Regardless of team record, there's no denying the special season that Vikings rookie Justin Jefferson delivered.
The former LSU standout, whom Minnesota drafted 22nd overall, broke two of Randy Moss' franchise rookie benchmarks (catches and yards) en route to racking up 1,400 receiving yards as the NFL's new record holder for a first-year player.
Analytics site Pro Football Focus highlighted Jefferson's performance throughout the entire regular season, so it's no surprise he was named WR1 in PFF’s 2020 NFL All-Rookie Team. Ben Linsey wrote:
There was no easier selection on this team than slotting in Jefferson at wide receiver. Not only was he the best rookie wide receiver in the NFL this season, but he was one of the best receivers in the league … period.
The first-round selection out of LSU ended the regular season ranked second at the wide receiver position in PFF grade (90.4) behind only Davante Adams. His 2.7 yards per route run ranked second among all wide receivers behind Adams, as well. No matter which way you want to cut it, Jefferson was one of the most productive receivers in the NFL in 2020. Considering he's a rookie on a team that first and foremost wants to run the football, it's hard not to be impressed with that kind of performance.
According to Linsey, Jefferson earned the highest rookie wide receiver grade since 2006, with the exception of Odell Beckham, Jr., in 2014.
Cincinnati's Tee Higgins earned the other receiver spot on Linsey's roster.
Also no surprise is the quarterback position, which went to Chargers rookie Justin Herbert.
Numerous debates have erupted over social media around which "Justin" should be named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year between Jefferson and Herbert.
Linsey selected Herbert at QB over Bengals rookie Joe Burrow, Jefferson's LSU teammate.
Much has been made of the offensive line that Joe Burrow was playing behind in Cincinnati, but the offensive line in Los Angeles did Herbert no favors, either. The Chargers will end the 2020 regular season ranked 30thin team pass-blocking grade, and Herbert will finish the season as the highest-graded quarterback in the NFL under pressure to go along with a league-high 99.4 passer rating when the pass rush gets home.
On defense, Linsey selected another Vikings youngster: cornerback Cameron Dantzler, a third-round pick out of Mississippi State.
Over 11 games (10 starts), Dantzler totaled 46 tackles (press box stats), four passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. He also snagged two interceptions, more than any other cornerback on Minnesota's roster.
Dantzler's season can be separated into two distinct segments. Before his injury in Week 8, Dantzler sported a coverage grade of 52.4, allowing a passer rating of 133.8 into his coverage. After returning to the field in Week 11, he earned a coverage grade of 83.9 while allowing a passer rating of 41.9 on passes into his coverage.
The receivers that Dantzler lined up across from most frequently during that stretch included D.J. Chark, Allen Robinson, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and Mike Evans — a list that [features] some quality opponents.
That late-season surge earns Dantzler the first-team spot here, and it gives the Vikings some reason for optimism in their young cornerback group heading into the 2021 season.
To see the full PFF All-Rookie team, click here.
ESPN's 'Overhaul Tiers': Vikings need 'major help' on defense
With the 2020 regular season now in the rearview mirror, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler rolled out his “NFL overhaul tiers.”
From "Time for a major rebuild" to "On the right track (mostly)" and everything in between, Fowler grouped teams based on "offseason priorities" necessary to improve over the next six months. He placed the Vikings just above the lowest tier in the "one side of the ball needs help" category.
Fowler emphasized Minnesota's defense, calling safety Anthony Harris a "big-ticket" free agent and linebacker Eric Wilson a "low-key important" free agent. He wrote:
Since taking over Minnesota in 2014, Mike Zimmer has always counterbalanced lackluster seasons with double-digit wins. There's reason to believe Minnesota can follow that formula again. The Vikings ranked in the top 10 in total offense for the first time since 2009. Keep the core together on that side, starting with an extension for tackle Brian O'Neill.
It's the defense that unexpectedly fell apart, ranking in the bottom third in several statistical categories.
Fowler said Minnesota should prioritize a healthy Danielle Hunter and "attempt to re-sign Wilson" for the Vikings linebacker corps.
Jared Allen among Adam Rank's picks for Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021
Vikings Legend Jared Allen has been named a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021, the Hall announced Tuesday.
Allen is one of 15 finalists. He's one of six players who is a finalist for the first time and one of four players to make the elite cut in his first year of eligibility.
The Hall of Fame's Selection Committee will meet virtually this year on Jan. 19 and elect up to five Modern-Era Players. A minimum vote of 80 percent is required for election.
With that in mind, NFL.com's Adam Rank opined his five picks for this year's Hall of Fame class: Peyton Manning, Charles Woodson, Calvin Johnson, Allen and Alan Faneca.
Rank called Manning and Woodson "the mortalest of mortal locks" while Johnson and Allen "should be locks." He wrote the following of Allen, who played for Minnesota from 2008-13:
Let's not pretend that Allen wasn't one of the best to ever do it. He was a four-time All-Pro who led the NFL in sacks twice. I mean, unless you really don't like mullets, it's tough to think of a real reason to deny him a spot in Canton.