The 2020 Minnesota Vikings may look a little different than the team has in years past. Two feature pieces on their defensive front in Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph left in free agency this year. Their entire cornerback room has changed, including the loss of Xavier Rhodes and Mackensie Alexander. The biggest loss of all was Stefon Diggs, Minnesota’s star receiver who finally got the trade that he long desired.
It is hard to imagine how a team survives all of these losses, but Minnesota was a team that already had a ton of top level talent. Some of the players leaving may be blessings in disguise.
The losses may be missed by fans, but do not expect the Vikings to go quietly away from the playoff race.
The NFL season is almost upon us! Over the next few weeks I will be previewing each of the 32 NFL teams, and ranking them 1-32 as to how likely I believe they are to win Super Bowl LV. This week we finish the list with teams that have a real chance to win the Super Bowl.
14. Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota had a huge decision to make this offseason. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been one the most scrutinized quarterbacks in the league since he signed a fully guaranteed deal with the team in 2018. He was eligible for an extension this offseason, meaning the team had a real decision to make: Extend him and continue to compete with this group, or let him play a contract season and potentially start a rebuild in 2021.
They chose the former option, inking the quarterback to a two-year extension. This means that, at least on some level, Minnesota expects to compete for at least another two years.
And they have good reason to believe so. The NFC North is as weak as ever (they are the top ranked team from the division on this list at 14), and they still have more star power than any team in the division.
It starts at running back with Dalvin Cook. One of the most physical, explosive runners in the league. He finally managed to stay healthy in 2019, and took off for over 1,100 yards and 13 touchdowns. Wide receiver Adam Thielen is among the best at his position, as well. While he is not quite Diggs, he still is a great short-yardage receiver that can make huge plays with the ball in his hands.
They may have a bit of issue with redundancy with their receivers, though. Rookie wideout Justin Jefferson out of LSU is great, but is mainly a short yardage receiver who makes plays with the ball in his hands. WR3 Olabisi Johnson, a youngster that has slowly come into his own, is a short yardage receiver who is great at making plays with the ball in his hands. You read what I mean?
Minnesota will have trouble attacking teams downfield this season, but that is not quite where Cousins thrives anyways. They may not be a particularly great offense, but they should be able to do enough to keep the chains moving.
While the losses have largely defined this roster over the past few months, the biggest addition they made this offseason may have come just over a week ago. Yannick Ngakoue — the star Jacksonville Jaguars pass rushers that was looking for a way out — was brought into Minnesota for a 2021 second rounder and a conditional fifth. He has notched 37.5 sacks in his four-year career, and has arrived on a one-year deal with little risk on the Vikings end.
Add in another elite pass rusher in Danielle Hunter, the best off-ball linebacker in the NFL in Eric Kendricks, and another great defender in Anthony Barr, and we have the makings of a scary front-seven.
The cornerback room has had many issues over the years, and has been renovated nearly top to bottom. The only returning regular contributor is Mike Hughes, the 2018 first rounder who has largely disappointed as a nickel in recent years. First-round pick Jeff Gladney will likely start this year. Third-round pick Cameron Dantzler may play a feature role as well.
It is hard to project how well the cornerbacks will do this year. First year corners often struggle, which means that Minnesota may have a ton of issues this season. There have been recent examples like Tre’Davious White and Marshon Lattimore that have impressed in their rookie seasons. The Vikings may need similar seasons from their corners to succeed at the secondary level.
The youngsters will benefit from getting to play alongside two of the league’s top safeties in Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris. Harris led the league in interceptions in 2019 and has totaled nine over the past two years. Smith is a five-time Pro Bowler entering his ninth season.
While the story of the Vikings this season was all of the losses they have suffered, they are still a great team. This is a year where star power should truly shine, as teams will be less prepared than ever before to play. The Vikings lack depth and have a few very clear holes on the roster, but they have an abundance of stardom lining this team. Combine that with a weak division, and they should find themselves hosting a playoff game yet again this year.