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4 Vikings Named to SI's Top 100 List

The Vikings open preseason play today in Cincinnati, and a handful of players received national praise before the games get started.

Sports Illustrated released a list of its top 100 NFL players, and a quartet of Vikings were recognized.

Minnesota had three defensive players mentioned in defensive tackle Linval Joseph, linebacker Anthony Barr and safety Harrison Smith, plus running back Adrian Peterson on offense.

Smith, Barr and Peterson ranked in the top 40 of the list.

Smith's ranking of 22 matches his jersey number and was highest among the Vikings. The multi-faceted safety made his first Pro Bowl appearance in 2015 after he recorded 87 tackles (56 solo), six quarterback hurries, three tackles for loss, two interceptions, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble.

Peterson ranked 30th after claiming his third career rushing title in 2015 when he ran for 1,485 yards and added 11 touchdowns.

Sports Illustrated said the durability of Minnesota's all-time leading rusher earned him a spot on the list. Peterson is first among active players with 97 career rushing touchdowns and is second with 11,675 career rushing yards.

When he plays a full 16 games, Peterson is a virtual lock for 1,300 yards and double-digit touchdowns.

Barr came in at No. 39. The third-year linebacker made his first Pro Bowl last season after notching 80 tackles (61 solo), six tackles for loss, 12 quarterback hurries, 3.5 sacks and an interception.

Sports Illustrated praised Barr's ability to rush the quarterback but said that's not the only option is his toolbox.

He is far, far more than a one-trick pony — Pro Football Focus graded him out as the NFL's top pass-rushing 4–3 linebacker, the third-best in coverage and above average against the run. His development has been swift and impressive.

Joseph ranked 79th on the list after recording 71 tackles (43 solo), eight tackles for loss, 26 quarterback hurries and 0.5 sacks in 12 games.

He's one of the league's best run defenders, and when Mike Zimmer sets him up angled towards the center in a Stunt 4–3 look, he's just about guaranteed to blow through protection and create tackles for loss. Joseph is a rising name on what might be the NFL's next great defense.

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Key reasons to be excited about the 2016 Vikings

With a good amount of optimism swirling around the Vikings, Michael Rand of the Star Tribune took a look at the top five reasons to be excited about the franchise entering the 2016 season.

Rand started his list with the Vikings new home of U.S. Bank Stadium, but later said it's the players who will perform inside the sparkling new venue that should have fans screaming at the top of their lungs.

Rand wrote:

The Vikings had a very good defense last year, and there are indications they should be even better this year. One reason is that their young playmakers like Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, etc., are a year older but not a year slower. In fact, they should be even better. The second is that when you look at thedefensive depth chart, they go two-deep with legitimate starters at a lot of positions.

Rand then mentioned Minnesota's running back situation and said the combination of Peterson, Jerick McKinnon and Matt Asiata should give defenses headaches.

But he said the direction Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer has the Vikings headed, not to mention that Minnesota seems built for the future, are a pair of solid reasons that the purple faithful should be excited for the 2016 season. Those two key elements were Rand's final two items on his list.

I still read every Zimmer quote sheet the Vikings send out because he fascinates me. It's still a little too early to fully assess Zimmer's place in the NFL's head coaching pecking order, but all indications are the Vikings have a very good head coach — and perhaps the perfect coach for their roster (not to mention for their fan base).

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