MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Vikings and other NFL teams are in the middle of their offseason workout programs, organized team activities and otherwise, but it’s never too early to look forward to the season ahead.
The Vikings are in a pivotal time, coming off a 7-9 season and missing the NFC Playoffs for the fourth time in seven seasons under Mike Zimmer. It feels like a prove it year for Zimmer, and Rick Spielman for that matter, to cement their futures in Minnesota.
The bottom line is the Vikings need their best players to play at their highest level over 17 games next season for there to be a postseason. On Tuesday, CBS Sports released is top 100 players in the NFL. Six Vikings made the list, and here’s a look at who:
19. Dalvin Cook
It should come as no surprise that not only is Dalvin Cook on the top 100 players list, but he’s the highest rated among the Vikings. He’s the No. 2 running back on the board behind Derrick Henry, and finished second in the NFL in rushing last year at 1,557 yards per game and 16 touchdowns. He averaged five yards per carry for the No. 4 offense in the NFL, and has gotten a bigger role in the passing game. If he can stay healthy for a second straight year, Cook should be a star in Minnesota’s offense.
45. Justin Jefferson
Justin Jefferson showed why the Vikings made a move to get him with the No. 22 overall pick. The former LSU star set rookie records for catches (88) and yards (1,400), averaging 15.9 yards per catch. Jefferson had seven touchdowns, and was selected to the Pro Bowl. Now he needs to prove he can follow it up in his second season.
75. Danielle Hunter
Despite not playing a single snap last season, Danielle Hunter comes in at No. 75. Hunter missed all of last year to have surgery on a herniated disc in his neck. Hunter had 14.5 sacks in each of his last two seasons, and became the fastest player in NFL history to get at least 50 career sacks in his first give seasons. All eyes will be on if Hunter attends the team’s mandatory minicamp in mid-June.
77. Harrison Smith
He’s one of the top safeties in the NFL, and he was the safety net for the Vikings in a young secondary last season. Harrison Smith comes in at No. 77 on the list. He finished last season with 89 tackles, five interceptions and 10 passes defended. Smith, 32, is entering his 10th NFL season.
93. Kirk Cousins
There might not be a more polarizing quarterback in the NFL than Kirk Cousins, who it feels like is the punching bag every time the Vikings lose. Cousins comes in at No. 93 on the list, and 12th among quarterbacks. Cousins threw for 4,265 yards and a career-high 35 touchdowns last season, with 13 interceptions. He’s under contract for at least two more years with Minnesota and in 47 games over three seasons, has a 52-21-1 record.
97. Adam Thielen
Adam Thielen’s story is well-chronicled. The Minnesota native went from a Division II standout to the Vikings’ practice squad. The undrafted college free agent earned his way to the active roster, and is one of the top receivers in the NFC North. He finished last season with 74 catches, averaging 12.5 yards per catch and had 14 touchdowns. Thielen and Jefferson make for one of the top wide receiver duos in the NFL.
The Vikings have the talent on both sides of the ball, now they seemingly just need to stay healthy and execute to be a factor in 2021.