2021 NFL Offseason: Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings (Last Year: 7-9)

2021 NFL Season Preview:

Veteran Additions:
WR Dede Westbrook, C Mason Cole, DE Stephen Weatherly, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, DT Sheldon Richardson, LB Nick Vigil, CB Patrick Peterson, CB Mackensie Alexander, S Xavier Woods.
Early Draft Picks:
OT Christian Darrisaw, QB Kellen Mond, LB Chazz Surratt, G Wyatt Davis, DE Patrick Jones, RB Kene Nwangwu, S Camryn Bynum, DE Janarius Robinson. Vikings Rookie Forecast
Offseason Losses:
RB Mike Boone, TE Kyle Rudolph, OT Riley Reiff, DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, DT Shamar Stephen, LB Eric Wilson, LB Todd Davis, CB Mike Hughes, S Anthony Harris.

2021 Minnesota Vikings Offense:
The Vikings were reportedly planning to draft Justin Fields had he fallen to them in the 2021 NFL Draft, so the front office obviously isn’t thrilled with Kirk Cousins’ performance. Cousins threw for 4,265 yards, 35 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions last year, but posting pretty stats is nothing new for Cousins, who tends to fold in big moments. He’s an average passer who is grossly overpaid. The Vikings must realize by now that they won’t make a deep run into the playoffs with Cousins’ mediocrity and big contract restricting them.

Besides, it’s not like most quarterbacks couldn’t generate great numbers with the arsenal Cousins possesses. It seemed as though the receiving corps was taking a big hit in the wake of Stefon Diggs’ departure last offseason, but Justin Jefferson had an amazing rookie campaign. Jefferson logged 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns despite not playing very much in the first couple of weeks. Jefferson has the potential to be one of the best receivers in the NFL, so he should continue to get better. He’ll draw attention away from the reliable Adam Thielen and athletic tight end Irv Smith Jr., who could see a surge in targets now that Kyle Rudolph is no longer on the roster.

Cousins also has one of the top running backs in the NFL at his disposal. Dalvin Cook is amazing when healthy; he rushed for 1,557 yards and 16 touchdowns in just 14 games last year. The problem is that Cook has yet to play a full NFL season, so it’s a good thing that Alexander Mattison has proven to be a capable backup.

The primary question regarding Minnesota’s offense entering this offseason was the status of the offensive line, especially with left tackle Riley Reiff entering free agency. Reiff defected for Cincinnati, so the Vikings desperately needed to find an upgrade. They whiffed in free agency, but managed to select Christian Darrisaw in the 2021 NFL Draft after trading down. Darrisaw is an athletic tackle, but some teams questioned his toughness and said that there was “something missing with him.” Nevertheless, Darrisaw has immense potential and could emerge as a skilled blind-side protector for Cousins.

The rest of the offensive line has remained intact, which is mostly a good thing. Left guard Dakota Dozier is a liability, but the front office used a third-round pick on Wyatt Davis to potentially serve as a replacement. Minnesota’s other three starting blockers are all under the age of 26, with right tackle Brian O’Neill being the best of the bunch. Center Garrett Bradbury and guard Ezra Cleveland have been just average thus far, but they both have major potential as early draft choices from 2019 and 2020, respectively.

2021 Minnesota Vikings Defense:
Kirk Cousins’ albatross of a contract forced the Vikings to release some talented players. The defensive front saw some skilled players depart in recent years, so the front office had to find some replacements. It did a good job overall in that regard.

The Vikings effectively added three talented free agents to the interior of the defensive line. They signed Dalvin Tomlinson, an important player for the Giants in both run support and the pass rush, and also Sheldon Richardson, a familiar name who also performed well in 2020. Michael Pierce will be starting next to Tomlinson after opting out of the 2020 campaign. Pierce is a monstrous run-stuffer, so he’ll have a very impactful presence on the field.

Pierce wasn’t even the best Minnesota defensive lineman not to play last year, as Danielle Hunter was out for the season with a neck injury. Hunter logged a combined 29 sacks in the prior two seasons, so he was sorely missed. The Vikings didn’t have much opposite of Hunter entering the 2021 NFL Draft besides the mediocre Stephen Weatherly, so they used third- and fourth-round picks on Patrick Jones and Janarius Robinson. Odds are that one of them will be at least somewhat productive.

A better pass rush will certainly help a secondary that has some major question marks. The Vikings were atrocious against the pass last year, so they’ll be looking to improve in that aspect with Patrick Peterson as a potential upgrade. Peterson has been a perennial Pro Bowler throughout his career, but that changed this past season when he was torched mercilessly. Peterson is only 31, so it’s not like he’s too old to revive his career. There’s a chance he could be done, but it’s more likely that he’ll have a resurgence much like Xavier Rhodes in Indianapolis this past season.

Peterson would be slated to start opposite of Jeff Gladney, but the 2020 first-rounder has some major off-the-field problems and could be heading to prison. Luckily for the Vikings, their third-round pick from that class, Cameron Dantzler, exceeded expectations. Meanwhile, Mackensie Alexander, who played for Cincinnati last year after four seasons in Minnesota, has returned to reprise his role as the slot corner.

The middle of the Vikings’ defense contains two Pro Bowlers. Harrison Smith is an excellent safety, while Eric Kendricks is one of the top linebackers in the NFL. There’s not much around these two players, however. Safety Anthony Harris is no longer on the team, so Minnesota will have to use Xavier Woods as a replacement. Woods is a pedestrian player, so the team will be hoping fourth-round rookie Camryn Bynum can challenge him for the job. Meanwhile, fellow rookie Chazz Surratt, chosen in the third frame, might be able to start next to Kendricks. The other primary linebacker is Anthony Barr, who played just two games last year. Barr does some things very well, but can be a liability in coverage.

2021 Minnesota Vikings Schedule and Intangibles:
The Vikings have endured kicking issues for years. They’re going to have Greg Joseph and Zach Von Rosenberg compete for the job.

Punter Britton Colquitt saw his net average plummet from sixth in 2019 to 29th in 2020.

The Vikings surrendered a touchdown on special teams, while scoring none of their own.

Minnesota has a balanced schedule in 2021. It has a third-place slate and will battle the weak teams in its division, but it also has to take on the NFC West and AFC North.

2021 Minnesota Vikings Rookies:
Go here for the Vikings Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.

2021 Minnesota Vikings Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
Offensive Line
Running Backs
Defensive Line
Special Teams

2021 Minnesota Vikings Analysis: Despite the Vikings being eager to replace Kirk Cousins, they seem like the favorite in the NFC North as long as Aaron Rodgers is traded. With a much healthier front seven and an improving Justin Jefferson, they should be able to win the division, though a deep playoff run doesn’t seem very likely.

Projection: 8-9 (2nd in NFC North)

2020 Projection: 9-7. 2020 Actual Result: 7-9.
2019 Projection: 7-9. 2019 Actual Result: 10-6.
2018 Projection: 9-7. 2018 Actual Result: 8-7-1.
2017 Projection: 8-8. 2017 Actual Result: 13-3.
2016 Projection: 11-5. 2016 Actual Result: 8-8.

NFL Draft Team Grade: B+ Grade

Goals Entering the 2021 NFL Draft: The Vikings have seen lots of talent depart in recent offseasons, thanks to Kirk Cousins’ albatross of a contract. They need to nail their draft picks once again. Their primary needs at tackle, defensive end, cornerback and safety. The former will likely be addressed in the first round.

2021 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I imagine the Vikings were hoping Rashawn Slater would fall to them at No. 14. That nearly happened, but the Chargers ruined their plans. With Slater gone, Christian Darrisaw was the top tackle who fit what Minnesota looks for from offensive tackles, but it was a bit too early to pick him with the 14th-overall choice. Minnesota correctly trade down nine spots, and it still managed to land Darrisaw, which was a terrific outcome for them.

The Vikings continued t have a strong draft after that. Of their first nine picks, seven of them scored either a B+ or a “B” grade. The Vikings did a good job of filling their needs, with Wyatt Davis providing anther offensive line upgrade; Patrick Jones and Janarius Robinson filling holes on a depleted defensive front; and Camryn Bynum possibly helping a secondary that was torched mercilessly last year. Meanwhile, the Vikings also obtained someone who could be their quarterback of the future in Kellen Mond. The third-round rookie might be able to supplant Kirk Cousins in 2022, which is something Minnesota must root for, thanks to Cousins’ ghastly contract.

Given that most of the Vikings’ picks earned grades in the B+/B range, it only makes sense for their overall grade to be in that area as well. As with the Giants’ grade, the tie-breaker will be the trade that allowed the Vikings to acquire several needed resources.

NFL Draft Individual Grades:

23. Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech – B Grade
How can you not like this value for the Vikings? I thought Christian Darrisaw would be their pick at No. 14 if Rashawn Slater happened to be off the board. He’s long and athletic, which is exactly what Minnesota looks for from its offensive linemen. However, several teams told us that there’s “something missing with Darrisaw.” Some teams think he lacks toughness, which would worry me. Still, this is a good value selection.

66. Kellen Mond, QB, Texas A&M – B+ Grade
Kellen Mond’s accruacy is a concern, but he’s a strong-armed quarterback with plenty of upside. Kirk Cousins is overrated and overpaid, so he doesn’t seem like he can consistently lead the Vikings deep into the playoffs. The Vikings will be hoping that Mond can overtake him in 2022, which will allow Minnesota to get out of Cousins’ albatross of a contract.

78. Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina – B+ Grade
I suspected the Vikings would address their linebacker situation after they struggled so much in that regard once Eric Kendricks got hurt there last year. Chazz Surratt is a versatile player who can rush the passer and make plays in coverage. This is a solid choice, as Surratt could’ve gone in the second round without many complaints.

86. Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State – B+ Grade
The Vikings are doing a good job of bolstering their offensive line, which is something they sorely needed to do. Wyatt Davis has some trouble with interior speed rushes, but he’s a powerful blocker who will blast open huge running lanes for Dalvin Cook. I had Wyatt Davis at the end of the second round, so I like this value.

90. Patrick Jones, DE, Pittsburgh – B+ Grade
The Vikings lost several edge rushers in recent offseasons, so it made sense for them to acquire someone like Patrick Jones. The Pittsburgh product has great pass-rushing upside, but he needs to get stronger for the NFL. He’s not quite there yet, but he could be a stud one day.

119. Kene Nwangwu, RB, Iowa State – F Grade
What a waste of a pick. I get that the Vikings lost the Walter Payton of the preseason, Mike Boone, but they still had Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison on the roster. I didn’t even have Kene Nwangwu being drafted, so there were better running backs available.

125. Camryn Bynum, S, California – B Grade
It’s interesting that the Vikings announced Camryn Bynum as a safety because I had him pegged as a cornerback. Bynum is a solid, smart player who will potentially fill a huge need the Vikings have in their secondary next to Harrison Smith, thanks to Anthony Harris’ departure.

134. Janarius Robinson, DE, Florida State – A- Grade
The Vikings have lost so many edge rushers in the past couple of offseasons, so they needed to find as many players as possible to get after the quarterback to beat Aaron Rod-, erm- Jordan Love. Janarius Robinson is an explosive athlete with high potential, and I’ve had him mocked around this range, so this is a solid pick.

157. Ihmir Smith-Marsette, WR, Iowa – B Grade
Ihmir Smith-Marsette is a speedy receiver who actually fills a slight need for the Vikings. Minnesota obviously has two studs at the position, but nothing else, so insurance was needed. This is about the right range fr Smith-Marsette, who generated some buzz in the final couple of months of the pre-draft process.

168. Zach Davidson, TE, Central Missouri – C Grade
Zach Davidson is a very good athlete, so while I never had him in my mock draft, he’s at least intriguing. Perhaps he can become a productive tight end for the Vikings in the wake of Kyle Rudolph’s departure.

199. Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh – C- Grade
It makes sense that the Vikings would obtain another defensive lineman after losing so many players in that area. However, Jaylen Twyman is not someone I thought would be drafted, as I had him predicted as a UDFA.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

Season Summary:
The Vikings endured countless injuries to their defense, preventing them from reaching the playoffs once again. The silver lining is that they discovered that they have a new stud offensive player in Justin Jefferson.

Offseason Moves:
  • Vikings sign DT Sheldon Richardson
  • Vikings sign CB Bashaud Breeland
  • Vikings sign S Xavier Woods
  • Vikings sign CB Mackensie Alexander
  • Vikings acquire C Mason Cole from Cardinals
  • Vikings sign CB Patrick Peterson
  • Vikings sign LB Nick Vigil
  • Vikings sign DT Dalvin Tomlinson
  • Vikings sign DE Stephen Weatherly

    Team Needs:
    1. Defensive Tackle: Remember when the Vikings always had two stud defensive tackles? That was far from the case in 2020. Things will get better with Michael Pierce returning from vacation, but more help is needed at the position. Signed Dalvin Tomlinson and Sheldon Richardson

    2. Defensive End: Danielle Hunter will return next year, but the Vikings will still have to find another edge rusher to replace the departed Yannick Ngakoue. Signed Stephen Weatherly

    3. Left Tackle: Riley Reiff is the latest victim of Kirk Cousins’ terrible contract.

    4. Guard: Ezra Cleveland had a nice rookie year, but the Vikings still need another guard to bolster the offensive line. Traded for Mason Cole

    5. Linebacker: Minnesota will need another linebacker if it doesn’t re-sign Eric Wilson. Signed Nick Vigil

    6. Safety: Anthony Harris regressed last year, but he’ll still need to be replaced if he leaves via free agency. Signed Xavier Woods

    7. Cornerback Depth: The Vikings couldn’t cover anyone last year. Injuries were a problem, so depth should be acquired. Signed Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander

    8. Kicker: Dan Bailey hit just 68.2 percent of his field goals last year (15-of-22) and he missed six extra points.

      Follow me @walterfootball for updates.

    2021 NFL Free Agent Signings:
    1. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Giants. Age: 27.
      Signed with Vikings (2 years, $22 million)

      Dalvin Tomlinson is a monstrous run stuffer who is capable of generating decent pressure on the quarterback.

    2. Patrick Peterson, CB, Cardinals. Age: 31.
      Signed with Vikings (1 year, $10 million)

      Patrick Peterson slowed down last year, as he clearly wasn’t the same dominant corner as usual. Age is becoming an issue, though at 31, Peterson could still have some good years remaining.

    3. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Browns. Age: 30.
      Signed with Vikings (1 year)

      Sheldon Richardson was cut for financial reasons; he performed on a high level in 2020, both as a pass rusher and a run supporter. He turns 31 in November.

    4. Xavier Woods, S, Cowboys. Age: 26.
      Signed with Vikings (1 year, $2.25 million)

      Xavier Woods was a decent starting safety for the Cowboys last year, covering well but struggling with some missed tackles. He’s only 26, so there’s room for improvement.

    5. Dede Westbrook, WR, Jaguars. Age: 27.
      Signed with Vikings

      Dede Westbrook played just two games in 2020 because of a torn ACL. He has some nice ability, and he’s still relatively young (27), so he could be a nice option in the slot for his next team.

    6. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Bengals. Age: 27.
      Signed with Vikings

      Mackensie Alexander did a solid job as Cincinnati’s slot receiver in his first year with the Bengals.

    7. Baushad Breeland, CB, Chiefs. Age: 29.
      Signed with Vikings

      Baushad Breeland is an inconsistent cornerback who rebounded well from a down 2019. He missed the first four games with a suspension and then went on to cover well in 2020.

    8. Stephen Weatherly, DE, Panthers. Age: 27. — Signed with Vikings
    9. Nick Vigil, LB, Chargers. Age: 28. — Signed with Vikings (1 year)

    Minnesota Vikings Free Agents:

    Salary Cap: TBA.
    1. Anthony Harris, S, Vikings. Age: 29.
      Signed with Eagles (1 year, $5 million)

      Anthony Harris was coming off an amazing 2019 campaign when he entered free agency last spring. The Vikings could have given him a huge contract, but they franchised him instead. This turned out to be a good decision because Harris regressed. He wasn’t bad, but he was far from the dominant player he was prior to 2020.

    2. Kyle Rudolph, TE, Vikings. Age: 31.
      Signed with Vikings (2 years, $16 million)

      Kyle Rudolph is past his prime, but he’s still a solid receiver and great blocker. His numbers were down last year because he blocked so much.

    3. Riley Reiff, OT, Vikings. Age: 32.
      Signed with Bengals

      The latest victim of Kirk Cousins’ terrible contract, Riley Reiff had a solid 2020 campaign, but had to be let go due to Minnesota’s cap woes. Reiff is on the decline at 32, but he can still be a solid starter for the next year or two.

    4. Eric Wilson, LB, Vikings. Age: 26.
      Signed with Eagles

      Eric Wilson performed somewhat positively as the Vikings’ third linebacker (and then second linebacker when Anthony Barr got hurt.) He missed too many tackles, but covered well. He’s only 26, so he should be able to improve.

    5. Ifeadi Odenigbo (RFA), DE, Vikings. Age: 27.
      Signed with Giants

      Ifeadi Odenigbo had lots of potential heading into 2020 because he had seven sacks the year before. However, his sack total was sliced in half this past season.

    6. Mike Boone (RFA), RB, Vikings. Age: 26.
      Signed with Broncos (2 years, $2.6 million)

      Known as the Walter Payton of the NFL preseason, Mike Boone deserves a chance to compete as a high-end backup somewhere.

    7. Todd Davis, LB, Vikings. Age: 31.
    8. Dakota Dozier, OT, Vikings. Age: 30. — Re-signed with Vikings (1 year)
    9. Shamar Stephen, DT, Vikings. Age: 30. — Signed with Broncos
    10. Rashod Hill, G, Vikings. Age: 29. — Re-signed with Vikings (1 year)
    11. Brett Jones, C, Vikings. Age: 30. — Signed with Broncos
    12. Jaleel Johnson, DT, Vikings. Age: 27.
    13. Dan Bailey, K, Vikings. Age: 33.
    14. George Iloka, S, Vikings. Age: 31.
    15. Sean Mannion, QB, Vikings. Age: 29.

    NFL Free Agent Tracker:
    QB | RB | FB | WR | TE | OT | G | C | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S | K/P | FA Grades | FA Rumors

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