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Lunchbreak: Harrison Smith wins PFF's Stephenson Award

Harrison Smith earned All-Pro honors and was named to the Pro Bowl for his play during the 2017 season.

Now the Vikings safety can add another accolade to his résumé.

Smith was recent named by analytics site Pro Football Focus as the winner of the Stephenson Award, a yearly honor given to the player the site valued as the best player in football. It is named after former Dolphins center Dwight Stephenson.

Sam Monson wrote the recap of Smith's stellar season.

Smith ended the regular season with an *overall grade of 98.8, which wasn't just the highest for a safety this year, it was the highest grade of any player regardless of position. That 98.8 was also by far the highest mark we have ever given to a safety over the past 12 years of grading, easily eclipsing the previous best of 94.7 owned by Eric Weddle for his 2012 season.*

Smith finished the regular season with 93 total tackles (according to coaches' tally), which was the fifth-best on the defense. He recorded a team-high five interceptions, had 10 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and tied for the team lead with 14 passes defensed.

Monson noted that Smith's versatility in playing anywhere and everywhere on the field helped the Vikings rank first in the NFL in points (15.8) and yards (275.9) allowed per game.

Smith also played a pivotal role in helping Minnesota have the league's top third-down defense at 25.2 percent.

Monson wrote:

The first aspect of Smith's game that is worth drawing attention to is his versatility, and how much the Vikings took advantage of that with his alignment. 38.5 percent of Smith's snaps were spent as a deep free safety in Minnesota's various coverage looks. He spent 44.6 percent of his snaps as a box safety, up around the line of scrimmage in a multitude of different gap assignments, and the rest of his snaps were split between covering the slot and a couple of dozen times where he was split out wide as a boundary cornerback in matchup looks.

Smith's ability to do all of this, and all of it at a high level, means the Vikings could call whatever they want on defense, safe in the knowledge that they had this one movable chess piece that ensured they were never stuck in the wrong call from a personnel standpoint.

Smith was a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft out of Notre Dame.

Cronin: Recapping Vikings 2017 season

The Vikings fell short of their ultimate goal this season, but there were plenty of positives in 2017.

ESPN writer Courtney Cronin recapped the Vikings campaign and said a team that went 13-3, won the NFC North, secured a first-round bye and advanced to the NFC Championship earned more than a passing grade.

Cronin noted the Vikings grade in 2017 was 'near perfection.' She wrote:

A lot of Vikings fans won't see it that way after such a disappointing blowout loss in Philadelphia, but that doesn't discount everything the franchise did to get to this point. There were a number of imperfect moments this season, but Minnesota shattered expectations for its eventual doom after losing its Week 1 starting quarterback and top running back. The Vikings were built for survival because they took care of major needs in the offseason (rebuilding the offensive line, finding a reliable backup quarterback and extending the contracts of several defensive stars a year before they were up) and didn't have to scramble when injuries occurred by forcing a trade or signing free agents.

Minnesota's 13-3 record was the second-most wins in a regular season in franchise history.

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