The Vikings Top 5 Players Entering 2023
Last June, I named my Vikings top 5 players entering the 2022 season, with Brian O’Neill, Dalvin Cook, Harrison Smith, Justin Jefferson, and Danielle Hunter making the list.
The Vikings Top 5 Players Entering the 2023 Season
I revisited the subject in October, and Christian Darrisaw, Kirk Cousins, and Za’Darius Smith replaced O’Neill, Cook, and Harrison Smith. Za’Darius Smith and Dalvin Cook are no longer in Minnesota, but the rest remain contracted to the Vikings. However, Hunter’s contract situation is yet to be resolved.
One new face is in the top 5 list, replacing the departed Za’Darius Smith, and one player has moved up a few spots. Here are my top 5 Vikings players entering the 2023 season.
5. T.J. Hockenson
To date, the trade for T.J. Hockenson has been general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s best business. He came in mid-season and hit the ground running, proving an excellent foil for Justin Jefferson. The eighth overall pick in the 2019 draft, Hockenson always had talent but didn’t live up to that billing in Detroit. He saw an increased role in Kevin O’Connell’s offense and made hay.
During a 10-game span as a Viking last season, he saw 86 targets, making 60 catches for 519 yards and three touchdowns. His 914 receiving yards for the season were bettered at the tight end position only by Travis Kelce (1338), the best tight end in the league. Hockenson should have his eyes set on a 1000-yard receiving season in 2023, which is a fantastic achievement for a TE.
4. Kirk Cousins
I’ve never seen a sportsperson divide opinions quite like Cousins does. To suggest he is not a good quarterback would be folly; the numbers speak for themselves. Over 4000 passing yards in seven of the last eight seasons and 25+ passing touchdowns in each of those eight seasons. The narrative’s around primetime and not having a perceived “it factor” have seen a lot of criticism come number eight’s way.
This is a big season for the Vikings QB. For the first time during his stay in Minnesota, there is coaching continuity on the offensive side of the ball. That brings excitement for what he can do in a second year in the same system, but also expectation. There is little excuse for Cousins not to excel this season outside of question marks over the Vikings interior offensive line. With his contract up at the end of the season, the onus is on Cousins to have a career year.
3. Danielle Hunter
The only player on the defensive side of the ball could potentially be about to hold out of training camp. Not a great position to be in, but Hunter is criminally underpaid, and the Vikings need to find a resolution. The man who became the youngest player in NFL history to 50 sacks in 2019 proved his fitness in 2022. After two injury-ravaged campaigns, Hunter played every game last season.
The Vikings are hoping defensive coordinator Brian Flores can find improvement on what was a porous defense last year with a predominantly young roster. Losing their one star player who is still in his prime would be a major blow. With Flores calling the tune of the Vikings defense, there is the potential to see Hunter back to his very best.
2. Christian Darrisaw
After just two seasons, where he has only played in 26 games, putting Darrisaw in at number two shows my excitement for the guy. He is already one of the best offensive tackles in the game. If he can have a clean bill of health in 2023, he has the potential to confirm himself as one of the very best.
Darrisaw has all the tools and dominates opposition players with an almost casual appearance at times. A blend of athleticism and power, Darrisaw can go to top and showed that last season despite concussion issues to follow up an injury-plagued rookie season. He is already great but has so much potential to be even better.
1. Justin Jefferson
Who else? One of the best in the game, the Vikings are lucky to have a genuine bonafide superstar in Jefferson. Jefferson oozes charisma, character, and class both on the pitch and off it. Building your franchise around a wide receiver is not the norm, but Jefferson is so good at everything he does, letting him leave the building is unfathomable.
The list of records, accolades, and awards the Vikings wide-out has continued to grow. The job of the suits in Minnesota is to convince their man that he can win the Super Bowl in the twin cities. Jefferson attained 1400, 1600, and 1800 receiving yards in his first three seasons. Can he continue the 200-yard improvement and break the coveted 2000-yards mark?