Arif: Harrison Smith
Mike Zimmer is not too concerned about cornerbacks getting interceptions and the design of the defense makes it more difficult for them to, so the safeties who always have their eyes on the quarterback are the best bets. In this case, it’ll be one of the top safeties in the NFL, Harrison Smith, who has shown not just a talent for grabbing interceptions, but returning them, too.
Andy: Harrison Smith
Smith had 5 of the Vikings’ 13 interceptions in 2014, leading the team. He’s a ballhawk who could benefit greatly by a physical safety like Taylor Mays or Antone Exum stepping up and letting him roam more instead of spending time in the box (although Smith is equally as effective there, if not more so). I think Smith busts out with a career high 7 INTs in 2015, makes his first Pro Bowl, is in the All-Pro discussion, and is rewarded with a lucrative long-term extension. (Hopefully before the whole blowing up part. That way he’ll be cheaper).
Austin: Captain Munnerlyn
Is this the year Xavier Rhodes starts piling up the interceptions? I doubt it; if he does take the next step in becoming the fabled “shutdown corner”, quarterbacks may avoid his area of the field. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Waynes, who will most likely start opposite Rhodes, haul in a few INTs, but the true beneficiary of a secondary rotation will be Captain Munnerlyn. Although he frustrated Zimmer and the coaching staff last year, Munnerlyn made a few plays on the football and will improve at his true position as a nickel corner. He’s better suited to the slot and with a year under his belt in Minnesota, will be on a mission to prove he deserves to stick around.
Carl: Harrison Smith
The Vikings have one of the NFL’s best safeties in Harrison Smith. With 10 interceptions over the last 3 years, I look for that number to be on the rise again in 2015. The secondary made huge strides last year under new head coach Mike Zimmer, and the future is full of promise for this young group of talented defensive backs.
With two big shut down corners who can play press coverage, Smith will have the green light to attack the ball and make plays. Smith probably won’t lead the league in interceptions, but he shouldn’t have any problem getting five or more picks again this season.
Adam: Harrison Smith
I think we started to see Xavier Rhodes command some major respect from opponents towards the end of last year, and I would expect that trend to continue. As a result, other players in the secondary will see more opportunity to snag a turnover. It is too difficult, at present, to determine which of the remaining cornerbacks will get the most opportunity to produce interceptions and so I would predict that Harrison Smith remains the teams leader when it comes to the interception total. He, more than anyone else, has a proven knack to deliver a death blow via timely interceptions and I just wouldn’t be willing to assign that crown to anyone else so early in the preseason.
Lindsey: Trae Waynes
I’m going wayyyy out on a limb here and predicting the newbie to have the most interceptions. I’m the Josh Robinson fan who would like to see him starting every game opposite Xavier Rhodes, but since Mike Zimmer is so outspoken about the bigger-bodied defensive backs, I expect to see Waynes and Rhodes starting with Robinson doing some relief work and also playing a significant role on special teams defense. All that being said, if Waynes is the starter, I think he’ll pull down a decent number of interceptions. He wasn’t a pick-off guru in college, but I think a lot of QBs will tend to throw toward the rookie side, and Waynes has the height and athleticism to snag some of those passes.