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Lunchbreak: Harrison Smith Ranked by PFF as No. 3 Player in NFL

Posted Feb 9, 2018

Harrison Smith received First-Team All-Pro honors after his 2017 performance, and he also was named to his third career Pro Bowl (after initially being snubbed).

Analytics site has paid attention to Smith all season, consistently grading him as the league’s top safety, and this week Sam Monson pegged Smith third overall in PFF’s annual “Top 101 Players” list. Monson said that Smith was the NFL’s best player across all positions during the regular season, but he “dropped a couple of spots” on the list after the Vikings struggled defensively against the Eagles in the NFC Championship game. Monson wrote:

That shouldn’t take away from how spectacular he was in the previous 17 games, though, as he was the game’s best safety and the joker that allowed the Vikings defense to be so multiple schematically and so good overall. Smith played all over that defense, making plays as a strong safety, deep-lying free safety and a slot corner, giving the Vikings a legitimate matchup weapon on defense.

PFF Elite Stat: In the regular season, Smith was top-15 among safeties in run-stop percentage, tackling efficiency, yards per cover snap allowed and pass-rushing productivity.

Coming in at Nos. 1 and 2 on Monson’s list were Rams DT Aaron Donald and Patriots QB Tom Brady.

Smith was the only Vikings player to be ranked by PFF in the top 25. Everson Griffen, Linval Joseph, Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs were all included within the list of top 101.

Smith, Kevin Hart team up for special surprise during Super Bowl week

Smith recently helped give a young boy battling cancer an experience he’ll never forget.

During the week leading up to Super Bowl LII, Smith teamed up with actor/comedian Kevin Hart to surprise Andrew Rojas, who lives with his family in Eagan.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield of WCCO wrote about the special afternoon:

Lately, Rojas has been spending part of his time away from that home, instead staying at the hospital while fighting cancer.

To his surprise, his once modest bedroom was transformed into an ode to his favorite team and favorite player.

Hart first surprised Rojas, who exclaimed that he loved watching Hart in Jumanji, and then Hart threw another curveball when he invited Smith into the now-Vikings-themed room.

“Putting a smile on his face, that was the goal,” Hart said. “Mission accomplished, we are happy.”

When asked about his emotions, Rojas’ face lit up.

“Like two feelings smashed together to make an incredible explosion,” Rojas said. “Like, ‘Hooray my heroes are here.’ ”

Next Gen Stats ranks Keenum 3rd among ‘tight-window’ QBs

On Wednesday, Vikings.com shared an NFL.com article about Diggs topping the list of “tight-window” receivers, according to Next Gen Stats.

Matt Harmon recently released the list of tight-window quarterbacks, and Case Keenum, who connected with Diggs for the “Minneapolis Miracle” in the Divisional round playoff game, came in at No. 3.

Keenum had a completion percentage of 43.6 when throwing to a receiver with less than a yard of separation between him and the defender. His passer rating in such situations was 72.2, which was fourth overall. Harmon wrote:

[Keenum] was one of the best tight-window passers in the game this year, finishing inside the top four in all three statistical categories among qualifying quarterbacks. While the temptation exists to write off this year's data as the result of a fluke season facilitated by a pair of excellent wideouts, the truth is, Keenum has always been a willing gunslinger. Notably, he finished with the sixth-best passer rating on tight-window throws (74.3) back in 2016, as well. A more stable environment helped alleviate the need for Keenum to force the issue as often. He threw just 16.2 percent of his passes into tight windows with the Vikings (falling under the league average), compared to 23 percent with the Rams.

Coming in at Nos. 1 and 2 on the list were Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and Lions QB Matthew Stafford. Behind Keenum were, in order, as follows: Alex Smith (Chiefs), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Deshaun Watson (Texans), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Carson Wentz (Eagles), Carson Palmer (Cardinals) and Tyrod Taylor (Bills).

Watson, Wentz and Palmer all played truncated seasons due to injuries.