Minnesota Vikings 2017 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

After the 2015 season, things looked bright for the Vikings. Even though they lost their home playoff game to the Seahawks on a missed field goal, it was still an impressive season for the Vikings who went 11-5 in just the second season of new head coach Mike Zimmer and first round pick quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. After a 5-10-1 season in 2013, they rebuilt talent all over their roster faster than most expected and appeared to be a Super Bowl contender in 2016. Unfortunately, that’s when the season from hell struck for the Vikings, as they finished with the 3rd most adjusted games lost to injury in the league.

The most gruesome of the injuries was the injury suffered by Bridgewater, who tore just about everything in his knee in practice with just about three weeks left before the start of the season. It appeared to be a devastating loss for the Vikings, who were hoping that Bridgewater could take another step forward in his 3rd year in the league and take this team to the next level. Not only would Bridgewater immediately be ruled out for the entire 2016 season, but questions about his availability long-term in 2017 and beyond were raised too. A bright young career appeared to be in jeopardy.

As unfortunate as the injury was, football moves on and the Vikings needed to make a move, so they shocked everyone by sending their 2017 first round pick to the Eagles for veteran Sam Bradford, who was about to be unseated by #2 overall pick Carson Wentz for the starting job. The move reeked of desperation, but it was certainly understandable. With a talented roster around the quarterback position, the Vikings didn’t feel they needed their first rounder in 2017 and Bradford gave them at least a chance to win in 2016, while veteran journeyman backup Shaun Hill did not. Still, with Bradford having just 8 days to get ready for the season with new teammates and a new playbook, many were understandably skeptical the move would work.

Instead, Bradford exceeded just about everyone’s expectations, finishing 12th among quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus for the second straight season. The Vikings finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs, but it’s tough to blame Bradford, given all the injuries they had around him. Not only did Bradford play well, but he also avoided injury, which was always the knock on him. Bradford sat out the first week of the season while he was still learning the playbook, but he made all 15 starts afterwards. Since being limited to 7 games in 2012 and 2013 combined by two ACL tears, Bradford has missed just 2 games with injury over the past 2 seasons.

Bridgewater, meanwhile, is expected to not be ready for the start of the season. The Vikings can keep him on injured reserve and toll the final year of his rookie deal to 2018. Bradford is going into the final year of his contract, so the Vikings will have a decision to make next off-season, but, for now, Bradford remains the Vikings’ starter. Going into his 2nd year in Minnesota, Bradford should be better prepared for this season and could play even better as a result. If the Vikings can be better around him this season, they have a good chance to get back into the post-season.

Grade: B+

Offensive Line

Bradford actually broke the single season record for completion percentage in 2016 by completing 71.6% of his passes. Despite that, the Vikings ranked just 24th in first down rate. How did that happen? Well, the Vikings averaged a league worst 3.17 yards per carry on the ground, not only the worst YPC average in the league last season, but the worst YPC average in the league by any team since 2013. On top of that, Bradford was under pressure all year and frequently had to check down. He took 37 sacks in 15 games, despite one of the quickest releases in the league, and averaged a league worst 9.82 yards per completion, so, while he was completing passes at an incredible rate, most of them weren’t going for that much yardage. His 7.02 YPA average was just 19th in the NFL.

The Vikings’ issues on the ground and protecting the quarterback last season were largely as a result of the offensive line, so they rightfully made the offensive line a priority this off-season. With expected starting offensive tackles Matt Kalil (left) and Andre Smith (right) limited to 121 snaps and 182 snaps respectively, the Vikings had to play the likes of TJ Clemmings (882 snaps), Jeremiah Sirles (772 snaps), and Jake Long (210 snaps). All three struggled, particularly Clemmings, who finished 76th out of 78 eligible on Pro Football Focus.

Kalil and Smith are no longer on the roster, so the Vikings signed Riley Reiff (5 years, 58.75 million) and Mike Remmers (5 years, 30 million) to play left tackle and right tackle respectively this season. Clemmings, meanwhile, will be no better than the swing tackle this season. Reiff was overpaid because he’s never been a top level player, but he should be a huge upgrade over what they had last season. A 2012 1st round pick, Reiff has never been a top-30 offensive tackle on Pro Football Focus, but he has never had a bad season either and has made 69 career starts in 77 games in 5 seasons in the league, both at left tackle and right tackle. Last season, he finished 48th out of 78 eligible offensive tackles in 16 starts on the right side. He’ll move back to the left side with the Vikings.

Remmers is also a big upgrade over what they had last season. The 2012 undrafted free agent was a bit of a late bloomer, not taking over as a starter until week 12 of the 2014 season with the Panthers, but he has made 37 straight regular season starts since then, both at right tackle and left tackle. Remmers is better on the right side, finishing above average in both 2014 and 2015, but he wasn’t terrible on the left side last year either, finishing 51st among 78 eligible offensive tackles on Pro Football Focus. Back at his natural position on the right side, he should be better than that this season.

Along with left and right tackle, right guard was also a problem position for the Vikings in 2016, as Brandon Fusco finished just 63rd out of 72 eligible guards on Pro Football Focus. He was let go this off-season, but the Vikings didn’t really do much to replace him, only drafting Pat Elflein in the 3rd round of the draft. Elflein’s best pro position is probably center, but he has the versatility to play guard and the Vikings only other option is 2016 4th round pick Willie Beavers, a converted collegiate tackle who played just 11 snaps last season.

Elflein was probably drafted to be the starting center long-term, but, for now, veteran center Joe Berger is still playing well. He was arguably their best offensive lineman last season. That’s not saying a ton, but he finished 8th among centers on Pro Football Focus, after finishing 2nd among centers in 2015. Berger was largely a career backup prior to 2015, but he always played well when counted on and has graded out above average in all 10 seasons of Pro Football Focus’ history. The biggest concern with him is his age, as he’s going into his age 35 season. It’s unclear how long he can continue playing at this level and how long he’ll continue playing at all. Berger can play guard too, so it’s possible they put Elflein at center and move Berger to right guard.

Along with Berger, left guard Alex Boone was the only other offensive lineman who played well for the Vikings in 2016, finishing 37th among guards on Pro Football Focus. That’s pretty par for the course for him. He’s made 73 starts in the past 5 seasons and finished 3rd, 39th, 18th, 38th, and 37th respectively in those 5 seasons. He’s going into his age 30 season so he’s getting older, but he should have another couple solid seasons left in the tank. The Vikings signed him to a 4-year, 26.8 million dollar deal last off-season and he provided much needed stability upfront. The Vikings should be better upfront this season, after signing Reiff and Remmers this off-season.

Grade: C+

Running Backs

While the offensive line was a big part of the reason why the Vikings couldn’t get anything going on the ground, the running backs were a problem as well. With Adrian Peterson limited to 37 carries in 3 games, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata split the load, with 159 and 121 carries respectively. They averaged 3.39 and 3.32 YPC respectively and ranked 46th and 36th respectively among 62 eligible running backs. Like Matt Kalil and Andre Smith, Adrian Peterson is no longer with the team coming off injury, but the Vikings made sure to address the position this off-season, signing ex-Raider Latavius Murray in free agency and drafting Florida State’s Dalvin Cook in the 2nd round of the draft.

Murray is experienced, with 461 carries over the past 2 seasons, but was largely an unspectacular runner, rushing for 1854 yards and 18 touchdowns, a 4.02 YPC average, despite running behind one of the best offensive lines in the league. While Minnesota’s offensive line is improved, it’s a clear downgrade from what he was running behind in Oakland, so he could struggle. Cook is a much more dynamic runner, even though he fell to the 2nd round of the draft. He fell because of an unimpressive combine and some off-the-field concerns, but he has great vision and his college tape was an impressive as any running back in this draft class.

Murray got 15 million on a 3 year deal in free agency this off-season, but Cook could be their lead back by the end of the season. McKinnon, meanwhile, will be no better than the 3rd back, while Asiata is no longer with the team. Regardless of whether or not Murray or Cook is the lead back, they should be better on the ground this season. Not only are Murray and Cook significant upgrades on McKinnon and Asiata, but they should also be significantly improved in run blocking upfront.

Grade: B

Receiving Corps

While the Vikings had poor play at running back and on the offensive line in 2016, their receiving corps helped Sam Bradford out a good amount, though the constant pressure on Bradford made it tough to set up plays downfield. Adam Thielen was technically their deep threat last year, as he was the only receiver who caught more than 1 pass and averaged more than 11.6 yards per catch, but his 14.0 yards per catch average was still only tied for 25th best in the league among wide receiver. That said, he still had an impressive season all things considered, leading the team with 967 yards on 69 catches and catching 5 touchdowns. He was Pro Football Focus’ 18th ranked wide receiver.

Even more impressive is the fact that Theilen did that despite being nothing more than an afterthought at this time last season. A 2013 undrafted free agent, Theilen had just 20 career catches in 3 seasons in the league prior to 2017. He came out of nowhere to win a starting job and never looked back. A restricted free agent this off-season, the Vikings signed him to a 4 year, 19.246 million dollar extension this off-season. It’s a risky move because he’s still a one-year wonder, but, if he has another season like he did in 2016, he could prove to be a steal. He’s just the 37th highest paid wide receiver in the NFL in average annual salary.

While Thielen was more of a deep threat, fellow starting wide receiver Stefon Diggs was an underneath threat, catching 84 passes for 903 yards and 3 touchdowns in 13 games. Thielen is a solid player, but Diggs is their #1 when healthy. A mere 5th round pick in 2015, Diggs has proven to be an absolute steal in 2 years in the league, finishing 25th among wide receivers in 2015 and 16th among wide receivers last season. He hasn’t gone over a thousand yards yet, but he was close last year in 13 games, so, if he can stay healthy, he should surpass that mark in his 3rd year in the league in 2017.

Along with Diggs and Thielen, tight end Kyle Rudolph was also a threat in the passing game for Bradford, catching 83 passes for 840 yards and 7 touchdowns and finishing 13th among tight ends on Pro Football Focus. Rudolph has had some solid years in the past, finishing 13th among tight ends in both 2011 and 2012 and 23rd in 2015, but he’s never posted the kind of receiving numbers that he did last season. He also had some injury issues in 2013 and 2014, missing 15 total games between the two seasons, but he’s been otherwise healthy.

His 132 targets last season was easily a career high (93 was his previous career high) and also led the team, so he seems to have good chemistry with Sam Bradford. He might see fewer balls this season if the Vikings don’t have to throw underneath as often, but he should remain a factor in the passing game and he’s overall an above average tight end. The Vikings don’t use two tight ends very often, as Rhett Ellison, the second tight end last year, played just 258 snaps. Ellison with the Giants now, so 2nd year tight end David Morgan, a 6th rounder in 2016, is expected to take over the #2 job. He probably won’t see many more snaps than Ellison did. Rudolph, on the other hand, played 970 snaps last season, 5th most in the league among tight ends.

While the #2 tight end job is not that important in this offense, the #3 and #4 wide receiver job are. Cordarrelle Patterson and Charles Johnson played 531 and 405 snaps respectively last season as the primary reserve receivers. Both of them are no longer with the team, so Laquon Treadwell and free agent acquisition Michael Floyd will pick up the slack. Treadwell was a first round pick by the Vikings in 2016 and was expected to have an immediate impact as a rookie. Instead, he not only lost his starting job to Thielen, but he also spent the whole season as the 5th receiver, catching 1 pass for 15 yards on 80 snaps, thanks to a combination of injury and inefficiency. He will need to prove himself in his 2nd year in the league in 2017.

Floyd, meanwhile, will need to re-prove himself, after a horrendous 2016 season. A 2012 first round pick who graded out above average in each of the previous 3 seasons (2013-2015), Floyd plummeted to 88th out of 115 eligible wide receivers in 2016 on 745 snaps. Floyd’s effort was questioned by the Cardinals’ coaching staff and the last straw came when he was arrested for DUI the night after the Cardinals’ week 14 loss to the Miami Dolphins, falling asleep at a stoplight with a BAC of .217.

The Cardinals released him immediately afterwards and he was picked up by the New England Patriots, with whom he was only a depth receiver. He did not play in the AFC Championship game or the Super Bowl and caught just 5 passes between the regular season and post-season. He then served a 120-day jail sentence this off-season (24 days in county jail, 96 days of house arrest). Pro Football Focus’ 22nd ranked wide receiver in 2013 and their 24th ranked wide receiver in 2015, Floyd has bounce back potential if he can get it together, still only going into his age 28 season, though he could miss time to start the season if he gets suspended by the league. The Vikings signed him to a very low risk deal with a base salary of just 1.5 million, but he can make up to 6 million in incentives. He adds to a pretty deep receiving corps.

Grade: B+

Defensive Line

The Vikings also dealt with some significant injuries on defense in 2016, including a knee injury to defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd that ended his season after 25 week 1 snaps. Floyd didn’t get put on injured reserve until mid-December, so it was definitely a strange situation. Floyd was given a 5-6 week timetable after having surgery in September and the Vikings held out hope for a 2016 return for a long time, but his recovery apparently did not go as planned. Making matters even worse, the Vikings are unclear whether or not Floyd will be able to play in 2017, as he is still dealing with nerve problems in that knee.

There is also talk this injury could be career threatening like Bridgewater’s, which would be very disappointing because, like Bridgewater, Floyd is a talented former first round pick. He’s still very young too, going into just his age 25 season in 2017. After struggling as a rookie in 2013, Floyd finished above average in both 2014 and 2015 on Pro Football Focus, with his best season coming in 2014, when he finished 5th among defensive tackles. His 6.757 million dollar salary for 2017 is guaranteed for injury, so the Vikings will have to pay it regardless of whether or not he plays, but, if he doesn’t play, this will likely be his final season in Minnesota, as he is in the final year of his rookie deal. If he does play this season, there’s no guarantee he’ll be 100%.

With Floyd’s short-term and long-term status uncertain, the Vikings used a 4th round pick on Iowa’s Jaleel Johnson and, depending on Floyd’s health, Johnson could have a significant role as a rookie. In Floyd’s absence last season, reserves Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen took on bigger roles, playing 476 snaps and 551 snaps respectively. Johnson played primarily in sub packages, where he is at his best, and played pretty well, grading out just above average on Pro Football Focus. Johnson has graded out above average in 2 of the past 3 seasons in a rotational role, but the concern is he’s going into his age 33 season.

Stephen, meanwhile, is younger, but he’s struggled whenever he’s been counted on to play throughout his 3-year career. He has been among the lowest ranked defensive tackles in all 3 seasons and finished 7th worst at his position in 2015. There’s a reason he fell to the 7th round of the draft in 2014. Johnson could push him for a base package role early, with Johnson coming in as an interior pass rusher in sub packages. With Shamar Stephen, Tom Johnson, and Sharrif Floyd all set to hit free agency next off-season, the Vikings might view Jaleel Johnson as a feature starter long-term.

Linval Joseph is locked in as the other starting defensive tackle and led all Viking defensive tackles with 718 snaps played last season. Joseph has always been a solid player, only grading out below average in 1 season in his career, his rookie year back in 2010, but he’s taken his play to another level in the past 2 seasons. The former second round pick has finished 3rd and 9th respectively among defensive tackles in the last 2 seasons respectively. The big 6-4 329 pounder is primarily a run stuffer, but moves well for his size and can also get after the quarterback. Going into his age 29 season, he’s still in the prime of his career and should have another strong season. He was a steal on a 5-year, 31.25 million dollar deal three off-seasons ago.

Joseph does often come off the field in obvious passing situations though because the Vikings like to use three defensive ends in sub packages and rush Everson Griffen from the interior. This year, they could actually use four defensive ends in sub packages on occasion, with free agent acquisition Datone Jones capable of moving inside in sub packages as well. Brian Robison and Danielle Hunter are the other two defensive ends. Griffen is the best of the bunch, finishing last season 15th among 4-3 defensive ends. He’s been a top-15 player at his position in each of the past 3 seasons since becoming a starter and flashed as a rotational player during the first 4 seasons of his career as well. The 2010 4th round pick was a bit of a late bloomer, but still is only entering his age 30 season, so he should have another couple solid seasons left in the tank.

Hunter, meanwhile, could give him a run for his money as the best defensive end on the team, given how much promise the 2015 3rd round pick has shown in 2 seasons in the league. Hunter has only made 1 start in 2 seasons in the league, but, like Griffen did early in his career, he still makes an impact as a rotational player, finishing 23rd among 4-3 defensive ends on 426 snaps as a rookie and 16th on 603 snaps last season. He could push for a starting role this season and will make an impact as a situational edge rusher even if he doesn’t technically become the starter.

Robison made all 16 starts opposite Griffen last season, his 5th season of 16 starts in the last 6 seasons. Incredibly durable, Robison has missed just 2 games in 10 seasons in the league, but is going into his age 34 season and coming off a down year, in which he finished 89th out of 109 eligible edge defenders on Pro Football Focus. Robison was solid in 2015, but struggled mightily in 2014 as well, so he appears to be running out of gas as he heads into his mid-30s. Robison has already mentioned that he’s planning on retiring after the final season of his contract in 2018, but there’s no guarantee the Vikings bring him back for 2018 at all, given that he’ll be owed 3.5 million non-guaranteed. WIth Hunter emerging and Datone Jones coming in as a free agent, Robison is unlikely to match the 838 snaps he played last season and that should be a good thing for this defense.

Jones is the other member of this defensive end rotation. He ended up playing a career high 548 snaps with the Packers last season because they had a lot of injuries upfront, but, prior to last season, he had never played more than 364 snaps in a season. Now in Minnesota, I wouldn’t expect him to be much higher than the 400-500 snap range, barring injury. Jones was actually a first round pick by the Packers in 2013, but never showed anything resembling first round talent in 4 years with the Packers, despite the Packers trying him at a number of different positions.

He wasn’t terrible last season, but he did grade out slightly below average in his first season as an edge player. His best play has come as a sub package rusher, as he graded out above average in both 2014 and 2015, but that was in very limited action. He’ll probably be primarily a sub package interior rusher in Minnesota, but can also play defensive end in base packages in a pinch. He’s part of a deep defensive line, but, if they are without Sharrif Floyd again this season, that would be a big blow to the middle of their defense.

Grade: B+

Linebackers

Despite Floyd’s absence, the Vikings still finished 9th in first down rate allowed last season, thanks to strong play all around the defense. One player who surprisingly struggled though is outside linebacker Anthony Barr, who very uncharacteristically finished as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 4-3 outside linebacker. This came after he finished 8th at the position as a rookie in 2014 and 1st at the position in 2015. His coach Mike Zimmer somewhat publicly called him out for his play last season and, still only going into his age 25 season, he has a good chance to bounce back in 2017.

If he doesn’t, the Vikings could easily let go him next off-season, rather than pay him the 12.306 million he’d be owed in 2018. If he bounces back though, the Vikings could reward him with an extension that would make him one of the highest paid linebackers in the league. It’s a big year for him financially and the Vikings are obviously hoping that extra motivation can get him back to the player he was in 2015. At his best, he’s a rare Jamie Collins type player, capable of stopping the run, dropping in coverage, and rushing the passer from multiple spots. He has rare size and athleticism.

Middle linebacker Eric Kendricks will be the other every down linebacker again. The 2015 2nd round pick took a step forward in his second year in the league, finishing 21st among middle linebackers on Pro Football Focus, after grading out slightly below average as a rookie. A starter basically from day 1 (25 starts in 2 seasons in the league), Kendricks seems to have a bright future. His improved play helped mask Barr’s struggles a little bit. The Vikings are obviously hoping that both can have good seasons in 2017.

Chad Greenway was the 3rd linebacker last season, but he retired after 10 seasons in the league (all with Minnesota) this off-season. Greenway’s only real value in his later years was his leadership though, as his play had really fallen off a cliff in recent years. His play on the field shouldn’t be that hard to replace, as he finished 68th out of 87 eligible linebackers on 399 snaps last season. Veteran Emmanuel Lamur is the most likely option to replace him, but he isn’t a good option either, so he could be pushed for his job by some younger players.

One of those young players is Ben Gedeon, a 4th round rookie out of Michigan. Gedeon played middle linebacker in college, but could move outside in the NFL and has the skill set to develop into a capable base package linebacker. Kentrell Brothers, a 2016 5th round pick who played just 1 snap on defense as a rookie, is also in the mix. Lamur, meanwhile, was limited to 38 snaps last season and finished in the bottom 10 among 4-3 outside linebackers in both 2014 and 2015 with the Bengals. The 3rd linebacker spot remains a weakness, but fortunately it’s only a base package role. Kendricks and Barr are much more important players and both have good upside.

Grade: B-

Secondary

While the Vikings have some good players in the front 7, their secondary was the strength of the team in 2016. The Vikings used a first round pick in 2013 on Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes and a first round pick in 2015 on Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes, but their best cornerback last season was actually 14-year veteran Terence Newman, a first round pick by the Cowboys way back in 2003. Going into his age 39 season, Newman is the 2nd oldest defensive player in the league behind Pittsburgh’s James Harrison, but is still coming off of a season in which he was Pro Football Focus’ 9th ranked cornerback, the 4th time in 5 seasons he’s graded out above average.

At his age, his abilities could fall off a cliff at any point, but the Vikings brought him back on 1-year, 3.25 million dollar deal and probably intend for him to be the starter for one more season. Newman has spent most of his career in Mike Zimmer’s defense, first with the Cowboys, then the Bengals, and now with the Vikings, so he can probably do the mental part of the game in his sleep at this point, but playing cornerback in the NFL is physically tough in your mid-30s, much less in your late-30s like Newman.

He’ll face competition from Trae Waynes, who has been limited to 10 starts in 2 seasons in the league because of strong play ahead of him on the depth chart. Waynes was drafted to be the long-term successor for Newman, but Newman is still going, so he hasn’t been anything more than valuable depth thus far in his career. Waynes played just 215 snaps as a rookie, but injuries forced him to a larger role in 2016, when he finished 72nd among 111 eligible cornerbacks on 587 snaps. If I had to guess, I’d say he’ll probably have to wait until his 4th year in the league in 2018 to become an every down starter in this defense, but he could take over for Newman this year if Newman struggles.

Waynes probably isn’t a candidate for the slot cornerback job either because his skill set is that of an outside cornerback. Both Newman and fellow starting cornerback Xavier Rhodes are primarily outside cornerbacks as well, leaving 2016 3rd round pick Mackenzie Alexander as the likely replacement for free agent departure Captain Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn was one of the better slot cornerbacks in the league, so replacing him won’t be an easy task. He was Pro Football Focus’ 48th ranked cornerback in 2016 in a slightly down season for him. Alexander is very inexperienced, playing just 67 snaps as a rookie, but he was one of the best pure slot cornerback prospects in the 2016 draft, so he was a steal in the 3rd round. He could have a solid season.

As I mentioned, Xavier Rhodes is locked in as the other starting cornerback. He’s the de facto #1 cornerback, even though Newman outplayed him last season. Rhodes flashes brilliance and has finished above average in 4 of the last 5 seasons, but has never finished higher than 21st at his position and commits far too many penalties, with 30 in the last 3 seasons combined. He’s still only going into his age 27 season though and he’s coming off of a season in which he finished 29th among cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus, so you could do a lot worse than him. He’s a valuable member of this defense who has made 46 starts in the past 3 seasons. The Vikings will try to lock him up on an extension this off-season, ahead of the final season of his rookie deal in 2017.

Minnesota’s best defensive back is another first round pick, Harrison Smith, the 31st pick in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame. He has proven to be a steal, as he has developed into one of the best all-around safeties in the entire NFL. He was Pro Football Focus #2 ranked safety in 2014 and their #1 ranked safety in 2015, so his 10th best place in 2016 was actually a down year by him. He still played very well, despite missing 3 games with an ankle sprain that limited him upon his return. He doesn’t get the attention of guys like Eric Berry or Earl Thomas, but he’s just as valuable to this defense. The only issue with him is that he is a little bit injury prone, missing 13 games in 5 seasons and being limited in others. Having him at 100% would be huge for this defense.

Andrew Sendejo remains as the starter at the other safety spot. He’s experienced, with 40 starts in the last 4 seasons, including 27 in 2015 and 2016 combined, but he’s not a very good player. His worst season came in 2015, when he finished 85th out of 89 eligible safeties on Pro Football Focus, and, while he was better in 2016, he was really only better by default, finishing 54th out of 90 eligible safeties. At his best, he’s a capable starter, but the Vikings don’t have a better option so Sendejo’s job should be pretty secure. He’s the weakest point in a strong secondary.

Grade: A-

Conclusion

The Vikings were on an upwards trajectory and looked like a future Super Bowl contender at this time last year, but then they had the season from hell in 2016 with all their injuries. Several of the players who were injured last season are no longer with the team (Matt Kalil, Andre Smith, Adrian Peterson) while others are still injured and might not play this season (Teddy Bridgewater, Sharrif Floyd), but the Vikings did a good job this off-season filling needs and adding talent around new Sam Bradford, who should be better in his 2nd season with the team as Bridgewater’s replacement. That could easily get them back into the post-season in 2017. 

Final update: The Vikings let guard Alex Boone go for financial reasons, but should still have an upgraded offensive line and running game. That should put this team in contention for a playoff spot.

Prediction: 10-6, 2nd in NFC North

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