Vikings Territory

Underdog Safety Becomes Vikings X-Factor

Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris is finally getting the recognition he deserves. The Star Tribune recently reported that Harris was Minnesota’s highest graded player last year, and Pro Football Focus predicts he will be their X-factor this season. It’s time for fans to really get to know the breakout safety.

Harris wasn’t well known coming out of the University of Virginia, and his name wasn’t called during the 2015 draft. As was the case with Adam Thielen, Rick Spielman was willing to take a chance on the underdog, and the Vikings have been developing the raw safety ever since. It’s taken Harris a few years, but he’s finally made a name for himself with big plays like dual interceptions against the Bears and a critical forced fumble against the Rams.

Like many NFL hopefuls, when Harris first joined the Vikings, he found a role on special teams. Eventually, he became one of the rare undrafted rookies to earn a spot on the team’s 53-man roster. Injuries to starting safeties Andrew Sendejo and Harrison Smith opened up opportunities for Harris, and he made the most of them. 

Sendejo missed the majority of last season with a leg injury, and Harris proved he could handle a full workload. Training alongside the All-Pro Harrison Smith definitely helped his development, as he showed the football I.Q. and vision of a seasoned veteran. Those proved to be key traits as he worked towards earning the starting gig long-term. 

At the end of last season, Spielman had the choice of re-signing Sendejo, or Harris. Even though Sendejo had seniority, he’s always been a liability, frequently getting flagged or even suspended for illegal hits. Harris, on the other hand, rarely blows an assignment or gives up a big play. And, he ultimately stole Sendejo’s job.

On and off the gridiron, people love Anthony’s fun personality. After a big play, he’s like the Diggs of the defense, rallying the crowd with a clever dance or by shaking his distinctive dreads. Fans may underestimate the importance of this kind of enthusiasm, but coaches and players know it helps the team build camaraderie, and it keeps morale up when the chips are down.

After this season, Spielman will be faced with a big decision of whether or not to keep Harris. He’s on the last year of his contract and, and if he doesn’t get a new deal, he’ll be packing his Gucci bags and leaving the north. If Slick Rick is wise, he’ll finish what he started with Harris and sign him to a long term contract.

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