The Vikings finished 13-4 last season under first-year Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.
How will they fare in 2023?
Analytics site Pro Football Focus recently ranked all 32 teams by roster strength and listed biggest strength, biggest weakness, the team's "x-factor," rookie to watch and over/under win total.
PFF's Dalton Wasserman and Jim Wyman slated Minnesota at the middle of the pack at No. 16 and said the biggest strength in 2023 is the Vikings passing game. They wrote:
Kirk Cousins and company were often left to carry the load in shootouts last season. The Vikings had unprecedented success in close games. Cousins was solid with a 77.7 passing grade on the year. Justin Jefferson is arguably the best receiver in the game.
Wasserman and Wyman noted K.J. Osborn and T.J. Hockenson as additional big-name targets and said Christian Darrisaw and Brian O'Neill were "two of the best pass blockers at their respective tackle positions."
They also named first-round draft pick Jordan Addison as the Vikings "rookie to watch," saying Osborn could "profile better as a third option" in the pass game.
Addison, the 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner, brings talent that should make him an excellent second fiddle to Jefferson. He's an excellent route runner with the versatility to play inside or outside. A Rookie of the Year-type season would decrease the number of double teams on Jefferson and make Minnesota's offense very dangerous.
PFF opined that coverage is Minnesota's biggest weakness in 2023, but the defense could be helped by the projected X-factor for this season: cornerback Byron Murphy, Jr., whom the Vikings signed in free agency.
The former Arizona Cardinal looks to bring some stability to a Minnesota secondary that desperately needs it. Murphy posted a career-high 66.7 overall grade last season before missing the last nine weeks with a back injury. If healthy, he is a good fit for a zone-heavy defense that needs a leader on the back end.
Lastly, Wasserman and Wyman predicted Minnesota to win nine games in its second season under O'Connell. They don't believe the Vikings will reach 13 wins again but said they should "still finish over .500."
They likely need to finish 4-2 in the NFC North and at least 3-1 against the NFC South. Grind out a couple more wins after that, and you have nine — a reasonable expectation.
View exclusive photos from the final two weeks of 2023 OTA practices, shot by Vikings Team Photographer Andy Kenutis.
ESPN's Barnwell Herds GOATs
Roughly six weeks before NFL training camps are in full bloom, ESPN's Bill Barnwell posed the question, "How many NFL players lining up in 2023 have a shot at being the best at their position in league history?"
It's simple language with complicated answers in determining the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) players.
Barnwell admitted as much up front, writing the following:
The players with the best chance of chasing down the best at their position typically are young and productive, which means we have to project a decade or even two into the future to estimate whether they have any realistic hope of making history.
Obviously, this is all subjective, so my feelings won't necessarily be in line with yours or anyone else's. I've leaned on cumulative production and measures of how players were seen in their time, such as first-team All-Pro appearances, with added bonuses for what they did in the postseason. Some observers might want to lean on the numbers and others might focus more heavily on playoff success. There's no right answer here.
At receiver, Barnwell slotted Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice as the GOAT. Rice has the most receptions and receiving yards in NFL history, a whopping 22,895 of the latter that is more than 5,400 above Larry Fitzgerald.
Barnwell said current Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson's fast start to his career — 4,825 yards in his first three seasons — give him the best chance of any active player to catch Rice.
Jefferson, who will be playing his age-24 season in 2023, still has so much more work to do to stay aligned with Rice, let alone surpass the legendary wideout. After an Offensive Player of the Year season a year ago, he now has averaged 1,608 receiving yards a year. If things break right and he is somehow able to both stay healthy and keep up that level of production on an annual basis, he would need to sustain that level of play for 12 more seasons to beat Rice. If he slows down, he'll need to continue playing into his late 30s and possibly even into his 40s to chase down Rice.
Vikings Ring of Honor and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Randall McDaniel was one of three GOAT players listed by Barnwell, along with Hon Hannah and Bruce Matthews. He tabbed Cowboys G Zack Martin as the current player with the best chance of supplanting a GOAT guard.
Barnwell also classified former Vikings return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson as the GOAT at kick returner. Minnesota is scheduled to face Patterson on Nov. 5 in Atlanta.