For followers of the Minnesota Vikings, it is shared knowledge that rookie Justin Jefferson has exceeded all expectations through seven weeks of the 2020 season. His early stardom is solidified as Jefferson is the NFL’s top wideout per Pro Football Focus. His stablemate, Adam Thielen, ranks No. 3. Minnesota’s wide-receiver twosome is one of the few cinders on this current squad. It is probably what keeps fans’ interests, truth be told. The Thielen-Jefferson tandem is salt vs. pepper, age vs. experience, and blue-collar vs. sizzle.
This article will not dig further into the accolades of the pass-catchers because it is an
established fact that the two men are prolific.
But there are a handful of other bright spots on the roster that may not be readily known.
Enthusiasts of the Vikings get bogged down in the wretchedness of the team’s 1-5 record that the positives are often nullified. Some players that were not foreshadowed to flourish have displayed signs of promise, albeit sometimes in small sample sizes.
Here are some of the grades that may raise eyebrows.
Todd Davis, PFF Grade = 70.2
16th Best LB in NFL
Foremost, this is a tiny sample size compared to his peers. There is assuredly that caveat.
Davis has played just four games with limited snaps whereas men like Eric Kendricks play
nearly every down.
However, owning a high grade such as Davis’ in smaller spots is certainly better than a score south of 50. Of course, his score might dip if he was an every-down linebacker, but that is merely speculative. His score could skyrocket; we do not know.
This is promising because the Vikings may opt to move on from Anthony Barr this offseason.
Minnesota could be on the cusp of a rebuild or retooling, and Barr’s sizable contract is not wholly conducive to those processes. Davis’ job application for the successor would not be
Shamar Stephen, PFF Grade = 65.1
56th Best Interior DL in NFL
Here is one of the tricky ones. Nobody at Vikings Territory is stating that Stephen is a star. Yet,
with his smaller-than-Linval stature, he is manning the nose tackle position with some respectability. The Vikings defensive coaches love him. He was not a very fearful 3-technique lineman in 2019, but his transition to undersized nose tackle has been relatively profitable. For
perspective, Linval Joseph’s PFF grade thru seven weeks with the Los Angeles Chargers is
67.9 – not leaps and bound better than his replacement.
Stephen’s performance at nose tackle has been serviceable in Michael Pierce’s absence.
Pat Elflein, PFF Grade = 60.0
60th Best G in NFL
This is not all that good – we get it. Elflein is flies-to-honey regarding criticism. His first season in the NFL, 2017, was quite propitious. After that, it has been a downward spiral, at least as far expectations are concerned.
Elflein is another one with limited action in 2020. He was injured in Week 1 during a loss to the
Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Ergo, he’s only played 52 snaps. The sole reason Elflein was mentioned in this piece is that of his replacement. When Elflein was designated to injured reserve, the hot optimism was that second-year guard Dru Samia would fare better. He has not.
To put it bluntly, he has been the worst offensive linemen in the NFL (PFF Grade = 33.3).
Elflein-into-Samia because “it cannot really get any worse” is a be-careful-what-you-wish-for
Ifeadi Odenigbo, PFF Grade = 61.9
58th Best EDGE in NFL
The case of Odenigbo is another one where the player has not been stellar, but perhaps better
than one might surmise. The 26-year-old finished the 2019 season strong and was theorized to
be the starting defensive end when Everson Griffen signed with Dallas (before the Yannick
Ngakoue trade). Then, Danielle Hunter was lost for the season, and Odenigbo’s starting role was cemented. Hell, he is the best defensive end on the Vikings roster at the moment.
Although his 61.9 PFF grade will not demand All-Pro honors, it is better than notable EDGE
rushers like Shaquil Barrett, Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Matthew Judon, and Frank Clark.
Kirk Cousins, PFF Grade = 81.4
9th Best QB in NFL
Most see Cousins’ 2020 campaign through a lens of unrelenting pessimism and subsequent bias. The Michigan State alumnus is probably the most polarizing football player in Minnesota Vikings history.
around “get rid of Cousins because he is overpaid.” You can set your wristwatch to it.
Cousins’ 2020 output through seven weeks is the statistical worst of his career. He is not having the type of season generally associate with his name. Nevertheless, Cousins remains a Top 10 signal-caller by PFF’s scoring system. PFF has no vested interest in cooking Cousins’ score for
the betterment of the Vikings.
His PFF grade is momentarily higher than Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. Weird, huh?