Note: Do me a favor and follow my (relatively new) personal Twitter account by clicking here or searching for @vtPTSD! I spent years cultivating the @vikingterritory and @purplePTSD handles, but now with our new radio show coming in December I thought I’d join you crazy teens in 2012 and get my own account!
If there has been any solace taken/given after the disastrous loss Sunday to the hapless Dallas Cowboys and their geriatric ginger quarterback that I’ve seen repeated ad nauseam on Vikings social media this week, it’s been that this young and inexperienced team has a lot to look forward to/build around.
That’s to be expected, with the combination of the largest draft haul in modern day NFL history and a combo GM/HC that if nothing else is good at eyeing/drafting/developing defensive talent for the latter’s system.
Outside of Cameron Dantzler, the rookie corner who has lived up to his nickname “The Needle” (which should’ve been a red flag for the Vikings at the combine), this young Vikings team has shown some signs of brilliance.
Justin Jefferson is already one of the best wide receivers in the entire league. Despite not really being anywhere near part of the game plan the first two weeks, and also being part of a run-first/long methodical dink/dunk offense, is on track to break Randy Moss’ rookie record for receiving yards.
Ezra Cleveland seems to be the catalyst the offensive line needed at right guard, elevating the entire unit and seeming like a Steve Hutchinsonian stalwart (albeit, on opposite sides) for the next fifteen years.
Jeff Gladney, the non-Jefferson first-round pick, is the best run stopping corner in the NFL and has shown a lot of potential in coverage.
Then there’s KJ Osborn, who was seemingly drafted to be the returner in both the punting and kick returner role. He’s done next to nothing with the role, with the Vikings averaging 1.3 yards per punt return. He should be replaced by Sunday.
So. It isn’t all good news, however I believe many Vikings fans would be surprised to read that our friends over at Bleacher Report ranked the Vikings young core as only the tenth best in the NFL.
Keep in mind that this list isn’t only for rookies, but encompasses anyone rostered and 26-or-younger.
Let’s see what they have to say:
“Minnesota keeps investing big resources in smart areas, too. Garrett Bradbury, 25, was a first-round pick a year ago and has a 69.1 grade at Pro Football Focus. Cornerback Jeff Gladney, 23, was a first-rounder this year, and right guard Ezra Cleveland, 22[,] was a second-rounder this year. Both have shown flashes.
Along with mainstays Adam Thielen, Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith, it’s hard to dislike the long-term outlook in Minnesota.”
Who beats Minny, then?
The full list:
1. Kansas City Chiefs (The rich get richer)
2. Dallas Cowboys (And we lost to ANDY DALTON)
3. Arizona Cardinals (Kyler is a beast)
4. Baltimore Ravens (Even with Lamar Jackson’s sophomore slump)
5. Miami Dolphins (even though Tua was benched last week and the fact that these are the Dolphins, who haven’t been relevant since ‘Ace Ventura’)
6. Buffalo Bills (Until Stefon Diggs inevitably turns on them, which, I can’t wait for as every Diggs article I write gets flooded with Bills fans who say he’s matured suddenly)
7. Denver Broncos (Gordon and Lindsay are great and maybe Lock can develop into something good)
8. Philadelphia Eagles (Carson Wentz may not be the perennial MVP we all feared in 2017, but this team has talent)
9. Cincinnati Bengals (Enjoy Trae Waynes and Mackenzie Alexander cause we got THE NEEDLE!)
10. The Vikings (The Needle’s franchise/The Needchise? Franchle?)
As you can see, the Vikings have a lot of talent and for once an offensive line that feels one piece away from being good or even great. I argued yesterday that they should flip Brett Jones to left guard (although one would think that as Cleveland was a left tackle in college, he could play even better on the left, which, as a second-round pick, makes more sense as the more important side of the line)…
Jefferson and Thielen will be haunting opposing defensive coordinator’s dreams for years, as will Irv Smith Jr at the tight end position and, of course, Dalvin Cook, the best running back in the NFL. Ans, to be honest, I’d take the following five players under the age of 26 and put them up against any of the 1-9 teams.
Dalvin Cook, Danielle Hunter, Justin Jefferson, Ezra Cleveland and THE NEEDLE! I’m joking. Irv Smith Jr or Jeff Gladney, take your pick. I’d like to see any other team bolster anything/anyone near that!
in fact, I’m going to Tweet that out and see what you all think (or comment below!).
— Vikings Territory (@vikingterritory) November 25, 2020
Either way, If only we could feel nearly as excited about the present as we do the future.