Robert Mays of Grantland.com noted Dallas' recent draft decisions three first-round picks in a four-year span positioned the Cowboys offensive line to be the best in the NFL in 2014. Mays wrote that bolstering that part of the team "ultimately paid off, as that group dominated up front in 2014 and took the Cowboys to the playoffs."
It was the first postseason trip by the Cowboys since after the 2009 season. Mays weighed in on which teams held the title of best in the NFL among six position groups (offensive line, running backs, pass catchers, defensive line, linebackers and secondary) last season and hypothesized about contenders to those titles.
He thinks the Vikings could challenge the Seahawks for having a secondary that's second to none. Like the Cowboys, the Vikings have had three first-round picks among the unit in a four-year span (Harrison Smith, 2012; Xavier Rhodes, 2013; Trae Waynes, 2015). From Mays:
2014 (and 2013 and 2012) Winner: Seattle Seahawks
2015 Challenger: Minnesota Vikings
*I know, I know. This title will belong to another team when it's pried from the Legion of Boom's cold, dead fingers. *
Mays, however, noted that Cary Williams is now opposite Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor is reportedly unhappy about his contract situation and Earl Thomas is returning from injury.
So, all I ask is for you to at least hear me out with the Vikings. Cleveland has a claim here, but Minnesota's ceiling is considerably higher. If the Vikings can make a push for the playoffs, Harrison Smith should finally start to get some recognition this year, as he deserves mention right alongside Devin McCourty and Eric Weddle as the best safety in football not named Earl Thomas. Captain Munnerlyn was the no. 1 cornerback on an excellent Panthers team two years ago, and for Mike Zimmer, he's destined for life in the slot. That's a luxury most teams don't have, but on the outside, former first-round pick Xavier Rhodes is set to take a giant leap right into the class occupied by players like Desmond Trufant, Vontae Davis, and Jimmy Smith. If it all breaks the right way, Trae Waynes will be a reliable no. 2 corner by the end of the season.
Click here to read Mays' takes about other units contending for best position group in 2015.
With the preseason in the books and regular season games rapidly approaching, Alex Marvez published projections for FoxSports.com that have the Vikings finishing second* *in the NFC North and claiming the conference's sixth and final seed for the playoffs.
Marvez forecasted for the NFC North:
*1. Green Bay, 12-4 (1): The loss of wide receiver Jordy Nelson (knee) stings and a young secondary must prove itself. Besides that, the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers are poised for another Super Bowl run. *
*2. Minnesota, 10-6 (6): Usually, the feel-good team of the offseason fails to make the playoffs like the 2014New Orleans Saints and 2013 Miami Dolphins. The Vikings are poised to break that skid with running back Adrian Peterson returning to the field. *
3. Detroit, 10-6: The early signs are positive for the Lions fielding a better rushing attack, but too many questions remain on the Ndamukong Suh-less defensive line for me to pencil Detroit back into the playoffs.
4. Chicago, 5-11: John Fox's reputation for quick turnarounds will be put to the test in his first season as Chicago's head coach.
Chris Tomasson of the *Pioneer Press *on the local flavor of the Vikings practice squad.
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune on players with previous Vikings ties that were part of roster reductions across the league.