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Lunchbreak: Cook, Kendricks & Jefferson Ace The Athletic's Report Card

The 2021 offseason is underway in Minnesota, as the Vikings will soon turn their focus to free agency and the draft in the coming months.

The first item on the to-do list, however, is to evaluate a 2020 season in which the Vikings finished 7-9 and in third place in the NFC North.

Chad Graff of The Athletic recently did his own exercise in that area, as he went through the Vikings roster and graded each player who saw significant snaps this past season.

Graff handed out an "A" grade or better to five players, with rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson topping all players with an "A+" mark.

Graff wrote:

There was a chance trading Stefon Diggs would look really, really bad for the Vikings. A first-round pick is no sure thing, and the Vikings gave up Diggs only because he wasn't happy with the direction of the offense.

Instead, Jefferson made the trade work wonders for the Vikings. Even without starting the first two games of the season, Jefferson put together the best season in terms of yards for any rookie receiver in the modern era. He's destined to be a star in the NFL for years to come. It's hard to say enough good things about Jefferson.

The 2020 first-round pick out of LSU had 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven scores. Jefferson set the record for yards by a rookie in the Super Bowl era and the Vikings rookie record for receptions.

Dalvin Cook, C.J. Ham and Adam Thielen earned "A" grades from Graff on the offensive side of the ball.

Graff wrote:

Cook missed two games this season (one because of injury, one following the death of his father), but in between showed that he's the best all-around running back in the NFL. Even while missing those games, Cook amassed 1,557 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. He did everything the Vikings asked, and the offense ran through him.

The Vikings rely on a fullback more than most teams and they've got one of the best in the league. Ham opened up holes for Cook and added 97 receiving yards, too.

Cook and Ham helped the Vikings offense rank fifth in rushing with 142.7 yards per game.

Thielen finished with 74 catches for 925 yards and 14 scores. Graff wrote:

Thielen finished with the third-most receiving touchdowns in the NFL, hauling in 14 in 15 games. He didn't reach 1,000 receiving yards, but that was more a byproduct of the team's run-focused offense. He's still a very, very good receiver.

Eric Kendricks was the lone Vikings defensive player to earn an "A" for his play in 2020.

He may not have been as good as last season, but he still put together a great campaign in the 11 games he played in. He's a great coverage linebacker and helps keep the team's defense together. It's noteworthy that the defense really unraveled after Kendricks suffered his calf injury.

Graff's full report card can be found here.

4 Vikings make Pro Football Journal's All-Rookie Team

The Vikings drafted 15 players in 2020, and nearly all of them saw the field in their rookie season.

A quartet was recently named to Pro Football Journal’s All-Rookie Team, which was compiled by Chris Willis of NFL Films.

Jefferson was a First-Team selection, and he also shared Offensive Rookie of the Year honors with Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert.

Cornerback Jeff Gladney (first-round pick) and defensive end D.J. Wonnum (fourth-round pick) were honored as Second-Team selections at their positions.

Gladney played 958 of 1,074 defensive snaps (89.20 percent) in 2020, starting 15 games after being the 31st overall pick in the draft. He had three passes defensed, seven tackles for loss and a forced fumble.

Wonnum played 471 defensive snaps (43.85 percent) in his rookie season. He recorded 3.0 sacks, a forced fumble and five tackles for loss in 14 games (with two starts).

Vikings safety Josh Metellus, a sixth-round pick, was a Second-Team selection on special teams. He led Minnesota with 261 total snaps in that phase and had a pair of fumble recoveries.