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Lunchbreak: Barnwell Believes Vikings Have Top-5 Offensive Arsenal in NFL

The Vikings focused nearly all of their free agency resources on their defense this spring, which wasn't a huge surprise considering the play and depth of that unit in 2020.

The offense was mostly left untouched, and for good reason, according to ESPN NFL writer Bill Barnwell.

Barnwell recently ranked the top offensive arsenals around the league, a list that included all 32 teams but also had some stipulations.

For one, he noted his rankings were by "skill-position talent without including the impact of the quarterback, offensive line or scheme." He also included notes that it was a projection only for the 2021 season, and that wide receivers carried the most weight in his criteria.

But Barnwell is certainly high on the Vikings, as he placed Minnesota fifth overall in terms of talent at the skill positions.

He wrote:

It's hard to think of a trade that looks more like a win-win for both sides after one season than the swap that sent Stefon Diggs to the Bills and allowed the Vikings to draft Justin Jefferson. All Jefferson did was produce one of the most impressive seasons by a rookie receiver in league history, as he led all receivers in yards (1,330) and yards per target (11.0) after entering the starting lineup in Week 3. Adam Thielen's volume suffered, with the veteran losing a little over two targets per game from his 2018 peak, but he still scored a ho-hum 14 touchdowns.

At this point, everybody's on the same page with Dalvin Cook: When the Vikings star running back is healthy, he's right alongside Derrick Henry as the most fearsome back in all of football. Counting on him to be healthy can be dangerous. He missed two games in 2019 and had to leave three more with a shoulder injury. Last season, he … missed a game and a half with a groin issue. Cook does more in 13 or 14 games than most backs do in a full season, but if we ever get to see the 2017 second-rounder piece together a full 17-game campaign, he'd be a threat to hit 2,000 yards.

Jefferson and Thielen are widely regarded as one of the league's top receiver duos, while Cook has certainly proven himself in the elite class of players at his position.

Minnesota's tight ends were not mentioned by Barnwell, but the pairing of Irv Smith, Jr., and Tyler Conklin likely played a role in his rankings. Smith and Conklin will be key pieces in the Vikings offense in both the passing and running game.

This was the third year Barnwell unveiled these rankings before training camps begin. The Vikings were also fifth in 2019 before dropping to 17th in 2020. (Jefferson's historic rookie season likely played a role in the upswing this time around).

Tampa Bay topped Barnwell's list, followed by Dallas, Tennessee and Cleveland. The Vikings host the Browns (Week 4) and Cowboys (Week 8) at U.S. Bank Stadium in 2021.

Around the NFC North, Green Bay was 11th, Chicago ranked 26th and Detroit came in at No. 31.

Barnwell's full article can be found here.

WR, LB among Purple Insider's 'most confident' position groups

With U.S. Bank Vikings Training Camp less than a week ago, Matthew Coller and Sam Ekstrom of Purple Insider went through Vikings position groups, rating them on how confident the two currently are in each.

Unsurprisingly, especially given Barnwell's above piece, wide receiver came in at the No. 1 spot.

Coller noted that Jefferson and Thielen make up an exceptional tandem, even if there are some question marks for the depth behind them.

This one doesn't need much explanation. The Vikings have arguably the best receiving duo in the NFL. PFF graded Justin Jefferson No. 2 and Adam Thielen No. 6 last year and they added up to 21 touchdowns and 2,325 yards combined.

The only ding on the receiver group is depth — though the players behind Jefferson and Thielen will get their chance to prove otherwise in camp.

The linebackers landed in the second spot, as Ekstrom had high praise for Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr. He did note that whoever is the third linebacker will play a key role, even if the defense is in nickel packages the majority of the time.

View the best wide receiver photos from the 2020 season from Vikings photographers.

Ekstrom wrote:

If Eric Wilson was still in the mix from last year, this would probably be the strongest position on the roster — and it probably was No. 1 heading into the 2020 season. Ironically, it ended the season as one of the weakest after Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks got hurt while rookie Troy Dye struggled.

Much of the unit's strength should be restored, however.

There's no debating it any longer: Kendricks is the clear top dog in this group, an All-Pro that seems to get better every year. Barr is in something of a prove-it season, but he's better than most "Sam" linebackers in the league.

The most interesting preseason storyline here will be the pecking order of the depth pieces.

Dalvin Cook and the running backs came in third on the list, ahead of safeties at the No. 4 spot and then quarterback.

Their full list of position groups by confidence rankings can be found here.