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Bleacher Report – Vikings

Breaking down the Vikings’ Pro Football Focus grades through 8 weeks

By Matthew Coller

The Minnesota Vikings have received a number of terrific performances en route to a 6-2 record at the midway point of the season. But which individual players does the football analysis website Pro Football Focus see as the drivers of the team’s success? Which players might be underappreciated or overrated? Let’s have a look at the 10 most interesting PFF grades:

Side note on PFF: 29 NFL teams have contracts with PFF, including the Vikings. Film analysts grade each play based on a scale of -2 to +2, then normalize it to a 1-100 scale.

Offense

RB, Jerick McKinnon

PFF grade: 80.4

Position rank: 12 of 54

Since Dalvin Cook went down for the year with an ACL tear, McKinnon has been the Vikings’ main weapon out of the backfield. Over the last four games, he’s averaged 4.4 yards per carry and caught 20 passes at 8.1 yards per catch. What might come as a surprise is that McKinnon ranks 15th in pass protection – something he was not known for in the past.

WR, Stefon Diggs

PFF grade: 83.6

Position rank: 6

A groin injury has slowed Diggs’ fantastic season. In his first four games, the Vikings’ receiver grabbed 22 passes on 32 targets for 391 yards (17.8 yards per catch) and nabbed four touchdowns. More impressive is the degree of difficulty of some of Diggs’ receptions. He was often asked to make adjustments to the ball or win 50-50 battles and routinely came down with big plays. Getting Diggs back to 100% will be vital to the Vikings keeping up their successful passing game.

WR, Adam Thielen

PFF grade: 83.1

Position rank: 9 of 109

Thielen has followed up a terrific 2016 season with another strong performance. He’s been asked to take over the No. 1 receiver spot with Diggs on the shelf and has been up to the challenge, grabbing nine catches against the Packers and five vs. the Ravens. Like Diggs, Thielen’s outstanding route running and ability to make adjustments to throws has pushed his grade into the top 10.

TE, Kyle Rudolph

PFF grade: 76.7

Position rank: 8 of 109

Here’s where traditional numbers can be deceiving: Kyle Rudolph is averaging fewer yards per catch and fewer receptions per game than last season, but he’s having a better year in 2017. His catch percentage is up to 68.1% and Rudolph has gained a first down on nine of 13 third down targets. Last year, he was targeted 44 times on third down and only had 17 first downs. He’s been a key part of the screen game and a threat in the red zone.

LT, Riley Reiff

PFF Grade: 75.1

Position rank: 25 of 74

The Vikings’ left tackle hasn’t allowed a sack yet this season. Even if we weren’t comparing him to last year’s rotation of replacement-level players, that would be impressive. Reiff has brought a toughness and character to the line that was lacking and mobility that plays well in the screen game. The former Lion has turned out to be one of the NFL’s best offseason signings.

C, Pat Elflein

PFF grade: 42.6

Position rank: 30 of 36

Adjusting from college to the NFL, Elflein has done a terrific job. He’s brought mobility in the screen game that has become a centerpiece of the Vikings’ passing game. The former Ohio State star’s poor grade can be pretty easily explained by the fact that he’s faced some very, very good competition in the middle, including Cameron Heyward, Gerald McCoy, Akiem Hicks, Mike Daniels and Brandon Williams.

Other notable offensive player PFF ranks:

QB, Case Keenum: 15 of 34

  • Finding a backup QB who can rank 15th when called upon for extended duty is an impressive feat

RT, Mike Remmers: 14 or 74

  • Like Reiff, Remmers has been a huge difference maker, especially in the run game.

RG, Joe Berger: 22 of 78

  • Age does not matter for Berger and neither does position, apparently.

WR, Laquon Treadwell: 93 of 109

  • 12 receptions on 21 targets so far this year. It’s an improvement from last year, but Treadwell hasn’t made a major impact.

RB, Latavius Murray, 49 of 54

  • Murray has shown flashes when used in power schemes. He and McKinnon overall have been a successful tandem.

Defense

Danielle Hunter

PFF grade: 83.0

Position rank: 22 of 108

Hunter is having a sacks-don’t-tell-the-story season. Taking over as the full-time starter, the Vikings’ defensive end has routinely pressured opposing quarterbacks and played a major role in run stuffing, ranking 17th against the run. There’s another factor: Everson Griffen keeps getting to the QB first.

S, Harrison Smith

PFF grade: 94.1

Position rank: 1

The Vikings’ highest rated player shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Smith is playing at a superstar levl, making plays in every facet of the game. He’s made key interceptions, blown up run plays, sacked the quarterback and generally caused havoc for opposing quarterbacks. There are few players over the last decade that match Smith’s skill set and instincts.

CB, Xavier Rhodes

PFF grade: 83.2

Rank: 18

After signing a contract extension this offseason, Rhodes drew the assignment of facing Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown and Mike Evans to start the season. He shut them down. Since then, opposing teams have been downright terrified to throw the ball his way. Football Outsiders’ tracking data lists Rhodes as being targeted just 33 times – 30 less than the most targeted CB in the league. He’s allowed just 5.4 yards per attempt on throws in his direction.

CB, Trae Waynes

PFF grade: 73.6

Rank: 60

A rocky start to the season dragged Waynes’ grade down, but he’s been solid since Week 3 despite being the focus of opposing teams with Rhodes shutting down their No. 1 receivers. Mike Zimmer has shown a lot of trust in Waynes, using him on around 90% of snaps as the No. 2 corner and moving Terence Newman to nickel. No doubt he will be tested by opponents down the stretch.

LB, Anthony Barr

PFF grade: 84.8

Rank: 6

The difference between the Vikings being a good defense and great defense is Anthony Barr. He ranks among the best in the league in run defense, coverage and pass rushing. Last season, he was one of the lowest ranked cover LBs in the NFL, but this season he’s done an especially good job against running backs coming out of the backfield. Now 2016 looks like just a blip on the radar of a terrific career. If Barr continues to play at this level, a contract extension seems like a foregone conclusion.

Other defensive position ranks:

DE, Everson Griffen: 8 of 108

  • Griffen was already an elite player at his position, but he’s playing the best football of his career with 10 sacks through eight games. He’s also No. 1 in the NFL in pressures.

DT, Linval Joseph: 6

  • Everything on the D-line starts with Joseph dominating the middle. He isn’t just a run-stopping nose tackle, Joseph also ranks

CB, Terence Newman: 39

  • Age is just a number. How many corners could switch positions at age 39 and still play at an above-average NFL level?

S, Andrew Sendejo: 53

  • As per usual, Sendejo has been solid alongside Harrison Smith.

LB, Eric Kendricks: 45

  • Kendricks’ grade is complicated. He’s one of the best cover LBs in the NFL, but a few missed tackles have dragged down his run grade.

DT, Shamar Stephen: 65

  • Stephen has taken a big step forward after last season

DT, Tom Johnson, 78

  • As you might expect, Johnson has been decent rushing the passer and overall a solid fill-in for Sharrif Floyd

The post Breaking down the Vikings’ Pro Football Focus grades through 8 weeks appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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