The 2017 regular season is finally upon us, and with that comes a variety of weekly power rankings.
Doug Farrar, NFL1000 Lead Scout for *Bleacher Report, *recently kicked off his Week 1 quarterback rankings. Since the season will start all players and teams with a blank slate, Farrar specified that the ranking was done based on "past performance, offseason movement and player acquisitions, and future projections" rather than game-to-game performance.
Farrar listed Vikings QB Sam Bradford at No. 6 overall heading into Week 1. He said that it was "unclear" what the Vikings were receiving when they traded for Bradford last September because of the passer's "injury and inconsistency" over six NFL seasons – but Farrar was impressed by Bradford's 15 games in Purple. He wrote:
Despite an indifferent running game, and without a top-flight group of receivers, Bradford set a single-season NFL record with a 71.6 percent completion rate in 2016, completing 395 of 552 passes for 3,877 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. The low pick rate and high completion percentage would indicate that Bradford had a lot of success with short passes, and that's true.
But he also posted the third-highest quarterback rating on passes 20 or more yards in the air, completing 23 of 47 such throws for 754 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. The deep ball wasn't a primary component of Bradford's game — it was more important to get him working in a new system and extending drives with completions — but he's no risk-averse Alex Smith, and given his overall deep accuracy, don't be at all surprised if he heaves the ball downfield more in 2017.
Farrar said "the real story" of Bradford's 2016 season was learning a new offense and being "entirely efficient" behind an offensive line that struggled and suffered a multitude of injuries.
Bradford is able to do this because of his great accuracy, and that starts with his mechanics — he steps into throws with efficient motion, and he also throws with the sense of anticipation that will allow his receivers to move into defined openings. That sense of timing elevates him in to the NFL's top level at the position. Only Aaron Rodgers had a better quarterback rating under pressure last season than Bradford's 87.7, and with the Vikings upgrading their offensive line a bit in the offseason, that should help a bit.
Coller delves into Dalvin Cook's friendship with Terence Newman
There's been a lot of attention on rookie running back Dalvin Cook leading up to the Vikings season opener.
From the moment Minnesota drafted him, throughout OTAs and minicamp and training camp, and now through four preseason games, Cook has created intrigue.
Recently, 1500ESPN.com writer Matthew Coller took a deeper dive on Cook's football journey and potential in Purple. Coller drew comparisons between Cook and Vikings all-time great receiver Randy Moss; he examined Cook's background and collegiate football days; and he spoke with some of the rookie's newest teammates, including Terence Newman.
According to Coller, what stands out most to the 39-year-old cornerback about his locker neighbor is how hard he studies the game. Coller wrote:
As a football mastercraftsman, Newman respects players who treat the NFL the same way a pianist treats classical music – as an art form that can never truly be perfected.
"You don't see a lot of guys having that commitment, [studying] their playbooks and doing all that stuff," Newman told Coller. "You can just tell he's a hungry kid."
While Newman sometimes good-naturedly barbs teammates as motivation – such as reminding Stefon Diggs that he fell to the fifth round – Coller pointed out that "he isn't taking that angle" with Cook.
"I told Cook, I said, 'Boy, you heavy.' And he's like, 'What you mean? Like fat?' And I was like 'No, you run behind your pads, you know?'" Newman told Coller. "It's me giving him a compliment, letting him know he's doing well. I know it's hard as a rookie. You have a coach who's a bit stern at times, so it's not a bad thing for a veteran guy to give a compliment. That means he's been working his [tail] off, so for me it's easy, he's been a consummate professional."