The 2020 NFL season is almost upon us, which means fans are holding fantasy drafts around the country.
ESPN's Eric Karabell recently offered his top 10 rookie receivers to consider snagging for your fantasy team this season, and he ranked Vikings first-rounder Justin Jefferson at No. 1. Karabell called Jefferson-to-Minnesota a "round peg, round hole" situation since he's demonstrated capabilities to play in the slot or outside.
Karabell pointed out that rookie wide receivers rarely "assume a place in fantasy football lore in their very first seasons" but also pointed out that Jefferson's impact "should be rather immediate" for the Vikings. He wrote:
Jefferson joins a Minnesota offense that relies heavily on the running game, but quarterback Kirk Cousins, despite the narrative, completed a positive 69.1 [percent] of his passes in 2019, good for fourth best, and it is quite easy to see how Jefferson inherits the starting spot in the slot right away. [Stefon] Diggs caught 63 passes for 1,130 yards and six touchdowns. It hardly means Jefferson will match this, but when I see the other top rookie wide receivers, I do not see the same immediate opportunity. Perhaps they will rock in a few years. For 2020, the Vikings have a mature, successful offense and lack depth, so even in a pandemic, when rookies are more behind than ever in proving themselves, Jefferson matters right away.
Karabell ranked the following rookie receivers behind Jefferson: Jerry Jeudy (Broncos), Henry Ruggs III (Raiders), CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys), Jalen Reagor (Eagles), Tee Higgins (Bengals), Brandon Aiyuk (49ers), Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Jaguars), Michael Pittman, Jr. (Colts) and Denzel Mims (Jets).
PFF Ranks Kendricks as No. 6 LB in NFL
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks has garnered attention and consistently made big plays since being drafted in the second round in 2015. There's no denying, however, that his 2019 campaign was one for the books – as evidenced by First-Team All-Pro honors and his first career trip to the Pro Bowl.
Analytics site Pro Football Focus rolled out its top 25 linebackers ahead of the 2020 season, noting that only off-ball linebackers were included in the list. PFF's Ben Linsey slated Kendricks at No. 6 overall, pointing out that his PFF grade of 90.1 was second-best at the position. Linsey wrote:
Kendricks is coming off the best season in his five-year NFL career. … The most noteworthy part of his game this past season was just how many plays he made on the football. Kendricks was credited with 14 forced incompletions, which led all linebackers and came in at fifth among all defenders. With some of the struggles at cornerback for Minnesota, play like that in coverage from Kendricks and the Vikings safety duo of Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris maintained their spot as a top-10 pass defense in 2019. That may have to be the case again with three new (young) starters at cornerback.
Coming in ahead of Kendricks on Linsey's rankings were, from 1-5, Bobby Wagner (Seahawks), Lavonte David (Buccaneers), Darius Leonard (Colts), Demario Davis (Saints) and Deion Jones (Falcons).
Linsey said the following of Leonard, whom the Vikings are slated to see in Indianapolis Week 2:
It hasn't taken long for Leonard to become a focal point of the Colts defense under Defensive Coordinator Matt Eberflus. He has the length to be disruptive in Indianapolis' zone-heavy defense and has shown himself to be well-rounded through his first two NFL seasons.
Leonard is also a sure tackler, having missed just 5.6 [percent] of his tackles over the past two seasons (seventh-best at linebacker). It's not hard to see why he's referred to as "The Maniac" when you watch him flying around the field and making plays.
Hunter called 'most exciting player' on Vikings defense in team preview
As part of Sports Illustrated's team previews for all 32 clubs, Will Ragatz took a look at Minnesota's roster status heading into the 2020 season.
Ragatz previewed the Vikings offense, defense and special teams, along with making a final-53 prediction.
In looking at the Vikings defense, he called defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo a "key player to watch" as he's been stepping in for veteran Everson Griffen, who recently signed with the Cowboys in free agency. Ragatz was positive about Minnesota's cornerback situation, despite the significant turnover that's occurred at the position since last season. He wrote:
In Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, and rookies Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler, they've assembled an exciting group of young corners, all of whom are under 24 years old. That unit will be tested early and often against a difficult slate of opposing offenses.
Ragatz said "the good news" for Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer is that, although the defense looks a lot different this season, plenty of established players remain.
The Vikings top two linebackers (Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr) and safeties (Harrison Smith, Anthony Harris) stack up with any team in the NFL. Kendricks and Smith have compelling arguments as the league's best player at their respective positions.
The most exciting player on the defense is Danielle Hunter,who is somehow still 25 years old. Last fall, he became the youngest player in NFL history to reach 50 career sacks. Hunter is a physical freak of nature who is borderline impossible to keep out of the backfield.