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Thread: Two Minnesota Vikings (Finally) Crack Pro Football Focus Top 100

  1. #1
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    Two Minnesota Vikings (Finally) Crack Pro Football Focus Top 100

    By Christopher Gates @DailyNorseman on May 11, 2016, 11:56a 72

    Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

    Over at Pro Football Focus, they're releasing their list of the top 101 players of the 2015 NFL season to review how things went last year. They've been going at the rate of 25 players a day, starting at the bottom of the list, and it took until Day Three for anyone from the Minnesota Vikings to appear on the list.

    Today, the Vikings placed two players on PFF's list, neither of which will surprise anyone that's been paying attention to this site.

    The lower of the two players, coming in at #48, was defensive tackle Linval Joseph. Joseph notched the third-highest grade of the season for an interior defender according to PFF, despite battling foot issues for most of the second half of the year.

    But for injury, Joseph could have found himself far higher up this list. For a stretch the season, the DT was one of the most dominant forces in the league. Against the Rams in Week 9, he was virtually unblockable, and almost single-handedly destroyed the rushing attack, notching seven stops and three total pressures that day. Joseph even put forth an excellent performance in Minnesota's lone postseason game, returning to cause problems for theSeahawks' rushing offense. This was by far the best season of Joseph's career, and could signal the emergence of a new defensive stud.

    By the way, the two interior defenders that PFF rated higher than Joseph this season? A couple of guys named J.J. Watt and Aaron Donald. If Joseph can stay healthy and put up a similar season in 2016, it will no longer be surprising to hear him mentioned in the same breath as those two.

    Speaking of surprising, the other player that made PFF's list today might come as a bit of a surprise to people that didn't watch the Vikings closely this season. At #40, we see the name of center Joe Berger, who received the highest run-blocking grade of any center in football from PFF this season.

    Joe Berger was one of the stories of the 2015 season—or, at least, would have been, if you could convince the league to care about center play. Thrust into a starting position when Pro-Bowler John Sullivan went down, Berger ended up starting all season and playing well enough to win the inaugural PFF John Hannah Award, given to the best run-blocker in the league. For a journeyman backup lineman to step in and play at an All-Pro kind of level is truly extraordinary, and should be far more talked about than it has been.

    What's going to happen to Berger is going to be one of the more interesting stories in Training Camp for the Vikings. He's obviously proven that he can play center in the National Football League at a high level, but now has to fend off the challenge of another guy that's pretty good at that job in the returning John Sullivan. We know that the Vikings have preached competition this offseason, and if the Vikings decide that Sullivan should recapture his center spot, Berger could easily figure into the mix at guard.

    The final installment of PFF's list will be released on Thursday. Given how highly PFF talked about players like Harrison Smith and Anthony Barr during the season, I think we can reasonably expect to see them in that final installment tomorrow.

  2. #2
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    Anthony Barr, Harrison Smith Make PFF Top 101 Of 2015

    By Christopher Gates @DailyNorseman on May 12, 2016, 11:35a 29

    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    As we speculated in yesterday's posting on the subject, two more members of theMinnesota Vikings were named on the Pro Football Focus list of the top 101 players of 2015.
    The analytics site revealed their top 25 on Thursday, and both linebacker Anthony Barrand safety Harrison Smith were deemed by PFF to be among the 25 best players in the National Football League in 2015.

    We'll start with Smith, who was. . .appropriately enough. . .listed at #22 on the Pro Football Focus list. According to what they had to say about him, he was the only safety in the NFL last season with a top-ten "grade" in pass coverage, pass rushing, and run defense.

    Harrison Smith has become arguably the NFL's best safety, capable of doing everything you need a player at that position to do—and do all of it well. He graded highly in every facet of play PFF measures, including discipline and penalties, and is the fulcrum around which the Minnesota secondary swings. He was the only safety to break into the 90s and the "blue-chip elite" band of PFF's new grading system, with a mark of 92.8 for the season.

    It's nice that somebody finally recognized Smith for how good he is. Usually, when discussing the best safeties in the NFL, the conversation usually goes "Blah blah Earl Thomas blah blah Eric Weddle blah blah Kam Chancellor blah blah" and that's sort of where it stops. Frankly, I'll take Harrison Smith over any of those guys.

    Speaking of guys I'd take on my team over darn near anybody, Barr popped up on the list at #20.

    An edge rusher in college, Anthony Barr has developed into one of the league's more impressive young off-the-ball linebackers. He graded well as a pass-rusher in 2015, but it wasn't as a situational edge rusher for Minnesota, rather just on the blitz from conventional linebacker alignment. He also graded well against the run and, most impressively for a pass-rushing convert, in coverage. Barr closes on plays in front of him very quickly, can hit landmarks, and gets in the way of passes, as he demonstrated by picking off Peyton Manning when facing Denver in Week 4.

    According to PFF, the only linebacker that finished with a higher grade on the season in the entire NFL was Carolina Panthers' star Luke Kuechly. Barr's been an NFL linebacker for two years, and a linebacker at any level for a total of four years (remember, he started out as a running back at UCLA), and he's already nearly on the level of a guy that won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2013.

    With the list being fully announced, a couple of fairly prominent members of the Vikings didn't make the list. . .most notably running back Adrian Peterson and defensive end Everson Griffen. I'm not sure what the overall grade was for either of those players, but I don't think the analytics have ever looked terribly favorably on Peterson, in part due to the fact that in the past he hasn't contributed much as a receiver or a blocker. Griffen is a little surprising, though. . .I'm pretty sure he had at least a few games where he scored relatively high on the PFF scale.

    But there's your look at Vikings on the PFF Top 101 of 2015. Is it a perfect list? Probably not. But it's got to be better than the annual farce the NFL Network runs. . .if you're a Vikings fan, you generally only have to tune into that one for the last episode or two to see where Adrian Peterson wound up.

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