Only 10 players remain in our countdown of the Top 30 Vikings heading into the 2016 season. For the next two parts, we have decided to split the remaining players into two groups.
This week will feature the players that ended up in slots 10-6 of the list, while next week will reveal what five players finished at the top.
10: Sharrif Floyd, DT
“He’s a beast, a game-changer for the Vikings’ defense.”
Brett Anderson (@brettAnderson87): The only thing holding Floyd back from taking the next step and becoming an elite talent is his inability to remain healthy and stay on the field. When Floyd is playing, he’s a beast, a game-changer for the Vikings’ defense. Hopefully, Floyd’s injury issues are behind him and he can establish himself as a top-tier tackle in the NFL.
Austin Belisle (@austincbelisle): When healthy, he’s one of the quickest defensive lineman in the NFL. With his pass rushing abilities, Floyd is the perfect complement to Linval Joseph inside.
Adam Carlson (@MNVikingZombie): Many folks are talking about 2016 being a make or break year for many players, but Floyd is often ignored on those lists. The defensive tackle has shown flashes of brilliance, but has also struggled to stay on the field. The team has already exercised his fifth year option, so he won’t be a free agent. However, he can cement his place on the roster and earn a big payday with excellent play.
Austin Erwin (@austin_erwin): Floyd came on strong for the Vikings in year three. He’s an explosive force of a pass rusher and he also stepped up in defending the run.
Matt Falk (@Matt_Falk): Floyd won’t knock your socks off with big numbers, but he does all the little things well and is a perfect tag-team partner with Linval Joseph. Expect another solid year from the bigman, especially if Joseph can keep himself on the field.
Ted Glover (@purplebuckeye): Needs to work on consistency, and I think the Vikings go back and forth on whether or not he will take the next step. If he does, this defense will be terrifying.
Daniel House (@DanielHouseNFL): When healthy, Sharrif Floyd has been dominant at times. With more durability and time on the field from Floyd, the Vikings can consistently perform well in the interior.
Adam Patrick (@Str8_Cash_Homey): Like Mike Zimmer has constantly reiterated, a player cannot make plays from the training room. Although the Vikings have a very quality backup in Tom Johnson, Minnesota needs Floyd to stay healthy in 2016 to help improve their weak run defense from a season ago.
“The return to health of Linval Joseph should only help Floyd showcase his talents to a new degree in 2016.”
Jordan Reid (@JReidDraftScout): A huge draft steal for the Vikings and an underrated player on the Vikings defense, the 2013 first-rounder should continue to progress and be a key member of the Vikings interior front. Floyd must show that he can stay healthy for the duration of the 2016 season.
BJ Reidell: (@RobertReidellBT): Sharrif Floyd’s issues with nagging injuries throughout his career have held him back to a degree, but he remains an excellent complement to Linval Joseph in the Vikings’ interior defensive line.
Eric Thompson (@eric_j_thompson): When Sharrif is 100% and locked in, he’s one of the more disruptive defensive tackles in the league against both the run and pass. If he can be 100% and locked in a little more often, he’ll be the next young defender to get P-A-I-D after his team option next season. I’m betting he’ll get there.
Adam Warwas (@vikingterritory): Floyd has proven to be a disruptive force on the inside of Mike Zimmer’s defense, and I suspect his best years are still coming. The return to health of Linval Joseph should only help Floyd showcase his talents to a new degree in 2016.
9: Eric Kendricks, LB
“I don’t think we’ve seen the full potential of Eric Kendricks.”
Anderson: Despite struggling a bit early in his rookie year, there was a point in the season where you could see the light bulb go on in Kendrick’s head. And when that happened, he was a different player. No longer hamstrung by having to understand the game, Kendricks was able to rely on his athleticism and really turn a corner. With another year under his belt, Kendricks should be able to pin his ears back and get after opposing defenses, joining Anthony Barr to become one of the league’s best nickel linebacker duos in the NFL.
Belisle: Already a full-time starter for the Vikings, Kendricks has the football IQ and athleticism to thrive in Mike Zimmer’s nickel-heavy defense.
Carlson: Another year, another opportunity for Eric Kendricks. After earning a starting role during his rookie year, the versatile linebacker should keep growing and developing into his role with the team while they continue to find more creative and functional uses for him in Mike Zimmer’s defense.
Erwin: Blitz him from the A-gap or from the outside, Kendricks can get to the quarterback from anywhere. He and Anthony Barr make a devastating duo for any offense to go up against.
Falk: I’m looking for Kendricks to take a big leap from his rookie year and start to become the face of the Vikings defense. Improving on 92 tackles and 4 sacks doesn’t seem out of the question.
Glover: I don’t mean to be disrespectful to Anthony Barr here, but Kendricks might be better. It’s a silly debate, though, because this tandem will be a force for a long time.
“Kendricks can get to the quarterback from anywhere.”
House: I don’t think we’ve seen the full potential of Eric Kendricks. His insane athleticism, combined with his instincts make him one of the most valuable pieces of the defense entering 2016.
Patrick: It did not take very long in Kendricks’ young career to insert himself as a starter in the Vikings defense last season. He and fellow linebacker Anthony Barr will arguably be the most important parts of Minnesota’s defense during these next few years.
Reid: Another impressive player from the 2015 draft class, Kendricks proved that he can be the heart and soul of the Mike Zimmer’s defense. Leading the team in tackles (92) as a rookie was impressive. The former UCLA product should take another step forward in 2016.
Reidell: Eric Kendricks was outstanding during his rookie season, showcasing the skill set that made him a second-round draft selection as well as an ability to rush the quarterback.
Thompson: The addition of Barr’s Bruin Brother was exactly what the linebacking corps needed last year. Kendricks still has a lot to learn (especially with those pesky crossing routes) but there is so much for us to be excited about regarding his future. We could be looking at a starter and potential Pro Bowler for the better part of the next decade.
Warwas: Are you losing sleep over Gerald Hodges? Your answer to that question should tell you all you need to know about what Kendricks accomplished in his rookie season and what expectations look like for him moving forwards.
8: Stefon Diggs, WR
“Stefon Diggs will be a star in the NFL.”
Anderson: Stefon Diggs is one player that I’m not sure what to expect from in 2016. We saw last season that once opposing defenses keyed in on the fact that he was talented and started showing him more attention, he disappeared slightly. However, with the addition of Laquon Treadwell, he may eventually go back to seeing more favorable match-ups and really take-off. Ultimately, 2016 will be a year where we learn a lot more about Diggs, his potential and what he can bring to the Vikings’ group of receivers.
Belisle: Diggs burst onto the scene in 2015 and doesn’t appear ready to slow down. With Laquon Treadwell in the mix, he may see a healthy jump in targets, catches, and touchdowns this season.
Carlson: Diggs exploded onto the scene after being inactive for several weeks, but he now is in a very crowded wide receiver group where he’ll need to earn a starting job all over again. Depending on whether or not Patterson, Johnson, or Treadwell can grab starting spots, fans will either be seeing less or more of the pass catcher this season.
Erwin: You heard it here first: Stefon Diggs will be a star in the NFL. He’s always open and has the killer instinct to score from anywhere on the field.
Falk: Diggs broke out his rookie year as the Vikings number one receiver, but I look for him to nestle into the number two role and continue to improve and along with Treadwell and Wright. hopefully get these receivers over the hump.
Glover: He averaged 104.7 yards per game receiving his first four games, but really tailed off at the end of the season. If he can become more consistent, it will prove to be a boon for the Vikings offense.
“Arguably the biggest steal of the 2015 draft.”
House: After adding Laquon Treadwell, Stefon Diggs can now be set free in the offense. I expect to see him in the slot and outside too. He’ll be one of the main game-changing weapons for Teddy Bridgewater again this year.
Patrick: After a few big games last season, Diggs’ production took a dive and he saw much more attention from Minnesota’s opponents until the end of 2015. However, the Vikings rewarded their young receiver by drafting Laquon Treadwell this year and hopefully giving Diggs some room to breathe for next season.
Reid: Arguably the biggest steal of the 2015 draft, Diggs production was a huge surprise to many. After getting off to a hot start, the rising star cooled off the last four weeks of the season. With the addition of Laquon Treadwell and a more experienced Teddy Bridgewater, look for Diggs to get back to his regular ways as the Vikings go-to option next season.
Reidell: Stefon Diggs burst onto the scene as a rookie, quickly becoming Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite option at wide receiver. Now the difficult part begins; can he build on a strong first season and become a premier pass-catcher in the NFL?
Thompson: The fact that this guy was a fifth rounder last year is another example of how we still know very little when it comes to the NFL Draft. Diggs was drafted to compete for a return job and ended up being the team’s best wide receiver. Hopefully the rest of the WR crew chips in a little more this season and compliments one of the offense’s most versatile weapons.
Warwas: Talent and effort. Those are the two words that best define Diggs in my mind. And those are two great descriptors for a young wide out looking to join the league’s elite.
7: Xavier Rhodes, CB
“He’s the definition of a shutdown corner.”
Anderson: This is the year Rhodes puts it all together and becomes an upper-echelon (elite?) corner in the NFL. Rhodes, now a true veteran in the secondary and graduate of the Mike Zimmer University for Gifted Corners, should be able to lock down his side of the field and avoid costly penalties.
Belisle: Though his play has been up-and-down in recent years, Rhodes is easily Minnesota’s best cornerback. He’s the definition of a shutdown corner and makes Zimmer’s job easier with his man-coverage abilities.
Carlson: Continuing his development as a cornerback, Rhodes should keep learning how to be flagged less while not losing his physical edge. With his coverage skills and work ethic, he has quietly become one of the regulars in a Vikings secondary that should intimidate defenses for many years.
Erwin: Look no further if you want a big bodied, physical corner. Rhodes has shutdown capabilities and is perhaps one of the best young corners in the league.
Falk: Entering his 4th year Rhodes is quietly becoming one of the best corners in the NFC North. If he can continue to improve a Pro Bowl berth in 2016 isn’t too far fetched.
Glover: The Vikings defensive scheme relies on aggressive corners playing press coverage, and the play of Rhodes will go a long, long way in determining how good the Vikings defense will be.
“It’s time for Xavier to take the next step and evolve from closing Rhodes to creating an island.”
House: Xavier Rhodes has become the most integral player in the secondary. His blend of physicality and solid technique have made him another one of Coach Zimmer’s best defensive back products.
Patrick: Quietly, Rhodes played really well during the second half of last season. An all-pro honor would not be far fetched for the young cornerback in 2016 if his high level of play remains consistent throughout the length of the entire season.
Reid: Unquestionably a top-15 CB in the NFL, everyone is wondering when Rhodes will take the next step into being an elite CB. His 2015 season started off slowly but he showed flashes down the back stretch of being that shutdown corner for the Vikings. Heading into 2016, it will be interesting to see if Rhodes builds on the success he showed in the latter half of last season.
Reidell: Xavier Rhodes has had an inconsistent career to date, but he has flashed the talent to become a top-tier cornerback in the NFL, particularly during his one-on-one matchups with Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones.
Thompson: I think Rhodes is poised to become that shutdown corner we thought he might have become last season. (You know, as long as his own teammates don’t destroy him again.) It’s time for Xavier to take the next step and evolve from closing Rhodes to creating an island.
Warwas: Some confidence was lost in 2015, but Rhodes’ ability to match up against the NFC North’s best wide outs has been a huge reason for Minnesota’s rise to the top of the standings. The defense is trending upwards and Rhodes is an underrated reason for it.
6: Teddy Bridgewater, QB
“How far this team goes rests on the shoulders of Teddy Bridgewater, plain and simple.”
Anderson: Bridgewater’s success depends heavily on two things: One, the ability of the Vikings’ newly fabricated offensive line to offer him some semblance of a pocket to throw from. And two, whether or not Norv Turner decides to run a more balanced offense and put Bridgewater in a situation where he’s more likely to succeed. Without those things, I still think Bridgewater can take a step forward next season. However, it may not be “the” step.
Belisle: Bridgewater is the quarterback of the future and is only getting better. He shined bright last year despite a rickety offensive line and subpar play from his top wide receiver; that should change in 2016.
Carlson: What can be said about Bridgewater that hasn’t been said already? Yes, he needs improvement in the red zone and on deep throws. But he also showed great accuracy and poise late in games. As long as he can keep leaning on the Minnesota run game, Bridgewater will never put up great fantasy football numbers.
Erwin: Teddy Bridgewater is the heart and soul of the Minnesota Vikings franchise. He is talented and poised enough to make any play on the field. He’s cool under pressure and can lead the Vikings to their ultimate goal: a Super Bowl Championship.
Falk: Bridgewater got some shiny new toys this offseason both at receiver and along the offensive line. This will be the year he will, and should, silent some critics and have a legit shot of breaking out.
Glover: This team ‘feels’ like a championship contender…with one caveat. And that caveat is Bridgewater. He doesn’t need to play lights out, but he does need to up his numbers. because how far this team goes rests on the shoulders of Teddy Bridgewater, plain and simple.
“Teddy was immediately thrown into the deep end of the shark tank to start his career, and he’s done more than just tread water out there so far.”
House: It is time for Teddy to turn the corner in 2016. With added weapons, an improved offensive line, and another year in the system, this is the time for Bridgewater to lead this team deep into the playoffs.
Patrick: It may be hard to remember, but this will only be the second season in which Bridgewater will enter the year as the Vikings starting quarterback. Sadly, Bridgewater will not likely flourish to his full potential until a certain number 28 is no longer playing in Minnesota.
Reid: The biggest key to the 2016 season lies in the hands of the third-year signal caller. Next season is the season where everyone wants to see Bridgewater take that “next step”. Rick Spielman and the Vikings brass have done an outstanding job of surrounding the Pro-Bowl QB with tools, but it will be up to Bridgewater to show that he can be an elite NFL QB.
Reidell: Teddy Bridgewater has played well during his first two professional seasons, but for the Vikings to take the next step and become a Super Bowl contender, he will have to be even better in 2017.
Thompson: Teddy was immediately thrown into the deep end of the shark tank to start his career, and he’s done more than just tread water out there so far. The numbers haven’t really been there but the film shows plenty of promise. With an improved offensive line, more weapons at his disposal, and another year of experience, the excuses need to dry up. Bottom line: this team goes as far as Teddy in 2016. To survive the deep end of the playoff pool, he’ll need to do more than just tread well.
Warwas: Wait, Teddy didn’t make the top five? I know our quarterback has their doubters, but I suspect 2016 to be the season where they become much less vocal. He has the tools to carve up opposing defenses and, if the offensive line really has improved, I’m looking forward to 16 games (and then some more) of him doing exactly that.
All images courtesy of Vikings.com