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Harrison Smith Ranked as NFL's No. 2 Free Safety

Harrison Smith's value to the Vikings has been known around Winter Park for quite some time.

Fresh off his first Pro Bowl appearance, the Minnesota safety is getting some national recognition, too.

Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated ranked the top free safeties in the NFL and slotted Smith at No. 2. Only Earl Thomas of Seattle was ranked ahead of Harry the Hitman.

Side note: Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer doesn't classify safeties as free or strong and values versatility at the position.

Burke wrote:

Minnesota coach Mike Zimmer asks the world of Smith, in all facets — Smith notched 66 tackles, two picks and 1.5 sacks in 13 games last season. The Vikings love to blitz, especially through the A-gap and doing so requires the utmost confidence in Smith to plug any resulting holes along the second and third levels. Smith is only getting better, too, which means he could surpass Thomas (if he hasn't already) as the defender 31 other teams wish they had.

Vikings coaches credited Smith with 87 tackles (56 solo), six quarterback hurries, three tackles for loss, two interceptions, 1.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2015.

Burke said Smith's versatility is what makes him elite, especially when safeties are asked to do a wide range of things on the field.

*Safety is a premier position, even more so in a modern NFL that forces players there to handle wildly varying chores from down to down. Need deep help? Slot coverage? An extra blitzer? A little run defense? All of those abilities must be on a safety's resume these days (or there at least must be otherworldly potential in one area). On top of their own duties, safeties have to be cornerbacks and linebackers as well. *

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Barr just misses cut for Top 100 list

Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson was ranked fifth on "NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2016" as the series concluded Wednesday night.

Peterson was the third member of the Vikings to make the list along with Smith and defensive tackle Linval Joseph.

Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr just missed the cut as it was revealed he was voted in at the 101st spot.

Peterson had high praise on the show for Barr, who is entering his third season in the league.

"I remember when we selected him," Peterson said. "I was like, 'Who is Anthony Barr?'

"Being around him now for a couple years, I've seen him do some amazing things," he added. "To be so tall, he gets low and comes through and finishes through his tackles."

Barr made his first Pro Bowl in 2015 after notching 80 tackles and 3.5 sacks.

Peterson thinks he's only going to get better as a key figure in Minnesota's defense.

"He has the potential to be the best linebacker to ever play the game in my eyes," Peterson said.

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