Gary Grambling and Andy Benoit host The MMQB Podcast and are going through NFL rosters to unveil their top 10 players at each position.
The duo released their safety rankings on Monday and are big fans of Harrison Smith, as they had the two-time Pro Bowler at No. 3 on their list.
Smith had 104 total tackles (according to coaches' tally) and added four tackles for loss with 2.0 sacks and a fumble recovery in 2016. He played and started in 14 games.
Benoit and Grambling had high praise for the former first-round pick.
"Let's start with the basics … he doesn't miss open field tackles. He can pursue and still make the tackle," Benoit said. "He's become a little more versatile under Mike Zimmer, which you have to be to play for Zimmer."
Added Grambling: "It's a team that doesn't get a whole lot of publicity … but Harrison Smith has been a rock for a good five seasons here."
Benoit noted that Smith's ability to play all over the field has helped Minnesota field one of the league's top defenses the last few years. Benoit said that Smith's skills in both blitzing and dropping into coverage in a Double-A gap formation keeps Minnesota's attack unpredictable.
"That's critical and a big part of what they do," Benoit said. "That's where their schematic flexibility comes from and why people don't like playing against Zimmer.
"Harrison Smith is the big guy behind it," Benoit added.
Thielen was one of NFL's top deep threats in 2016
Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen had a breakout year in 2016, setting career highs in every statistical category with 69 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns.
The former undrafted free agent was especially dangerous on deep passes, as recently noted by Pro Football Focus.
The website calculated that Thielen had a deep pass catch rate of 60.0, which tied for second in the NFL. The statistic was based on Thielen getting at least 15 targets on passes of at least 20 yards.
Thielen had a pair of 20-plus yard touchdowns in 2016. He caught a 36-yard score against Houston in Week 5, and also hauled in a 71-yard touchdown at Green Bay in Week 16. Thielen finished the Christmas Eve game with 12 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns against the Packers.