Vikings D-Line Ranking Is Forgettable

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports.

The Minnesota Vikings hope to improve a defense from 2022 that dragged the club down and especially exposed its flaws against the New York Giants in the playoffs.

Brian Flores will lead the group in 2023 after defensive coordinator Ed Donatell left the organization a few days following the playoff loss to New York.

Vikings D-Line Ranking Is Forgettable

And heading into 2023, according to Pro Football Focus, the Vikings defensive line personnel is nothing to be too excited about.

Line Ranking Is
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

PFF’s Zoltán Buday recently ranked the NFL’s defensive line groups, and the Vikings checked in at 17th place. The defensive line will be headlined by Danielle Hunter — if he isn’t traded — and Marcus Davenport on the edges, with Harrison Phillips, Khyiris Tonga, and Dean Lowry in the middle, at least tentatively.

Players like Patrick Jones, D.J. Wonnum, Andre Carter II, Esezi Otomewo, James Lynch, and Jaquelin Roy are on tap for reservist duty.

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports.

Buday explained the Vikings No. 17 placement, “Minnesota’s defensive line has a lot of new and interesting pieces, but it is yet to be seen whether its best player, edge defender Danielle Hunter, will still be on the team in September.”

Hunter didn’t attend mandatory minicamp a couple of weeks ago, holding out for a new contract. He may be extended by the Vikings this summer or traded to the highest bidder.

Explained: What to Expect against the Dolphins
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports.

“We have highlighted interior defender Khyiris Tonga as a potential breakout candidate for the Vikings after he graded among the top 15 players at his position in his first season in Minnesota. Free-agent addition Marcus Davenport was also a solid and consistent edge defender in New Orleans, ranking in the top 20 at his position in three of the last four seasons,” Buday concluded.

Tonga indeed is likely on tap for a starter’s role, as last year’s ‘man in the middle,’ Dalvin Tomlinson, joined the Cleveland Browns in free agency. A couple of months later, the Vikings traded EDGE rusher Za’Darius Smith to the Browns, too, after Smith expressed a desire to leave Minnesota.

Minnesota Vikings outside linebacker Marcus Davenport addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Davenport joined the Vikings in March of 2023 after four seasons with the New Orleans Saints.

On the whole, the Vikings defensive trenches should be in decent shape — if Hunter stays for 2023 and beyond. If general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah trades Hunter amid the contract dispute, the Vikings will enter 2023 attempting to rectify a bad 2022 defense while trading the team’s two best pass rushers in Hunter and Smith as a proposed solution — not ideal.

The Vikings ranked 27th last year per pass rush win rate, according to ESPN.


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 Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.