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Lunchbreak: Smith, Kendricks Named Top 3 at Their Positions by ESPN Poll

The Vikings roster is littered with talent on both sides of the ball, but there are a pair of defensive players who are viewed as elite around the league.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler recently polled 50-plus personnel around the NFL (including executives, coaches, scouts and players) to help rank the best players at their respective positions.

Minnesota's Harrison Smith was tabbed as the second-best safety in the league, and Eric Kendricks was ranked as the No. 3 linebacker in the entire league.

Smith, who trailed only Jamal Adams of the Jets, has been named to five consecutive Pro Bowls.

Fowler wrote that the former first-round pick excels at everything, and his versatility means he can play anywhere on the field.

Smith is the safety prototype fresh out of the lab.

"I'd take him over everyone," an NFL passing game coordinator said. "Does it all. Cover, blitz, zone, man, smart, calls the defense, great leader."

The knock on Smith is he's 31. But that hasn't stopped him from being able to drop into coverage or stop the run after eight seasons.

Since 2017, Smith has allowed 54.3% completions as the nearest defender (to rank fourth), and he's second in ball-hawk rate at 22.5%. Minnesota routinely has a stout run defense with Smith crashing down. His 89.8 Pro Football Focus rating is exceptional.

For his career, he's sitting on 114 games, 658 tackles (according to league stats), 23 interceptions, 13 sacks, seven forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and four touchdowns off interceptions.

"He's the most complete player at the position and has been for a while," one NFC exec said.

Kendricks earned First-Team All-Pro honors in 2019 after he tied for the league lead among linebackers with 12 pass breakups.

While he tied in votes with Darius Leonard of the Colts, Kendricks claimed the third spot after another poll between the two playmakers.

Fowler wrote:

Kendricks won out in a voting re-cast, largely because of his ability to cover and close on the ball.

Pro Football Focus gave Kendricks a position-high 90.2 grade thanks to his 21.9 incompletion percentage, highest in the PFF era.

"Not that tall, but compact body, really twitchy, settles in zone windows, makes good plays in underneath coverage, can do man-to-man, " said a veteran NFL linebacker. "You don't see many running backs or tight ends outrunning him. Good against the run, too."

You don't play in a top-five rushing defense without knowing how to stuff.

Added an AFC exec: "Minnesota does such a good job with their defense under Mike Zimmer that they don't put too much on his plate — he can be free to do his thing in coverage. But he's gotten better against the run."

Dalvin Cook was the only other Vikings player to make the Top 10 at his position, as Cook finished sixth in the voting for running backs.

Fowler noted that Cook, who made his first Pro Bowl and recorded his first 1,000-yard season in 2019, should continue to flourish under Vikings Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak.

Cook plays in a wide-zone scheme that has featured many productive backs over the years; But make no mistake, Cook could thrive just about anywhere.

Cook gets knocked for durability, missing 19 games in three seasons. But he still finished in the top nine among backs in carries, receptions, touches, scrimmage yards and touchdowns despite missing two full games and parts of others. Cook had 15 carries inside the 5-yard line and scored in 11 of 14 games.

A handful of other Vikings were honorable mentions at their respective positions, as they also received votes in the polling.

While they did not make the Top 10, Kirk Cousins, Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen, Garrett Bradbury, Danielle Hunter, Michael Pierce and Anthony Harris were each mentioned by the panelists.

Sessler: Harris could make 1*st* Pro Bowl in 2020

There's a strong argument that Harris should have made the Pro Bowl last season, after he tied for the league lead (and led all players at his position) with six interceptions.

But Marc Sessler of believes Harris' time could come this season, as he recently picked the safety to be a future Pro Bowler by the time the 2020 season is completed.

Sessler wrote:

Pro Bowl voters were seemingly heavy into the spiked punch when they bypassed Harris a year ago. His six picks tied for the NFL lead, and he allowed zero touchdowns over 14 starts. The Vikings have All-Pro Harrison Smith at the position, too, but they thought enough of Harris to drop the franchise tag on their undrafted gem this offseason. Repeat last year's positive antics, and the greenbacks will flow.

Harris recorded 60 total tackles (team stats) with a tackle for loss, fumble recovery and 11 passes defensed in 2019.

Rudolph to host Virtual Military ProCamp

Rudolph is known for his dedication to the Twin Cities community, as he has been the Vikings Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for each of the past three seasons.

The commitment from the Vikings tight end has included youth football camps in recent years, and while in-person camps are not on the table due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rudolph is still finding ways to give back.

Rudolph will host a Virtual Military ProCamp today at noon (CT), where he will take participants through useful football drills, offer virtual tips and answer questions.

More information, and the virtual camp, can be found at