also grants Delmas extreme range. While he doesn’t have the ability to cover as much of the field as Eric Weddle or Earl Thomas, he’s nearly in that tier. That gives Delmas the versatility of being either an SS or FS, even though he was mostly used as a strong safety by the Lions (he was given more responsibility by the Dolphins).

His instincts are generally very good and he follows through with good ball tracking and an ability to close downhill in zones with a lot of speed. He has a good sense on how to position himself in the air when fighting for a contested ball, but he’s still somewhat inconsistent. He will bite on play action and other fakes more than a safety of his caliber should and is prone to eye manipulation from quarterbacks as well.

Still, there will be long stretches of play in coverage where he is difficult to attack, and he serves as an excellent addition in terms of run defense, taking down ballcarriers of all sizes—even taking down heavier backs like 235-pound Jonathan Stewart one-on-one.

A healthy Delmas isn’t necessarily a top five safety, but he certainly could be a top fifteen safety in the right system. Pairing him with Harrison Smith for what should amount to very little money is tantalizing enough to be worth a try. After all, not all injury-prone players continue to be injury prone.

18. Orlando Franklin, OG Denver Broncos

Orlando Franklin is at the top of a number of wishlists for teams short on guards—and that’s many teams—but it’s important to keep context in mind when evaluating the former tackle. Transitioning from a short-drop offense like Peyton Manning’s to one like Norv Turner’s is a big leap. Manning got rid of the ball faster than any other quarterback in the NFL, by a significant margin.

Last year, the fastest quarterback to throw (Manning) got rid of the ball in 2.36 seconds, and the year before that 2.47 seconds. In 2011 it was 2.40 seconds. This year, it was an unprecedented 2.24 seconds, faster than any quarterback with significant snaps since Pro Football Focus started measuring (which includes 2011-2014 and 2007).

Philip Rivers under Norv Turner would regularly hold on to the ball on average 2.8 seconds or so, and Bridgewater is no different (2.86), even when only measuring the final five weeks (2.88 seconds)—making quarterbacks in the Turner offense more susceptible to bad offensive line play that magnifies the weaknesses of individual players.

Even if there were no reason to have reservations about Orlando Franklin outside of other concerns, the switch from the fastest offense in the NFL to one of the slowest should give one pause when evaluating offensive linemen, and it confounds the data no matter what else is taken into account.

But there’s additional reason to be suspicious of his positive marks. He had issues getting inside the reach of defensive tackles, and quicker players like Wallace Gilberry (to choose one example out of his last several games) ate him alive. While longer players like Arthur Jones could keep him at bay as a result of his continuous problem getting inside the block, faster players like Geno Atkins could blow by him.

At times, Franklin would flash balance issues—more than most guards, but not so much that it’s a defining weakness of his. He did a better job against the bull rush and power rushers, which would suggest that his balance wasn’t continuously a problem either. He still can get driven back in pass protection as a result of pure strength (Jones did this at least twice in the Colts playoff game) but it’s not such a consistent issue that it would be characterized as a weakness on his part.

His best blocks, the ones that pancake players out of plays, happen in zone blocking when uncovered—when his only assignment is to downblock. While he does this better than many players in the NFL, and is certainly above average at it by some degree, it’s also not a skill that is difficult to find, especially at an acceptable level. Often very good blocks and blocks that are good enough have the same effect, so his mauling runs on outside zone plays are good to watch but not in practice a coveted skill.

It’s worth mentioning that Franklin plays high for an offensive lineman (something you’ll see happen a lot in tackle-to-guard converts), but it didn’t seem to impact his play too much—he often found ways underneath defenders despite all that.

As for recovery, Franklin can recover from being beat if the defensive lineman is attacking a little out of position, but has serious issues recovering if he doesn’t have a positional advantage, creating big problems. If he loses leverage in a block, especially in pass protection, his recovery is awkward and ineffective.

I don’t recall studying a guard who got away with holding so often. He was only called for it four times, but I suspect in a deeper-drop offense he’ll be called for it more often Franklin already suffers from a penalty problem aside from that, too—he was called five times for false starts and once for unnecessary roughness. Say what you will about Charlie Johnson, but he doesn’t get penalized much; he had one penalty before injury this year and three last year. Franklin had ten this year, eleven last year and ten once more in 2012.

If the left side of the line combined for 20+ penalties alone next year it would damage Minnesota’s otherwise sterling offensive penalty record (they had the third fewest penalties called on the offense last year) and back the offense up enough to stall a few drives.

Franklin has a very strong punch, even when comparing to other guards, and when it lands, that’s usually the end of a pass rush. He plays with a high level of awareness and does a good job picking up stunts and blitzes from the guard spot. He’s a dominating pulling guard, and though he didn’t do it much, he did a very good job with it when he did.

Those are all things that will stay with him wherever he goes, regardless of scheme and are worth building off of. It’s impossible not to acknowledge that he played at a high level and that his schematic advantages are not a discredit to him, so he’s still high on the list. But the difficulty of evaluation and some red flags means he’s not higher—especially because his price tag figures to be quite high.

17. Torrey Smith, WR Baltimore Ravens

The Vikings’ “need” at receiver is overrated, and though the corps is nowhere near the top of the list, it is more well-rounded than it seems, even if Cordarrelle Patterson doesn’t improve and Charles Johnson is a one-hit wonder.

That doesn’t mean adding a player like Torrey Smith is bad.

Smith, in the past two years, has become a much more complete receiver than people realize, and is an excellent route-runner relative to his reputation. He still has work to do in that regard, but his natural quickness and developing field sense both contribute to the kind of savvy one needs in order to be a full-fledged split end. His experience in the Coryell system should help, as well.

Though he could be sharper in that sense, the thing Smith is good at, he’s really good at. One of the premier deep threats in the league, the 6’0” receiver knows how to take the top off of defenses and punish teams for forgetting to shade their safeties to his side of the field.

Given the strength of the slot threats for the Vikings (either through an improved Kyle Rudolph or with Greg Jennings/Jarius Wright), Smith’s potential for forcing cover-two looks from teams could really open up the passing game in big ways, or enable the running game, with or without Adrian Peterson.

He high-points the ball well and shields it from defensive backs, making him the kind of contested ball receiver the Vikings simply don’t have at this point, sans development from Patterson and physicality from Johnson.

There are a number of talented receivers hitting the market, but they don’t fill a niche in the same way that Torrey Smith does, so as nice as it would be to add Demaryius Thomas or Randall Cobb, they have overlapping skill sets with people already on the roster, making any high-paying contract for them a little too redundant for comfort.

Smith, on the other hand, provides the kind of deep threat that the Turner offense may need to get going, and his increasing development as a receiver is an additional boon in terms of helping out the offense.

The Vikings may end up having a lot of cap space this offseason, depending on how they deal with Chad Greenway’s contract and what they’ll do in terms of restructuring, but odds are they may be able to make a splash here or there.

Torrey Smith is one of the youngest free agents on this list, and will be 26 tomorrow (as of publish date). Barring the unforeseeable, he has a lot of years left in him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was one of the big signings in the offseason that was properly valued, after big contracts to other receivers set the market.

It could well be in everyone’s best interest if Torrey Smith stays in purple… just in a different shade.

16. Jerry Hughes, DE Buffalo Bills

A lot of defensive ends will make the list when all is said and done, and only a little bit of this is due to disappointing play from Brian Robison and the worrisome absence of Scott Crichton. The other reason is because there are a lot of great pass rushers in this free agency class, and it would feel a shame not to take advantage of it.

Players who are not necessarily system fits, but could be, were left off the list if only because they would feel more at home in a 3-4 and would command a high contract—Justin Houston and Pernell McPhee—but aren’t necessarily bad options.

Jerry Hughes, on the other hand, is a fit for nearly any system, and he’s shown significant versatility over the years. He’ll be 27 when the season starts and would be able to compete right away for serious snaps on the defensive line.

Even if Robison bounces back and has a good year, it would be worth adding a starting quality contract at defensive end because of how Zimmer typically runs his system. In 2013, the Bengals gave over 500 snaps to Wallace Gilberry and the year before nearly gave as many snaps to substitute Carlos Dunlap (601) as starter Robert Geathers (660). Fourth-string defensive end, Wallace Gilberry, took 300 snaps himself, too.

Throughout Zimmer’s history, you’ll see about 2400 snaps given to defensive ends over the course of the year, with starters only taking about 60 percent of snaps. That’s much different than what Minnesota is used to, where even in a year where their second-string defensive end (Everson Griffen) was mauling players, the starters saw at least 75 percent of snaps (between 2012 and 2013, the starters saw 80 percent of snaps). While 2013 was an anomaly for Zimmer (perhaps motivated by the loss of Geno Atkins but also the addition of James Harrison, who was not counted as a defensive end), his history largely shows significant rotation along the defensive line.

That means bringing in a player who is more than Corey Wootton and providing serious competition for what is functionally a starting spot to Scott Crichton.

Corey Wootton’s poor play means that Minnesota saw the same amount of rotation as before, with 87 percent of defensive end snaps going to starters.

There’s good reason to believe that Zimmer will change this (and again, Anthony Barr changes the calculus a little bit), so adding another defensive end makes good sense, even if he costs money.

Hughes could likely supplant Brian Robison on day one. Not only did he rank highly in Pass Rusher Productivity—a per-snap measure by Pro Football Focus that weights sacks, hits and hurries—but stood out as a solid run defender on a defense full of solid run defenders.

Though Hughes was not successful in Indianapolis (and his 2012 was underrated), he exploded onto the scene in Buffalo as a 3-4 outside linebacker. While that initially seemed to be the key that unlocked Hughes’ potential, a full season at 4-3 defensive end a year later proved that not to be the case—he’s just a good pass rusher.

He’s fast, strong and fluid, with some of the best closing speed capability in the NFL, along with smart technique, footwork and excellent flexibility. He has the ability to play inside in a pinch, though his frame suggests he should stick outside, and the strength he added this past offseason is a nice surprise after showcasing little of it in previous seasons.

Hughes has improved every year against the run, and his awareness has allowed him to set the edge on a consistent basis and prevent the outside from giving up the alley, though it helps having Brandon Spikes and the defensive line to help him out in that regard.

His time in a 3-4 showed he doesn’t have the instincts that a typical coverage defender has, but he definitely has the athletic ability to keep up with tight ends and running backs in coverage. That missing awareness as a coverage defender can be an issue if he’s asked to do it often, but he can peel off in coverage and cover receivers on a limited basis, just like Zimmer asked Everson Griffen and Brian Robison to do with outstanding results.

Coming out of TCU as an outside linebacker, Hughes should have had better coverage awareness, but for the Vikings that’s not a huge issue. He’s in the 85th percentile of weight-adjusted combine athleticism scores, and that puts him in the rare athletic territory of Everson Griffen (91st percentile), Barkevious Mingo (87th percentile) and Derrick Johnson (84th percentile).

Hughes probably won’t break the bank wherever he goes, but it will certainly be a starting-caliber contract. The Vikings, if they plan on continuing what Zimmer did in Cincinnati, shouldn’t balk because of that.

Head over to Vikings Journal to join our discussion on the Senior Bowl, how the Super Bowl is a remnant of Minnesota's legacy and our most recent mock draft.

Arif Hasan is a senior writer for Vikings Journal and the editor-in-chief of Vikings Territory (currently being revamped until Monday). He is a former political consultant and a Minnesota native.

VikesCentric: Draft Guru Raises Vikings Grade In 2014 NFL Draft Re-Grade

Posted by: AJ Mansour under Vikings, NFL draft, Vikings draft Updated: January 24, 2015 - 9:06 AM

On the national scene, there is nobody more revered for predicting and analyzing the NFL Draft than ESPN Television’s Mel Kiper. Specializing on predicting the league’s draft since 1984, year-by-year Kiper’s accuracy gets better.

While Mel’s claim-to-fame will always be his legendary mock drafts, he also analyzes draft classes by each team the day after the draft concludes. Looking back to April of 2014 you can see Kiper’s grade on the 2014 Minnesota Vikings NFL Draft Class came in at a “B-”.

Kiper’s analysis centered around criticising the Vikings for reaching with the ninth overall pick and selecting Anthony Barr.

“I thought Anthony Barr was a pretty big reach based on my evaluations,” Kiper stated. “He’s a talented but raw player who lacks instincts on defense.”

With hindsight being 20/20 and having the 2014 season behind us, Kiper has now gone back to the draft boards that he graded before the season and has re-graded the 2014 draft class for each team. For the Minnesota Vikings, it was a mixed bag of criticism, but ultimately the grade did go up.

Not forgetting that third round offensive lineman David Yankey never played and sixth round cornerback Kendall James was cut before Week 1, Kiper raised his overall grade of the Vikings 2014 NFL Draft class to a “B+” in his recent re-evaluations.

The reasoning is pretty self explanatory, but here is what Kiper had to say after the fact.

“I actually knocked this draft down a peg last spring because I simply wasn’t as high on Anthony Barr as a player who could come in and provide early returns as a pass-rusher. The Vikings got him at No. 9 and I thought it was a reach; [after one season] it’s clear the Vikings have a player.”

Barr finished his rookie season with 55 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 passes defensed and 2 fumble recoveries despite missing the team’s final four games.

On the offensive side of the ball, the praise continued to rain down from Kiper.

“They also have a player in Teddy Bridgewater, who was the top QB on my all-rookie team. Sure, you can question whether he’ll become a star, but you can’t question that he looked more ready for this level of competition than any other rookie QB, and that he’s simply tough. I really like Bridgewater’s chances, and as I said then, “moving decisively to get [him] made sense, and they have the pieces around him to help him succeed.”

Teddy, one of the finalists for the league’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award, finished with 2,919 passing yards, 14 TDs, 12 INTs and a passer rating of 85.2 after coming on strong down the stretch of the season.

Maybe the best praise though, at least for the immediate future of this Vikings squad, came for running back Jerick McKinnon.

“Jerick McKinnon got called into action earlier than we thought and looked pretty good -- I do think if he gets a lot of carries, he’s going to hit a lot of home runs.”

“All in all, Minny has to be excited about this class. Barr was pretty good, and Bridgewater has a chance to be the answer at QB. Great Start.”

For those of us who watched every one of the Vikings games this season, I think that anaysis would be tough to argue.

But since we did watch every game this season, let’s take Kiper’s surface analysis one step further.

Hitting on Shamar Stephen in the 7th round should be a BIG bonus for the Vikings draft class in 2014. Stephen was active for all 16 games and even started 3 spot-starts for injury. Backing up Linval Joseph at the nose, Stephen made his presence felt on the regular and did a good job flashing from time-to-time but plugging up the middle often.

Antone Exum and Jabari Price were both active most of the season and did a good job filling in on the special teams and giving this team a little depth in the defensive backfield when needed.

Looking back at the last three draft classes for the Minnesota Vikings, it becomes increasingly clear that Rick Spielman is figuring out his style for draft day and it’s leading to some pretty good success.

For more offseason analysis of Vikings Football including "The Top 50 Free Agency Targets For Minnesota" head over to


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