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The Vikings ‘Most Underrated’ Player Is a Newcomer


The Vikings 'Most Underrated' Player Is a Newcomer
Jun 7, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Harrison Phillips. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

In a similar vein to Michael Pierce from the 2020 offseason — blossoming starter just needing a longstanding full-time gig to breakout — defensive lineman Harrison Phillips joined the Minnesota Vikings in March.

Pierce didn’t work out for the Vikings because of unavailability, but Phillips, a free agent from the Buffalo Bills, will take a swing at stardom in Minnesota.

And he’s already tabbed as “underrated” by national media. ESPN ranked one player from every NFL team with “most underrated” classification, and for Minnesota, that’s Phillips.

Derrik Klassen from Football Outsiders, by way of ESPN, noted about Phillips, “Phillips blossomed as a player last season, particularly in the run game. He finished eighth in ESPN’s run stop win rate in 2021, placing him just below the Rams’ vaunted duo of Greg Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson. For a Vikings team that finished the 2021 season last in adjusted line yards, second-to-last in ESPN’s run stop win rate and 25th in run defense DVOA, Phillips could make a major impact.”

Oct 3, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Harrison Phillips.Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports.

The aforementioned Pierce jaunted back to his old team, the Baltimore Ravens, during free agency, leaving a sizable void on the Vikings defensive line. Accordingly, with a new general manager in charge, Minnesota moved fast to ink Phillips in free agency on a three-year, $19.5 million deal.

Nicknamed Horrible Harry for his on-the-field persona, Phillips was the first major free-agent addition of the offseason by Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. Bills fans lamented his exodus from Buffalo — usually a good sign for the new team. The Vikings are shifting to a 3-4 defense after 60 years of 4-3 schemes, and Phillips will line up in the middle of Ed Donatell’s defense.

Drafted from the 3rd Round of the 2018 NFL Draft, here’s a peak at Phillips’ Pro Football Focus resume, which indeed coincides with ESPN’s underrated categorization.

Harrison Phillips,
PFF Grades,

2018 = 64.0
2019 = 83.2
2020 = 61.7
2021 = 77.4

First New Free Agent of the Offseason Joins the Vikings
Harrison Phillips

Throughout his brief career, Phillips’ acumen for stopping the run and rushing the passer is fairly balanced, although in 2021, he stopped the run more proficiently than anything else. The Vikings ranked 26th in the NFL last year in rushing yards allowed to opponents.

Indeed, his nickname is Horrible, but that isn’t reflective of his personality. Phillips won the Walter Payton Man of the Year twice consecutively with the Bills. Phillips should also experience more playing time with the Vikings than with the Bills. In 2021 with the Bills, he played on 55% of all defensive snaps, a percentage that figures to spike with the Vikings.

Other underrated players per ESPN? Jayron Kearse from the Dallas Cowboys, Tua Tagovailoa with the Miami Dolphins, and Tim Patrick from the Denver Broncos, among others.

Phillips gets a crack at his old teammates in November when the Vikings travel to Buffalo for a date with Josh Allen’s Bills. Ex-Vikings Stefon Diggs and Case Keenum, authors of The Minneapolis Miracle, are also on the Bills depth chart. So is Dalvn Cook’s brother, James.

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 Sally from Minneapolis. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).


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