The Vikings 2016 season was a doozy.
Michael Rand of the Star Tribune said it's easy to focus on the negatives after Minnesota started its season 5-0 and finished just 8-8. He reminded fans, however, that there were a number of positive takeaways from this year, as well.
Rand started with awarding the offensive "breakout performer" award to Adam Thielen. Rand wrote:
With apologies to Sam Bradford, who put up some great numbers (including an NFL record for completion percentage), this award goes to the former Detroit Lakes and Minnesota State [Mankato] receiver. A lackluster finale left him just short of 1,000 yards receiving for the season, but that's still roughly 1,000 more than a lot of people might have predicted he would have. Thielen made tough catches and finished with 69 grabs for 967 yards, cementing a future in the league.
Rand also opined a breakout performer on the defensive side of the ball, highlighting Danielle Hunter and calling him a "pass-rushing force" after he finished his second season with 12.5 sacks.
Looking back over the season, Rand went all the way back to Week 2 against the Packers for what he dubbed the year's best play. He wrote:
Sam Bradford's sweet TD pass to Stefon Diggs in his first start [for the Vikings] — in prime time against rival Green Bay — is still the one. Bradford took a big hit but delivered a perfect ball, setting the tone for a victory that looked like it was season-defining at the time.
Pro Football Focus ranks Terence Newman in top 10 of CBs
Following the Vikings final game of the 2016 season, Matthew Coller of 1500 ESPN highlighted 10 of "the most interesting grades and position ranks around the NFL" assigned to the Vikings by Pro Football Focus.
The Vikings player who ranked the highest in his position group was Terence Newman, listed at No. 9 among all cornerbacks with a PFF grade of 86.3. Coller wrote:
If Newman is planning on retiring, he's going out after a strong season. His top 10 rating is boosted by the fact that Xavier Rhodes was often paired up against No. 1 receivers, but Newman was among the NFL's best in Yards Per Attempt against and also scored high in run defense.
Coller also pointed out that Stefon Diggs (82.6) and Thielen (81.7) were ranked at No. 16 and No. 19, respectively, in the wide receiver group.
The Vikings receiving tandem had a very solid year. At one point, Diggs was in the top 10 in receptions and Thielen became a solid all-around target for Sam Bradford. The Vikings may not have gotten much out of their first-round pick Laquon Treadwell, but they go into next season very confident in two of their weapons.
PFF also placed Bradford in the top third of the league's quarterbacks, ranking him 11th overall after an impressive first season in purple.
Final Vikings game offers bright spots for 2017
In a roundtable column, NFL.com writers put together observations from a number of Week 17 matchups around the league.
Nick Shook made three observations from the Vikings 38-10 defeat of the Bears, two of which were Minnesota-centric. First, Shook discussed Bradford's season performance and final game of 2016.
Congrats to Sam Bradford on capping the most accurate passing season in NFL history. The former Oklahoma Sooner finished 2016 with a [71.6] completion percentage […] Ultimately, the Vikings missed the playoffs and the gamble didn't exactly pan out, but it wasn't Bradford's fault. It was a nice way to enter the offseason, then, in tossing three touchdown passes in a blowout win over the Bears.
Shook also highlighted Kyle Rudolph for his big season finale. He wrote:
Kyle Rudolph is a bright spot that the Vikings can point to heading into the offseason. The athletic tight end caught 11 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown, including a grab that required some extra work through defenders to cross the goal line. No matter who lines up under center for Minnesota in 2017, Rudolph will be a reliable target.