Vikings Tabbed with Pedestrian Ranking by USA Today

Vikings Tabbed with Pedestrian Ranking by USA Today
Jul 29, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) hands off to wide receiver K.J. Osborn. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

If the Minnesota Vikings wish to escape a two-year long bout with mediocrity, 2022 isn’t the season for it, according to USA Today.

The national newspaper ranked the Vikings as the NFL’s 17th-best team in its latest power rankings, slightly outpacing the Pittsburgh Steelers (#19) and Denver Broncos (#18). Minnesota finished 8-9 in 2021.

USA Today did highlight wideout Justin Jefferson in its feature, though, holding out hope he could shine for the team in his third season, “Justin Jefferson is the only player in the league with at least 3,000 receiving yards since 2020. Might he push 5,000 over three campaigns as a centerpiece in new coach Kevin O’Connell’s pass-oriented attack?”

Jul 28, 2022; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell and wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Jefferson will be coached by a new staff in 2022, as the Vikings moved on from general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer in January. Spielman had been a part of the franchise for 16 years while Zimmer took over head coaching responsibilities in 2014, leading the Vikings to the league’s 10th-best record in his eight seasons.

Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was hired to succeed Spielman, a youth-based alternative known for sports analytics. To bring his mathematical approach to Sunday afternoons, Adofo-Mensah brought Kevin O’Connell aboard as head coach, a man who offensively coordinated the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl victory in February.

Gotta Hear It: Vikings Quote of the Day -- February 26, 2022
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Kevin O’Connell

The duo had a license to rebuild the franchise from the ground up, instead leaving the roster primarily intact — evidently with the belief Minnesota wasn’t too far away from The Promised Land. Tweaking the depth chart, Adofo-Mensah added new free agents Za’Darius Smith (EDGE), Jordan Hicks (LB), Harrison Phillips (DT), Chandon Sullivan (CB), Jesse Davis (OL), and Chris Reed (OL). Starters from 2021, Anthony Barr, Tyler Conklin, Michael Pierce, Nick Vigil, and Xavier Woods, found new NFL homes in free agency.

After that, Adofo-Mensah conducted a trading bonanza in the NFL Draft, doing business with Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers on the event’s first two nights. Despite the controversial moves, the Vikings landed an impressive draft class:

  • R1: Lewis Cine, S (Georgia)
  • R2: Andrew Booth Jr., CB (Clemson)
  • R2: Ed Ingram, G (LSU)
  • R3: Brian Asamoah, LB (Oklahoma)
  • R4: Akayleb Evans, CB (Missouri)
  • R5: Esezi Otomewo, DE (Minnesota)
  • R5: Ty Chandler, RB (North Carolina)
  • R6: Vederian Lowe, OT (Illinois)
  • R6: Jalen Nailor, WR (Michigan State)
  • R7: Nick Muse, TE (South Carolina)

But per USA Today, it’s all for nil as a 17th ranking won’t drag the team from its middling ways. In fact, it would reflect “more of the same.”

Oddsmakers forecast Minnesota to win 9.5 games, a total that has spiked in recent weeks from a post-draft prognosis of 8.5 wins. If the Vikings don’t finish 2022 with a winning record, it will mark the first time since the team’s inception that three losing seasons occurred in succession (1961, 1962, 1963.)

Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).