The kickoff of the 2017 NFL season is less than two weeks away, and teams and coaches are gearing up for the 16-game grind.
Dozens of players, some more than others, will undoubtedly make an impact on the outcomes of games each weekend.
With the season on the horizon, ESPN put out a list of their top 100 players across the league, and three Vikings defensive players made the cut.
Vikings safety Harrison Smith was Minnesota's top-ranked player at No. 60 on the list. Smith has made the Pro Bowl in two straight seasons. ESPN wrote:
Smith is an elite-level run supporter and pass-rusher, leading all safeties with 7.5 sacks since he entered the league in 2012. At 6-foot-2 and 214 pounds, he is big enough to bring down a power back and versatile enough to muscle up on a tight end. He can also more than hold his own in coverage, having earned his reputation early with a series of crushing, ball-separating hits on now-retired receiver Calvin Johnson
Smith had 104 total tackles (according to coaches' tally) and added four tackles for loss with 2.0 sacks and a fumble recovery in 2016. He played and started in 14 games.
Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes landed at No. 82 on ESPN's list:
Rhodes' five-interception 2016 campaign solidified that he could reliably match up on opposing No. 1 receivers. His physical presence and ample speed left opponents with no obvious weaknesses to exploit. Safety Harrison Smith's take speaks volumes: "As far as covering guys all the way, man-to-man, I don't think there's anybody better."
Rhodes made his first Pro Bowl in 2016, had a team-high five interceptions in 2016 and tied for second on the Vikings with 14 passes defended. He also recorded 54 total tackles (according to coaches' tally) and added two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen came in at No. 85 on ESPN's rankings:
Since he became a full-time player in 2014, Griffen has the NFL's fifth-highest sack total (30.5). He is also a stronger run defender than most elite pass-rushers, and has missed only one game over those three seasons. Put it all together, and Griffen is one of the most durable, reliable and consistent pass-rushers in the league.
Griffen had 48 total tackles (according to coaches' tally) and added 8.0 sacks with three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles in 2016. The former fourth-round pick has made back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances.
Coley continues strong preseason
Vikings rookie wide receiver Stacy Coley was among the final players taken in the 2017 NFL Draft.
But the former Miami standout has turned heads with his productivity this preseason, as evident by a recent tweet by Pro Football Focus.
Coley leads the Vikings with nine catches for 160 yards in three preseason games.