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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Breaking down the Vikings’ first quarter Pro Football Focus grades

By Matthew Coller

3.Over the past couple years, Pro Football Focus statistics have made their way into the lexicon of football fans – often to the chagrin of players and coaches. However, 29 of the 32 NFL teams, including the Minnesota Vikings, use PFF stats. So what can their ratings tell us about the Vikings’ first four games? Let’s have a look at the 10 most eye-catching grades:

Defense

Linval Joseph

PFF Grade: 87.1

Position Rank: 7

One benefit of Pro Football Focus’ grades is that they often point us toward underappreciated offensive and defensive linemen. Linval Joseph is an underrated superstar. Over the first four games, his play has been dominant. He’s been the No. 1 reason the Vikings are fourth in the NFL allowing just 3.1 yards per carry against. And unlike many nose tackle, Joseph routinely pressures the quarterback.

Harrison Smith

PFF Grade: 88.7

Rank: 3

On the 1-100 grading system, Smith has only been below 85 once in his career. The Vikings’ star safety is a dynamic talent and one of the center pieces of the team’s defense. Smith has incredible instincts and explosiveness that allows him to excel against the run and pass and be a threat as a blitzer.

Anthony Barr

PFF Grade: 83.5

Rank: 8

After a down year in 2016, Barr has shot right back to 2015 form over the first four games. The Vikings’ 2014 first-round pick has seen a major improvement in his pass coverage grade and has successfully pressured the quarterback when he’s been asked to blitz. Barr has also not allowed opposing running backs/tight ends/receivers to break his tackles. According to Football Outsiders, last season he allowed 23% of his attempted tackles to be broken, but he’s allowed just one this year. Barr’s turnaround is great news for the Vikings’ defense – both short and long term.

Xavier Rhodes

PFF Grade: 62.9

Rank: 59

This one takes some explaining. Rhodes has been spectacular through the first four weeks. He slowed down three fo the best receivers in the NFL in the first three games. But grades don’t adjust for level of competition. So giving up four catches to Antonio Brown in 1-on-1 coverage is the same as giving them up to a fourth tight end by the rating system. Penalties are also a big hit on corners and Rhodes has a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and several pass interferences. What this tells us is: Context is key when analyzing PFF grades.

Trae Waynes

PFF Grade: 45.4

Rank: 84

The Vikings’ defense doesn’t have many down grades, but Waynes’ first two games dragged down his number. He gave up passes late in the Vikings’ win over the Saints and had a nightmarish game against the Steelers, giving up a deep bomb and a 49-yard penalty. Over the last two weeks, he has been much better, slowing down DeSean Jackson and performing well against the Lions. Waynes also ranks as the NFL’s best run stuffer over the first four weeks.

Offense

Riley Reiff

PFF Grade: 75.4

Rank: 21

Having a quality left tackle has been a revelation for the VIkings’ offense. Reiff hasn’t allowed a QB hit or sack in the first four weeks of the season and has been solid in run blocking, opening up a big hole for Dalvin Cook’s touchdown run against the Lions. He’s allowed a handful of pressures, but the improvement has been massive.

Nick Easton

PFF Grade: 39.6

Rank: 63

Making a position switch, Easton had one very bad game against Pittsburgh. Defensive lineman Cameron Heyward put on a show against the Vikings. Otherwise, Easton has lost some 1-on-1 matchups, but has still been a better fit for the running scheme than Alex Boone. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see his grade improve as the year goes along.

Kyle Rudolph

PFF Grade: 75.5

Rank: 12

Fantasy players may be frustrated with Rudolph, but he’s averaging more yards per target than last season and his run blocking has been vastly improved. It may be a combination of better O-linemen helping and effort to become a better blocker. If the Vikings can use Rudolph on downfield and red zone throws as they have early this year, he can be an effective weapon.

Stefon Diggs

PFF Grade: 87.9

Rank: 1

Yes, Diggs is the highest rated receiver in the league and that’s with a couple drops against the Bucs. He’s proven to be terrific on short throws and deep plays and won several 50-50 balls for touchdowns. Diggs’ goal was to put his name among the elite receivers and this year he’s doing it.

The post Breaking down the Vikings’ first quarter Pro Football Focus grades appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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