Vikings Skill Position Group Receives High Praise

Explained: Early Developments at Vikings Minicamp
Dalvin Cook

As the NFL season approaches — only 96 days until the Vikings kick off — we have NFL talking heads giving rankings. Unfortunately, not many of them are talking the Vikings up. However, Dan Orlovsky has been quick to give the Vikings’ skill position group high praise.

Yesterday, Orlovsky said that the Vikings have the 2nd best skill group in the NFC. This is second only to the Rams. Honestly, this is even debatable. You could make a strong argument that the Vikings have the best group in the NFC and the second-best in the NFL.

This might be coming off as a homer, but if you look at the facts, it is difficult to argue. Let’s look at the PFF rankings:

  • Dalvin Cook is ranked 5th in the league only because of his injury history. This is ahead of the running backs for the Bengals, Raiders, and Rams.
  • Justin Jefferson ranks 7th in the league. However, his production in 2021 was second only to Cooper Kupp.
  • Irv Smith Jr. didn’t get ranked. Although, this was only because he missed 2021.

When evaluating the Bengals, Raiders, and Rams compared to the Vikings, things get interesting. The Bengals have two very good elite wide receivers, and because wide receivers have more value than running backs, they get a bump up.

The Raiders have Adams and Waller, both very good, but when Irv Smith Jr is healthy, he and Jefferson will be a better combination. Lastly, the Rams have Cooper Kupp, but I am not sold on the rest of their position group. They are good but not elite.

At the end of the day, only time will tell who has the best group. Much of this will be influenced by quarterback performance. This gives the Bengals a clear edge among the other three teams.

Ranking Vikings’ Skill Players

Vikings Labeled 'Sneaky Threat' in 2022
Justin Jefferson

Now that we have discussed how the Vikings stack up against the league. How do they rank internally? Let’s take a look and discuss.

  1. You know who number 1 is. It is Justin Jefferson. JJets is the clear-cut best-skill player the Vikings have. You could argue that all things run through Cook, but that might be a thing of the past. The Vikings have used the run and play-action to set up big passes over the last couple of years, but that is likely to change under O’Connell. Watch for a whole lot more of Jefferson.
  2. Dalvin Cook is still cooking. Cook is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. If there is one player I trust with the ball in their hands and one person to beat, it is Dalvin Cook. His ability to make players miss in the open field, find the smallest hole, stretch a run, and move laterally without missing a beat is amazing. There is a reason why he is a top-3 running back. Get this man the ball and let him do what he does.
  3. Swervin Irv Smith Jr. is ready for his breakout. Some may have expected Adam Thielen to be next on this list, but that is likely only because we didn’t get to see Irv play last year due to injury. He is a mismatch nightmare, and I am excited to see how O’Connell will utilize him. Hopefully, O’Connell will get him one-on-one with linebackers and let him destroy them in the middle of the field.
  4. Adam Thielen is now the crafty veteran. Thielen has lost a step as he has aged. There really is no way to argue against that. Father Time has never lost a fight. However, one thing Thielen hasn’t lost is his route running ability. He is still one of the craftiest route runners in the league. If teams elect to double Jefferson, they will be leaving Thielen 1 on 1, which will not end well for the defense.
  5. KJ Osborn has emerged as a threat. Last but certainly not least is KJ Osborn. As a rookie, he was bad. However, last year he became the clear-cut wide receiver 3. I expect to see him a whole lot more in 2022. Perhaps we are returning to a time of the late 90s Vikings? One can hope.

Mitch Massman is a life-long Vikings fan. His first heartbreak was the 1998 NFC championship game. His full-time job is as an economic development professional in rural Minnesota. He fantasizes about the Vikings winning a Super Bowl one day, but until then he will write about the Vikings. Follow him on Twitter @skol_vikings3