Which Defensive Player will Have the Most Standout Season for the Vikings in 2015?
Andy: Sharrif Floyd
He won’t standout the most on the stat sheet, but I think he’s in line for a very productive junior season for the Minnesota Fightin’ Vikings. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance his first two campaigns, but I think 2015 is where he’ll consistently become that disruptive force of nature that Mike Zimmer can hang his hat on in the middle.
Brent: Harrison Smith
Smith is coming off an excellent 2014 in which he was the 2nd-ranked safety by PFF standards. His versatility is important to Zimmer’s defense, and I think they’ll get even more creative with how they use Smith in 2015. Not only does Smith move around a lot, he’s also the last line of defense over the top of the secondary. Trusting Smith to be right deep down field allows the Vikings to be aggressive with their front seven. There are plenty of arguments for Anthony Barr and Everson Griffen—hell, throw Xavier Rhodes’ name into the ring as well. At the end of the day, I think Smith’s involvement in stopping both the run and pass gives him the most opportunity to make plays and have an impact.
Lindsey: Anthony Barr
This question is way too hard to answer (yes … I’m the one that chose the question…). A lot of defensive guys had a breakout season last year, including Everson Griffen and Xavier Rhodes. However, I’m really expecting to see Barr pick up exactly where he left off last year before his injury. Barr immediately came in as a rookie with a calm, confident presence (similar to Teddy Bridgewater’s demeanor, in my opinion), and he wasn’t rattled at all by the limelight or hype of his freshman year. He’s one of those guys who is football minded to the core. Barr’s impact on the team’s defense was unmistakable, and I think he’ll only get better.
Carl: Everson Griffen
The Vikings opened their wallet last year and gave Everson Griffen a five-year, $42.5-million wad of cash after just one career start. Griffen got off to a slow start in 2014, but he turned it on by recording a sack in eight different games and collecting 11 on the season. His rare combination of size and speed can wreak havoc in a number of different ways along the defensive front. Griffen is a cornerstone that Mike Zimmer can continue to build a defense around over the next four years. Griffen’s best football is still ahead of him, and I think he will earn his money in 2015 en route to being named Vikings defensive MVP.
Adam: Anthony Barr
There is a lot to love about where this defense is heading, and it is hard to pick just one “standout” performance from 2014, let alone predict one for 2015. Everson Griffen, Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes are all playing top-tier football at this point in their careers. I can’t help but zero in on last year’s top draft choice, Anthony Barr, in answering this question, however. Prior to injury, this guy was on his way to being the top defensive rookie in the NFL and I see the potential for him to become one of the best in the league overall. A sophomore slump would sure be a bummer to see play out, but I’m thinking Barr is going to turn some heads in 2015 and take another step in establishing himself as a feared centerpiece in Mike Zimmer’s defense.
Arif: Harrison Smith
Fully healthy (and in a contract year), Smith can prove over the course of a full season that he’s a top-three safety in the NFL. His skill set is expanding, and he could have a year with over eight combined sacks and interceptions, which would just be a curious and awesome statistic. His versatility and power should be huge assets.
Austin: Harrison Smith
With welcome offseason additions on the defensive side of the ball, Mike Zimmer’s unit is set to make tremendous strides in 2015. One player (not named Everson Griffen) is well on his way to becoming the league’s best at the position — Harrison Smith. After a 2014 season that saw him record 71 tackles, 3 sacks, and 5 interceptions, Smith is poised for a superstar season. Expect Zimmer to line Smith up all over the field next year, taking advantage of his abilities as a run defender and free safety in coverage. 2015 will be the year of Harrison Smith, and not just in Minnesota.
Brett: Anthony Barr
Barr was hand picked in last year’s draft specifically for Mike Zimmer’s defense. There were a lot of question marks surrounding the inexperienced, yet super-athletic, linebacker from UCLA and it was expected Barr would need a year or two to get acclimated to playing at an NFL level. However, Zimmer, the defensive mastermind he is, was able to utilize Barr’s raw talent and make him a critical piece of the Vikings defense almost immediately. Having only played 12 games in the 2014 season, Anthony Barr was ranked the eighth best 4-3 outside linebacker by Pro Football Focus. I truly believe that another year under the tutelage of Zimmer will really benefit Barr, who struggled at times in coverage, and establish him as an elite outside linebacker.
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