One week of U.S. Bank Vikings Training Camp down means one week closer to the 2021 regular season.
In anticipation of this year's campaign, NFL.com's Nick Shook tabbed his top 32 “highlight-reel players.” Worth noting is that although he went with 32, he didn't commit to choosing a player from every team. Rather, Shook formed two 16-player groups: The Pantheon and Coming for the Throne.
He included Vikings running back Dalvin Cook among The Pantheon players, calling him Minnesota's "zone-running aficionado." Shook wrote the following:
The former Florida State star has found a perfect fit in Minnesota thanks to the team's offensive scheme, which works seamlessly with Cook's explosive, downhill style. Cook has made the most of this synergy, joining Derrick Henry as the only two players with 10 or more rushing touchdowns on carries inside and outside the tackles since 2019. Like Henry, he's a bowling ball of a back who's difficult to stop once he gets going. Need proof? Cook and Henry were the only two players in the entire league to gain 1,000-plus rushing yards after contact last season, per Pro Football Focus. And we didn't even talk about his threat in the passing game, but a 50-yard screen touchdown (and the other three touchdowns he scored that day) [against the Packers] can summarize his candidacy for us.
Curious who led The Pantheon group? Shook topped his rankings with Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins, whom the Vikings are scheduled to face in Arizona during Week 2.
One needn't look further than last year's "Hail Murray" [against the Bills] for proof of Hopkins' big-play capability, and his potential to create an instant highlight stretches well beyond last-second football miracles. Hopkins rescued the Cardinals with his touchdown catch secured amid a sea of hands, and it was just the latest in a string of highlight-reel grabs that have helped him earn three All-Pro honors and five Pro Bowl selections in his eight NFL seasons. Hopkins is a nightmare for opposing defenses no matter how they approach defending him, tying for the most receiving touchdowns against press coverage since 2016 with 23. And if corners try to back off him at the line, they're liable to get beat deep anyway, with Hopkins scoring 17 times on deep targets, the fifth most in the league.
And in the second grouping, Coming for the Throne, Shook spotlighted another Viking: wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who's entering Year 2 on the heels of a groundbreaking rookie campaign.
Jefferson is on the fast track to The Pantheon after a 1,400-yard rookie season that exceeded every expectation set for him as Stefon Diggs' replacement in Minnesota. He's also responsible for the popularization of "The Griddy" touchdown dance.
Vikings WR corps ranked 6th overall by PFF
While it's not yet clear who will secure Minnesota's third receiver spot, the two starters are more than solidified in Adam Thielen and Jefferson.
View the best wide receiver photos from the 2020 season from Vikings photographers.
Analytics site Pro Football Focus on Monday ranked all 32 teams based on their receiver corps, and PFF's Steve Palazzolo slated Minnesota No. 6 overall. He wrote:
A year ago at this time, no one knew if 2020 first-rounder Justin Jefferson could replace Stefon Diggs, but he did just that and more. Jefferson posted the second-highest grade among receivers at 90.4 overall while ranking eighth in the league with 58 first downs. Jefferson made a smooth transition from college slot receiver to outside receiver in the NFL, and his emergence was the catalyst for Vikings receivers posting the league's highest receiving grade.
Adam Thielen was his usual, dependable self last year, finishing the campaign with an 87.9 receiving grade that was good for seventh in the league. He tied for third with 14 touchdowns, and last year marked the third time in four years he finished with a top-11 receiving grade.
Palazzolo ranked the following teams ahead of Minnesota, from 1-5, respectively: Buccaneers, Cowboys, Chiefs, Bill, Titans.
Watch Vikings Training Camp Live Presented by U.S. Bank
Today's practice will be the first full-pads session of 2021.
It will be simulcast, beginning at 2 p.m. (CT) by FOX 9, KFAN 100.3-FM and the Vikings Radio Network. A livestream on Vikings digital and social platforms (YouTube, Facebook and Twitter), the Vikings mobile and Vikings Now Connected TV apps will begin at 2:15 p.m.
Subscribe to the Vikings YouTube Channel to be notified when practice goes live by clicking here.