Justin Jefferson is among the best of the best when it comes to NFL receivers.
Which is why he recently was highlighted in NFL.com's Dan Hanzus' 2022 "NFL Superstar Club." Hanzus explained his selection process:
The Superstar Club is a zero-sum game.
If one player gains access, another player from the same position must have his privileges revoked. It's a dirty job, but somebody has to play bouncer. You want me on that stool, you need me on that stool.
As in years past, the focus here is on playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.
Hanzus named 29 players to the made-up club, including Jefferson and nine other wideouts.
I absolutely should have put Jefferson in this club after his fantastic rookie season. Lesson learned. When a young wideout enters the league and immediately eviscerates the competition, it ain't gonna be a one-hit wonder situation. Jefferson was once again transcendent last season with Kirk Cousins, setting career highs in catches, yards and touchdowns en route to his second Pro Bowl selection. Like everyone else in Minneapolis, Jefferson is excited to be part of a modern [Head Coach] Kevin O'Connell-run offense that should lean more heavily on the passing game than what we saw during the dying days of the Mike Zimmer regime. Yep, Jefferson could get even better in Year 3.
Because Jefferson and his former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase made it into the group this year, Hanzus "kicked out" Michael Thomas and Julio Jones. His full list of receivers spotlighted Jefferson, Chase, Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, A.J. Brown, Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins, Cooper Kupp, DK Metcalf and Deebo Samuel.
View the best photos of Vikings RB Dalvin Cook from the 2021 season.
One of Jefferson's teammates also made Hanzus' list at running back: Dalvin Cook, who is entering his sixth NFL season already.
Cook joined Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara, Christian McCaffrey and Jonathan Taylor.
Hanzus named nine quarterbacks to the Superstar Club: Josh Allen, Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Patrick Mahomes, Dak Prescott, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. The Vikings, of course, are slated to face Rodgers twice within the division. Allen and Prescott are the only two other QBs among the group that Minnesota is scheduled to face in the 2022 regular season.
Travis Kelce, George Kittle and Darren Waller were the three tight ends honored.
Only one non-offensive player landed on the list: Ravens kicker Justin Tucker.
Tucker is 1-of-1, an automatic All-Pro and indispensable piece of a legit AFC contender in Baltimore. His unmatched résumé, mastering the sport's most pressure-filled and relentlessly scrutinized position, should make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer one day.
Harrison Smith ranked NFL's 7th-best safety
At 33, Harrison Smith may be "getting up there" by football standards, but he certainly still poses a serious threat to opposing offenses.
ESPN is naming the NFL's top 10 players at every position, and Jeremy Fowler ranked Smith as the league's No. 7 overall safety. Last year, Smith landed at No. 5. Fowler wrote:
Many evaluators make the same assumption when casting their votes: Harrison Smith still has to be in there, right? But others quickly point out decline after a decade of worn NFL tread.
"Smith no doubt was [the standard] and the prototype for a long time. Age gets us all," an NFC front-office member said.
Most agree he has probably lost a half-step. But he has been arguably the most complete safety of the past decade and still productive, making his sixth Pro Bowl in 2021 with 114 tackles, three sacks and seven passes defended.
One veteran NFL offensive coach said he is a player "you absolutely must account for on every snap, and the list of safeties that do that is pretty short. Guys like him are still hard to find."
Several others made the point that Minnesota's lack of cornerback play and pass rush [in 2021] affected Smith, who tried to compensate and overplayed some angles as a result. But Smith is basically the Demario Davis of safeties, equipped with football savvy to defy age.
Topping Fowler's list were Justin Simmons (Broncos), Minkah Fitzpatrick (Steelers), Kevin Byard (Titans) and Derwin James, Jr. (Chargers), none of whom the Vikings are scheduled to see in the regular season.
They will, however, need to prepare for Cardinals safety Budda Baker, who landed at No. 5 on the list.
Baker earned the reputation as a missile from the defensive backfield, ready to strike on running backs and receivers with fearless hits. His 98 tackles in 2021 tied for 12th among all defensive backs. But he has evolved into a good all-around player, holding opposing quarterbacks to a 61.3 passer rating when he is the nearest defender and allowing 19 of 31 completions for 268 yards and a touchdown. He also snagged three interceptions in 2021.
The rest of the list was as follows: Jessie Bates III (Bengals), Smith, Marcus Williams (Ravens), Antoine Winfield, Jr. (Buccaneers) and Jamal Adams (Seahawks).
Thielen Ties for 4th at Celebrity Golf Tourney
Receiver Adam Thielen was one of several Vikings to hit the links for the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe over the weekend.
Thielen put together three consistent days, scoring 18, 20 and 20 in the annual event that uses a modified Stableford scoring system.
The performance was good enough to tie Thielen with retired professional golfer Annika Sörenstam, whose 72 victories on the LPGA Tour rank third all-time.
Tony Romo mounted a comeback Sunday and won the tournament for the third time after outlasting Mark Mulder and Joe Pavelski in a playoff.
Minnesota native and Vikings fan Mardy Fish finished sixth, thanks to scoring 27 of his 56 total points in the second round.
Smith tied for 27th with 28 points, Patrick Peterson tied for 46th with eight points by scoring 16 during the final round. He edged out Joe Mauer by a point. Mauer tied for 48th with Jimmy Rollins.