MINNEAPOLIS - It’s that time of year with the NFL, especially with nothing happening on football fields, for national experts to reveal who they think are the best players in the league.
Senior NFL columnist Pete Prisco with CBS Sports put together his top 100 players, released Wednesday. The usual names are at the top, and five Minnesota Vikings players made his top 100. Three defensive players and two offensive players are among the 100-best in the league, according to Prisco.
They include Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith, Dalvin Cook, Eric Kendricks and Kirk Cousins. Here’s a look at where they were placed.
Danielle Hunter – No. 25
Danielle Hunter was a monster on the Vikings’ defensive line last season, recording 14.5 sacks and becoming the fastest player in NFL history to record at least 50 sacks in his first five seasons. He’s one of the premiere defensive ends in the league, and was fifth among edge rushers on the list behind Aaron Donald, Cameron Jordan, Joey Bosa and Nick Bosa. Hunter will likely take on a bigger role with the Vikings this year, with Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen leaving in the off-season.
Harrison Smith – No. 37
Harrison Smith is one of the Vikings’ safety nets in the defensive back field, and he came in at No. 37 on the NFL’s top 100. He’s also second among safeties, behind only Tyrann Mathieu of the Kansas City Chiefs. Smith had 85 tackles, 62 solo tackles, four tackles for a loss and three interceptions for the Vikings last season. He also forced three fumbles and had two fumble recoveries. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler and was named First Team All-Pro in 2017.
Dalvin Cook – No. 44
The Vikings hope Dalvin Cook is their running back for the long-term future, enough so that they’re hoping to get a contract extension done before the 2020 season. Cook came in at No. 44 on the list, and is fourth among running backs behind Christian McCaffrey, Zeke Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Alvin Kamara. Despite missing two games and halves of two others, Cook ran for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He also became a weapon in the pass game, with 53 catches for 519 yards. Cook, a 2017 second round pick, now must show the Vikings he can stay healthy for a full season.
Eric Kendricks – No. 61
Eric Kendricks is coming off a career year, and was ranked the No. 2 middle linebacker on the top 100 list behind Bobby Wagner. Kendricks came in at No. 61 after leading the Vikings with 110 tackles, including 70 solo tackles and 12 passes defended. He also had two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Kendricks made his first Pro Bowl last season, and was also named First Team All-Pro.
Kirk Cousins - No. 86
Kirk Cousins might be the surprise of the top 100 list for the Vikings, but he comes in at No. 86. He’s also the No. 10 quarterback on the list. Cousins, in the second year of an $84 million fully-guaranteed contract, threw for more than 3,600 yards and 26 touchdowns last season, with just six interceptions and completed better than 69 percent of his passes. He agreed to a two-year extension with the Vikings at the start of free agency. Cousins won his first career playoff game as a starter last season at New Orleans, but is also 0-9 for his career on Monday Night Football and his struggles in primetime are well-documented.
Now as players go through a virtual off-season, we wait for the NFL to give approval for teams to open practice facilities and training camp to start later this summer.