CBS Sports nominated the Minnesota Vikings 2022 roster last week as the 13th-best heading into the new season. The ranking was noteworthy because so far this offseason, popularly accepted power rankings plop the Vikings around the NFL’s 20th-22nd best team.
On Tuesday, ESPN’s Mike Clay exactly echoed the CBS Sports roster ranking, placing Minnesota at 13th. Clay tweeted this as evidence:
So, according to Clay’s ESPN rankings of the Vikings roster, these are the team’s best units from strongest to weakest:
- Running Back
- Wide Receiver
- Interior Defensive Line
- Tight End
- Offensive Line
While the “13th-best” designation is probably greeted with a grin by Vikings fans, the makeup of Clay’s unit grade is a little odd. Most onlookers of the team would surmise the offensive line or tight end group as weaker than the cornerbacks.
Until now, the Vikings weren’t widely viewed with a “cornerback problem,” showcasing Patrick Peterson, Cameron Dantzler, Chandon Sullivan, and rookies Andrew Booth and Akayleb Evans. Clay portrays the Vikings CB unit as the eight-worst leaguewide.
On that front, we shall see. Much of the “what-if” on Minnesota’s CBs boils down to the health of Peterson and Dantzler, plus immediate contributions from Booth and Evans.
The fruition of this 13th-best roster described by Clay comes down to three main items (13th-best would indicate a playoff trip in 2022). Foremost, the Vikings new head coach, Kevin O’Connell, must be good at his job out of the gate. Sometimes new skippers, especially first-timers, need time to acclimate to the league. Because the Vikings have renewed all-in stakes once again, O’Connell is tasked with job excellence right away.
Next, O’Connell has to unlock Kirk Cousins as he did, with Sean McVay’s help, Matthew Stafford in Los Angeles. Cousins provides consistent and impressive stats annually, but those have produced a 59-59-2 career record for his teams. Minnesota needs the Stafford rebranding for Cousins in 2022.
After that, O’Connell, an offensive-minded head coach, must generate a Vikings defense that does not collapse in crucial spots of games. Minnesota allowed a historically bad total of points to opponents in the final two minutes of halves last year, undoing any chance at the postseason. If one magically erased the Vikings points allowed in the final two minutes of halves last year, the team would’ve been 13-4 for wins and losses. Indeed, that is classic revisionist history, but it does uplift the degree of futility experienced by Mike Zimmer’s defense during his final campaign.
O’Connell jelling as a head coach instantly, Cousins performing at a level comparable to 2021 Stafford, and the Vikings defense not looking moronic at the most critical times — that’s how the franchise can actionize the 13th-best record per Clay to the postseason tournment.
Some pass protection might help, too.
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).