Which NFL team has the best running back group heading into the 2019 season? How about defensive line or linebacker corps?
ESPN’s Mike Clay recently took a stab at ranking each of the NFL’s position groups 1-32. He wrote:
At the end, an overall ranking is shown, which is a weighted consensus based on positional importance (being elite at quarterback is obviously more important than being elite at running back, for example). Positional value was a major driving force in determining the weighting. Note that these are 2019 rankings, not long-term outlooks.
For each group, Clay expanded on the top and bottom three teams on his list.
Minnesota was rated highest in the wide receiver category, landing third on Clay’s list behind the Rams and Falcons.
Whereas the Rams and Falcons have terrific trios, the Vikings have arguably the league's best wide receiver duo. Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs were two of only 11 NFL players who cleared 100 receptions last season. Depth is a bit shaky with Chad Beebe, Jordan Taylor and Laquon Treadwell among those competing for spots.
The Vikings next-highest-ranked groups were safeties (sixth) and off-ball linebackers (ninth).
For “overall roster,” Clay placed the Vikings 12th-best in the league. As far as the “shakiest,” he pointed to Buffalo, Washington and Miami.
Minnesota is slated to face Kirk Cousins’ former team on Thursday Night Football in Week 8.
Washington has built a potentially dominant defensive line, but it's hard to find many other short-term positives. There are more questions than answers on offense (including a seemingly wide-open quarterback competition between Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins) and the back end of the defense has major depth concerns behind Josh Norman and well-funded box safety Landon Collins.
*Teammates weigh-in on the roster’s fastest Viking *
Which Minnesota Viking has the top straight-line speed?
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune asked exactly that this week when he talked to multiple players about the topic.
When Trae Waynes was asked if he was the fastest, the cornerback responded, “I think so. Either me or Jeff Badet.”
The two of them participated in the inaugural “40 yards of Gold” competition, a pay-per-view event hyped and hosted by former NFL receiver Chad Johnson in late June. In a 16-man field of current NFL players and free agents, both were knocked out in the first round. Waynes was beaten by Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson, who eventually lost in the finals to 49ers receiver and former Olympian Marquise Goodwin.
“I got too good of a start,” Waynes told Craig. “I started in the front and just tripped up. I told [Jackson] I want a rematch. He knows I slipped.”
Then Waynes was asked a different question: “Who brags the most about his speed?”
“[Xavier Rhodes],” Waynes told Craig. “Definitely Xav’.”
Rhodes begged to differ, pointing instead to safety Jayron Kearse.
Craig reminded that Waynes ran the 40-yard dash in 4.31 seconds at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. Badet “reportedly ran a 4.27 at his pro day.”
“Jeff doesn’t count,” Waynes said. “He was a track guy.”
But, Trae, didn’t you run track in high school?
“I never ran a full season,” he responded. “I ran indoor, stopped for baseball and then I ran. I won’t even say what my best [100-meter dash time] was because it wasn’t good [10.7] and I was coming back from a broken leg. But I still took third in the state [in 2011].”