PFF recently tweeted out their top defensive players in the NFC North and the Minnesota Vikings claimed four of the top five spots. The Vikings defense has been the staple of the team since Mike Zimmer arrived but there are going to be some new faces in 2020 that will need to step up in order to find success.
The four Vikings that made the top five consist of Anthony Harris, Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and Harrison Smith. Four players that have shown how valuable they are to the Vikings defense but still sometimes go unnoticed by the national analysts.
With all of the departures on the team’s defense this offseason, having returning veterans with above average talent will be critical for early success with a limited offseason. There will be new starters on the defensive line and at the cornerback position, but the veteran leadership of the group listed above should help with the learning curve of the team’s defense.
There isn’t a returning starting cornerback for the Vikings, and it’s likely the spots will be taken up by Jeff Gladney, Mike Hughes, Holton Hill or Cameron Dantzler. Zimmer is known for grooming cornerbacks into stars but it will be a lot easier with the top-rated safety duo behind the young core at the position.
Kendricks is coming off an All-Pro season where he still somehow went under the radar and missed out on the Pro Bowl before alternates were selected. His leadership at middle linebacker will help out the new faces in both the run game and in the pass game, as he had the best overall season of his career last year.
The defensive line has been a strong suit for the Vikings with Andre Patterson leading the way over the years. There are going to be some new faces along his defensive line in 2020, with the addition of Michael Pierce and Everson Griffen still not signing anywhere.
Hunter has recorded back to back seasons with 14.5 sacks so it will be important for him to continue his dominance at getting after the quarterback. Michael Pierce and Ifeadi Odenigbo are both likely new starters on the defensive line, so having a dominant player like Hunter will be beneficial to both.
The Vikings defense has had its ups and downs since Zimmer arrived. It nearly got them to the Super Bowl in 2018 but that was stopped by an underwhelming performance in Philadelphia. Since that loss in the NFC Championship game, the play of the defense hasn’t been as great as it was during the regular season that year.
If the Vikings want to find success in a season that looks like a small rebuild, they will need to rely heavily on the four players listed on PFF’s top defensive players in the NFC North. The combination of youthful talent taken in the last few drafts with the veterans in the locker room adds up for an exciting future for the team’s defensive unit.