With the Vikings OTAs and minicamp now in the books, there's already plenty to be excited about regarding Brian Flores' defense.
The new defensive coordinator's system has been described as exotic, intense and challenging by offensive coaches and players, who are grateful for the work they've gotten against it this spring and summer.
Minnesota's hiring of Flores has been praised far outside the building, as well. Recently, Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports called it the Vikings best move of the offseason. He wrote:
Flores turned the Miami Dolphins defense around in two seasons and helped the Pittsburgh Steelers defense to top-10 rankings in opponent points per game, opponent rushing yards per game, passes defensed and interceptions. The Steelers run defense also [was] tied for the fewest run touchdowns allowed in 2022.
Kerr highlighted offseason moves for each NFC team, so let's take a look at what he's liked in the NFC North. He opined that Chicago's best move was trading down from the No. 1 pick and getting DJ Moore as part of that package.
View photos of Vikings players during minicamp at the TCO Performance Center.
Kerr said the Bears effectively "made a statement to Justin Fields as their franchise quarterback" by giving him a playmaker like Moore.
Fields has a No. 1 wide receiver in Moore, along with Darnell Mooney as a deep ball wideout as his No. 2. If only Chase Claypool can turn things around, Fields has a good trio of wide receivers for 2023.
The Bears also received the No. 9 pick, the No. 61 pick (second round), a 2024 first-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick in addition to Moore. Chicago improved the offensive line by trading down from No. 9 and selecting Darnell Wright, then moved up to No. 56 on draft night and selected cornerback Tyrique Stevenson.
Chicago also has Carolina's first round pick for 2024 and second round pick for 2025, setting themselves up to get a more complete roster around Fields.
In Detroit, Kerr said the Lions "revamped their secondary with cost-efficient moves," while the Packers "received premium draft capital for Aaron Rodgers.
Green Bay traded Rodgers to New York and received a 2023 first-round pick (No. 13), a 2023 second-round pick (No. 42) and a 2023 sixth-round pick (No. 207) and a conditional 2024 second-round pick in exchange for Rodgers and a 2023 first-round pick (No. 15) and a 2023 fifth-round pick (No. 170).
Here's the kicker. That 2024 second-round pick becomes a first-round pick if Rodgers plays 65 [percent] of the snaps this season. As for the Packers picks, they selected edge rusher Lukas Van Ness at No. 13 and tight end Luke Musgrave at No. 42. The pass rush improved with an ascending player in Van Ness and a strong pass catcher in Musgrave – another young [receiving target] for Jordan Love.
Jefferson remains a 'dark horse candidate' for NFL MVP
Can Justin Jefferson really be called a "sleeper" for anything?
Turns out he can be, when you're talking about an award that has never been given to a wide receiver.
I know: No wide receiver has ever won MVP. Shoot, the position rarely draws many votes. But Jefferson is clearly no ordinary wideout. Look at his first three years of NFL production:
2020: 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns
2021: 108 catches for 1,616 yards and 10 touchdowns
2022: 128 catches for 1,809 yards and eight touchdowns
Good grief – what a baller! And if that yardage trend continues, Jefferson could become the league's first 2,000-yard receiver. I could see it happening, as I wrote a couple weeks ago. With star RB Dalvin Cook gone and Pro Bowl QB Kirk Cousins in a contract year, Minnesota could really let it fly through the air – especially with this being Cousins' second year under [Head Coach] Kevin O'Connell.
If Cousins enjoys one of his best seasons, Jefferson could produce one of the greatest wideout campaigns ever. And if the Vikings make the playoffs again, that could be enough for Jefferson to make MVP history.
Schein noted that according to Vegas, the eight "most likely" MVPs are Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Trevor Lawrence and Aaron Rodgers.
Will Jefferson help the league buck the QB-as-MVP trend and become the first non-QB since Adrian Peterson in 2012? Time will tell.