MINNEAPOLIS - The National Football League regular season is about three weeks away, which means it’s time to evaluate where the top players on rosters rank among the league’s best players.
The NFL’s top 100 players list, voted on annually by the players themselves, is trickling out as the regular season approaches. So far, four Minnesota Vikings have made the list. The players on it won’t surprise many, but at least two players left off should have fans puzzled.
Here’s a look at who made the list:
ADAM THIELEN - 80
Adam Thielen is the Vikings’ lowest-ranked player on the NFL’s top 100 list at 80. We know his story by now – a former high school start in Detroit Lakes to standout at Minnesota State-Mankato. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, earned a roster spot via special teams and has become one of the better receivers in the NFL.
Last year, Thielen finished with 74 catches for 925 yards and a team-high 14 touchdowns. He runs crisp routes, and if the ball is in his area, he typically makes the grab.
ERIC KENDRICKS - 70
Eric Kendricks has emerged as one of the top linebackers in the NFL, and his numbers are even more impressive with Anthony Barr missing most of last season. Kendricks missed the last five games of 2020 himself with a calf injury, yet still finished second for the Vikings with 107 tackles and three interceptions. Kendricks, a leader on a defense loaded with talent, is No. 70 in the top 100.
JUSTIN JEFFERSON – 53
The trade that sent Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills for draft picks, one of which ended up being Justin Jefferson, endued up being a blessing in disguise for the Vikings. Without a true offseason or preseason, Jefferson exploded as a rookie and set Vikings’ rookie franchise records with 88 catches for 1,400 yards, passing Randy Moss in both categories. Jefferson finished his first season with seven touchdowns.
He makes his debut on the NFL’s top 100 list at No. 53.
DALVIN COOK – 20
It’s no secret that Dalvin Cook is what makes the Vikings’ offense go, and one of the NFL’s top running backs is the team’s highest rated player on the top 100 list at No. 20. In his first fully-healthy season, Cook finished second in the NFL in rushing with 1,557 yards. He added 16 touchdowns, and added 44 catches for 361 yards and had his first career receiving touchdown in 2020.
He got 312 carries last year, and will likely get the ball even more this year with a 17-game schedule. The Vikings’ offense has plenty of weapons, but it stays balanced with Cook’s ability to take over the run game.
Three big names left off the NFL’s top 100 list? Danielle Hunter, Harrison Smith and Kirk Cousins. Hunter missed all of last season after neck surgery, but it still the fastest player in NFL history to at least 50 sacks in his first five seasons with 54.5.
Smith has been a defensive leader, finishing last season with 89 tackles and a team-high five interceptions. He’s a five-time Pro Bowl pick and is the longest-tenured Vikings player. Cousins completed better than 67 percent of his passes in 2020 for 4,265 yard and 35 touchdowns. That’s despite being sacked 39 times.