By Anthony Brousseau
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minnesota Vikings are off to a surprising 7-2 start, thanks to solid contributors up and down the roster.
GM Rick Spielman has built a deep roster through smart drafting and savvy free agent signings, and Mike Zimmer is taking full advantage of that depth.
With Pro Bowl voting now open, which Vikings are likely to make the roster? More importantly, who is deserving of the honor?
Caveat: The Pro Bowl is largely a popularity contest, and a lot of Vikings players, despite their success, seem to be flying under the national radar.
Here are the Vikings players who should be taking a trip to Florida come January.
Picking the best player on the Vikings defensive line is like picking the best track on Carly Rae Jepsen’s landmark 2015 album “Emotion” — they’re all pretty great. But Griffen has a legitimate argument. Before missing the Washington game, Griffen had a sack in every game this season and 10 total, good for third in the league.
Even when Griffen doesn’t get sacks, he’s consistently putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He’s a terror off the edge and a major reason the Vikings defense is ranked so highly.
Maybe the best 4-3 defensive end in the NFL, Griffen should earn his third Pro Bowl berth this year.
Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs
It’s been a long time since the Vikings had a pair of receivers as good as Thielen and Diggs. Not only are the pair the best the Vikings have had since Cris Carter and Randy Moss, you could put them up there with the best receiver duos in the NFL right now.
Only two wide receivers have more yards than Thielen’s 793 right now – Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Houston’s DeAndre Hopkins. That’s rarefied air Thielen’s breathing.
Meanwhile, Diggs sits at 500 yards and five touchdowns despite missing two games with an injury.
With both players’ profiles being elevated by their strong play this year, it wouldn’t be surprising if one or both of them made their first Pro Bowl.
Rhodes has long been climbing the list of best NFL cornerbacks. He’s never been a ballhawk, but Rhodes is consistently tasked with shadowing opposing teams’ top receivers and has largely locked them down this year.
Here’s how every No. 1 receiver has fared against the Vikings this year:
- Michael Thomas, Saints: 5 catches, 45 yards
- Antonio Brown, Steelers: 5 catches, 62 yards
- Mike Evans, Buccaneers: 7 catches, 67 yards
- Golden Tate, Lions: 3 catches, 29 yards
- Kendall Wright, Bears: 4 catches, 46 yards
- Jordy Nelson, Packers: 6 catches, 60 yards
- Michael Campanaro, Ravens: 3 catches for 31 yards
- Ricardo Louis, Browns: 2 catches, 42 yards
- Jamison Crowder, Washington: 4 catches, 76 yards
Not a 100-yard receiver in the bunch, largely thanks to Rhodes.
Rhodes made the Pro Bowl for the first time last year, and he should be headed to the game again this year.
Smith is Mike Zimmer’s Swiss Army knife on defense – he’s grabbed three interceptions this year, he’s fantastic against the run and Zimmer even deploys him as a pass rusher. He had 1.5 sacks against the Green Bay Packers in Week 6.
Simply put, Smith makes the Vikings defense run. He plays all over the field, and if he doesn’t make his third Pro Bowl this year the NFL should just shut the whole operation down.
Signing Reiff was probably the best offseason move Rick Spielman made (Other acceptable answers: signing Case Keenum, drafting Dalvin Cook in the second round and letting Matt Kalil walk).
Reiff has been the best part of a totally revamped offensive line, routinely keeping pockets clean for Sam Bradford (briefly) and Keenum.
Offensive lineman rarely get the glory they deserve, and it would be a shock to see Reiff on the Pro Bowl roster. But if anybody on the Vikings’ offensive line deserves it, it’s Reiff.
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