Vikings fans may have been disappointed in 2020, but the team did still shown a lot of promise on offense and at times on defense. While there certainly are some positions that need to be improved and some offseason changes to be made, there is also dominant talent here that can be built upon if Rob Brzezinski and the powers that be in Eagan yet again create some salary cap magic. With the season still fresh in our memory, now is the time to review what the Vikings can do better, and also which players deserve the most praise after a season with a lot of negative coverage.
Even though the Vikings had a middle of the road 7-9 season as far as their record, the Vikings actually had a season that was a tale of two seasons after starting 1-5 and then going 5-1 in the subsequent six games. It’s that sort of up and down boom or bust-ery that makes the Vikings a sort of romantic quagmire. It’s almost Shakespearean at this point, which explains why Vikings fans are a top five most passionate fan-base according to metrics like these.
While sports betting has yet to take off in Minnesota, there are plenty of sportsbooks in nearby Michigan that show that the Vikings are still the favorite in many of their matchups in 2021. That just goes to show you that Vikings fans never learn and get roped in each year, which isn’t something we here at UFFda! Sports look down our noses at, as we’ve dedicated our lives to covering the Purple in exchange for enough money to get turned down for a loan on a Pontiac Fiero.
Despite the tone of this piece, there are objectively many players on this team that are elite and can play at the highest level. While all the players deserve their individual praise, these five are among the best players in the league and are thus on the UFFda! Sports UNTRADEABLE list.
The Untradeable list may seem like random off-season fodder, but considering the combination of the Vikings cap space (or lack thereof) and the pending COVID-cap making a bad situation worse, the Vikings may have to trade away some (remaining) core pieces before the 2021 season begins.
So, let’s combine the list of the best Vikings with ones that the team can’t trade for any multitude of reasons.
Justin Jefferson ✈️
The Vikings gleefully lucked out with their first round (#22nd overall) pick of phenom receiver Justin Jefferson. The LSU product has been terrific for the Vikings thus far in his career and somehow improved upon the big shoes he was asked to fill in former Viking Stefon Diggs.
Not only was 🛩 the best rookie receiver of 2020, but he has also been called one of the best rookie receivers in NFL history. After posting 1,400 yards for the year, he is only trailing behind Deandre Hopkins and Stefon Diggs in total yardage and was Pro Football Focus’ #2 received on the season.
That was all the more amazing as Jefferson barely played during the first two games of the year, before a major breakout performance in Week 3 versus the Tennessee Titans. He nabbed 7 receptions and 1 touchdown, for 175 yards against one of the better teams in the AFC South.
It seems that, with all the chaos of the year and limited practices, the Vikings did not realize his full potential heading into the season which was an indictment in and of itself. Since starting, Jefferson has been simply amazing for this squad and with more experience against double/press coverage it’s hard not to expect even better things from ✈️ in the future.
That obviously makes him the most untradeable player on the team, even though it isn’t hard to imagine that unless this offense protects it’s quarterback and opens up the passing game a bit more… I don’t even want to say it, but, the scene of Jet angrily yelling at Cousins in the end-zone might not be an isolated incident.
Adam Thielen 🤚
Adam Thielen is another Vikings receiver who had a sensational season, but one that was overshadowed by Jefferson’s rookie performance. That’s a testament to how amazing ✈️ was in 2020, but it doesn’t take away from Thielen in general or in terms of last season.
Still, the numbers don’t lie and Thielen had a massive year with 14 touchdowns and nearly 1,000 yards as he morphed into the Cris Carter to 🛩’s Randy Moss. All. He. Does. Is. Catch. Touchdowns.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins relied on Thielen heavily, both as a route runner and in crucial situations all season long and that’s something that won’t change moving forward.
The combination of Thielen and Jefferson proved to be a dominant force in the NFL, despite a lackluster season by the defense and special teams.
One of the biggest games this season for Thielen was the close 31-28 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, when he returned 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. Thielen’s current contract runs until 2025, meaning he still has the potential to be very productive for this team, even at over 30 years old.
Thielen’s style of play doesn’t lend itself to age based regression, which means that he could continue what he’s doing for another half-decade. Add the fact that he’s from Minnesota and he is most likely the number one player on the roster that fans love most/would riot over if traded.
Dalvin Cook 🩹
At 25 years old and heading into his 5th year in the NFL, running back Dalvin Cook is really coming into his own and proving that when he is healthy, he is one of the best players in the league. This goes for any position, be it running back, receiver, or any other. With two Pro Bowl nominations on his resumé already, Cook is held in high regard. If we judge solely by rushing yards, he is second just behind Tennessee’s Derrick Henry.
The Vikings’ 2020 season showed Cook at his absolute best and gave him lots of opportunities to make big plays. Cook did not disappoint in his role whatsoever. He was credited with 1557 total yards, and 16 touchdowns, and the unquantifiable role as the heart and soul of the Vikings run first offense. The Vikings have an elite rusher in Cook and likely many more years to utilize his full potential, barring injury.
It may sound redundant to have said that Cook is the 💜 and 👻 of the Vikings run-first approach, but Cook is not that vital by default as the feature back. It’s his perseverance both in terms of overcoming injury and finishing every run as hard as possible that makes him not just untradeable but unreplaceable as well.
Second-string back Alexander Mattison is proof positive of this concept. Mattison is physically very similar to Cook, yet the difference between how the offense functions (or doesn’t) when Cook has been sidelined speaks for itself.
Eric Kendricks 🐻
Despite injuries, Kendricks still managed to be one of the best linebackers in the league in 2020. When Kendricks was on the field, he continuously made his presence felt.
He is credited with 3 picks throughout the season, as well as six passes defended and he had four big tackles for loss of yards. Kendricks has 3 more years on his contract with Minnesota, and hopefully he can heal up from his injuries and come back strong next season as the Vikings will need him more than ever.
While Anthony Barr, as the third-highest paid Viking, may get the majority of the ink it’s Kendricks who is the MVP of this defense even over players like Danielle Hunter or Harrison Smith.
Kirk Cousins 💵
Since the season ended, the NFL media has been filled with rumors of quarterback Cousins’ departure from the Vikings. Despite the overall solid play from Cousins, critics have suggested that he is not worth the $94 million he has earned from the team thus far. His role on the team has been divisive, but all speculation on his future can be handled elsewhere. For now let’s just take a look at the facts.
Cousins’ performance in 2020 was not lackluster by any measure. He is credited with 4265 yards and 35 touchdowns. While this is combined with 13 interceptions, he has an almost 70% completion rating overall. Cousins is a top-ten quarterback and certainly one of the best players in the league. With two years left on his contract, the Vikings can still build around him if they choose to.
When you also look at the laughable trade scenarios the media have floated (a second/fourth/sixth round pick?) in exchange for his services and the fact that the Vikings haven’t been able to draft/develop a quarterback since the ‘70’s?
Beyond that, other top 10 quarterbacks DeShaun Watson and Russell Wilson have made it clear they don’t want to come to Minnesota, and Cousins had a very similar 2020 to the “Career Year” that Wilson (who the Seahawks want three first round picks for) did.
He’s not going anywhere, so let’s focus on maximizing his potential and contract by… I don’t know… Finally fixing the offensive line?