Technically, the season’s halfway point comes after Week 9, but PFF dropped the midseason report early. They named the highest-graded player, the biggest surprise, and a stat to know of every team. The Vikings are currently 6-1 and the clear favorite to win the NFC North.
The best PFF grade of all Vikings has second-year player Christian Darrisaw with an 85.8 grade. His development was crucial for a much-improved offensive line in both run and pass protection.
The Vikings finally have a stud left tackle, and his name is Christian Darrisaw. The former first-round pick from the 2021 NFL Draft is the third-highest-graded offensive tackle in the league after allowing just two total pressures in the past three games.
Marcus Mosher, PFF
The Vikings selected Darrisaw in the first round of the 2021 draft. He was supposed to fill the gap of Riley Reiff, who handled left tackle duties since 2017. Unfortunately, Darrisaw missed the start of the season after he had to undergo core muscle surgery. Once he made his NFL debut, he showed his enormous potential.
Darrisaw is powerful, technically sound, and athletic. In training camp, coaches raved about the second-year player, and the expectations were high. Comparisons to star left tackle Trent Williams emerged, and Darrisaw was under a lot of pressure. However, he had no problem living up to expectations. He’s bullying people in the running game and is keeping Kirk Cousins clean on passing downs. Darrisaw is a Pro Bowl and All-Pro candidate and is absolutely one of the best offensive tackles in the league.
Za’Darius Smith earned that honor with an 84.4 grade. Not just PFF is surprised but also the Packers. Green Bay cut the star edge rusher in the offseason, despite him still counting $11,424,443 against their cap.
After a back surgery cost him almost all of the 2021 season, there were some legit concerns about whether Smith would ever be a starting-caliber player again. He quickly proved those doubters wrong, as he’s already recorded 8.5 sacks this season.
Marcus Mosher, PFF
Smith has a PFF grade of 84.4. His back problems were a minor gamble for the Vikings because they structured his contract in a team-friendly way. The Vikings could get out of the deal with only a small dead cap hit. However, there’s no need to even think about it, as Smith has regained his old form and is wreaking havoc in the backfield. He was just named NFC Defensive Player of the Month. Smith led the league in sacks with 6.5 and tackles for loss with 8 in October.
He was the first big signing of the new regime, and general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah hit the jackpot. The linebacker is a big reason for the Vikings’ 6-1 start. He’s a great player on the field, and his positive energy is a fantastic addition to the locker room.
Stat to Know
Quarterbacks are completing 73.9% of their passing attempts against the Vikings, the highest rate in the NFL.
Marcus Mosher, PFF
The Vikings hired a new defensive coordinator in the offseason as part of the regime change. Ed Donatell, a former Vic Fangio disciple, brought in a new scheme, which should explain some of the struggles. The scheme allows short completions but takes away most deep passes because the safeties stay high.
Cameron Dantzler, especially, is allowing many short completions on his side and should start to become more confident and play closer to the receiver. The Vikings could also begin to play more press coverage once everyone is getting acclimated to the new defensive system. Once that happens, the new scheme can unleash its full potential.
Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt