The Vikings **kicked off Organized Team Activity practices** today, which means the team is one step closer toward the 2018 season.
And while games in autumn and winter are still a handful of months away, ESPN recently rolled out early projections for each team's likely MVP selection.
Courtney Cronin of ESPN went with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins for her choice, although she said numerous players **could be in the mix** by season's end.
While this early designation could have been placed on a handful of players on both sides of the ball — particularly on defense, with safety Harrison Smith — if Cousins can take this team to the next level like the franchise expects, he'll undoubtedly be the MVP by season's end. Cousins has a host of playmakers at his disposal, and it's his job to elevate their game. He did that not long ago in Washington with the likes of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. If he can bring that level of excellence to Minnesota, the Vikings will be in good shape for another deep playoff run.
Cousins, whom the Vikings signed as a free agent in March, threw for 13,176 yards and 81 touchdowns while compiling a passer rating of 97.6 in the past three seasons as Washington's starter.
He has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns in each of the previous three seasons.
Cousins has started all 48 regular-season games since 2015. He is one of six quarterbacks to do so with the same team, along with Russell Wilson, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, Matt Ryan and Blake Bortles. (Tom Brady was suspended for four games but has made every other start for New England).
Each of the projected MVPs in the NFC North were quarterbacks, as Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky, Detroit's Matthew Stafford and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers were also tabbed for their respective teams.
More respect for Rhodes
Xavier Rhodes was revealed on the NFL Top 100 List **at No. 55** on Monday night, but the Vikings cornerback was much higher on a recent ranking of players at his position.
Former NFL wide receiver James Jones, now an analyst with NFL.com, earlier this week listed his top cornerbacks heading into the 2018 season.
The Vikings cornerback **snagged the top spot** on Jones' list.
Jones, who played nine combined seasons for Oakland and Green Bay, wrote:
Rhodes were closed a lot in 2017, as the Vikings' CB1 shut down top receivers weekly. It's one thing to travel with the best receivers, but it's another to produce, too. In coverage in 2017, Rhodes gave up just two touchdowns, a 79.0 passer rating against and a 54.7 completion percentage when targeted.
*He can cover on the outside, inside or in the slot, and his size (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) and physicality at the line of scrimmage give receivers fits, making it hard for them to create separation, because he can push receivers off their routes. I've gone head-to-head with Rhodes, and these qualities, coupled with his ability to play bump-and-run and off coverage well, make him a nightmare matchup on the island.*
The former first-round pick once again proved to be one of the league's best corners, matching up against and shutting down top receivers during the regular season that included Michael Thomas (45 yards), Antonio Brown (62 yards), Julio Jones (24 yards) and A.J. Green (30 yards).
Rhodes started all 16 games and recorded two interceptions, one each against division foes Green Bay and at Detroit, to earn his second straight Pro Bowl nod.