To count down the days until Vikings rookies, quarterbacks and select veterans report to Mankato on July 23, we will reveal our ranking of the 17 most important Vikings players heading into the 2017 season. Look for the next player on our list every weekday morning at Access Vikings.
This list, created by Matt Vensel and Andrew Krammer, is not a ranking of the best players on the team, though sheer talent is obviously an essential factor. It is a ranking of the players whose upcoming season will have the biggest impact on the franchise, whether it’s in 2017 or beyond.
Coming in at No. 14 on our list is defensive end Everson Griffen.
Unlike many of the players who have shown up on our list or will appear in the coming days as we count down to No. 1, Everson Griffen does not need to take a leap forward this season, bounce back from a down year or thrive in a new role to alter the trajectory of the 2017 Vikings.
The hyperactive defensive end needs to just keep on doing what he has been doing — being one of the NFL’s most underrated at his position.
Griffen in 2016 recorded eight sacks and pressured the quarterback on a solid 13.0 percent of his pass-rush snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. The right defensive end also forced a pair of fumbles while playing well enough at a stacked position to earn a second straight Pro Bowl nod.
In the three seasons since the Vikings hired coach Mike Zimmer and gave Griffen a lucrative contract, Griffen has recorded 30.5 sacks in 47 starts. And while 2016 wasn’t his best season as a run defender, Griffen over that span has proved to be more than just a pretty good pass rusher.
If Griffen, who turns 30 in December, can take his game to another level this year, great for the Vikings. Great for Griffen, too, as he could be in line for another lucrative contract, with his current one up after 2018.
But if this is as good as it gets for Griffen, that’s OK, especially if young defensive end Danielle Hunter — who will pop up in this countdown at some point — continues to emerge at the other defensive end spot.
The Star Tribune’s ranking of the 17 most important Vikings in 2017:
16. Pat Elflein, C/G