Minnesota's defensive corps has remained generally consistent throughout the past three seasons.
Everyone on the defensive line who started in 2016 has returned, along with several players who were effective in rotational roles and a couple of new arrivals.
As teams across the League prepare for their respective training camps, Nate Davis of *USA TODAY *Sports assessed each squad's depth chart and ranked their defensive lines in "an overall hierarchy of talent."
Davis pegged the Vikings unit as the NFL's fifth best. He wrote:
*Pro Bowl DE Everson Griffen remains the backbone, but watch out for Danielle Hunter on the other side. He had [12.5] sacks last year with nary a start — that will change in 2017. DT Linval Joseph clogs the middle as well as anyone in the league. Veterans Datone Jones [whom the Vikings added in free agency], Brian Robison and Tom Johnson provide stellar depth. *
Ahead of the Vikings, Davis ranked the Chargers, Texans, Eagles and Giants at 1-4, respectively.
Coming behind Minnesota at 6-10 were the Seahawks, Rams, Panthers, Patriots and Dolphins.
The Vikings will face the Los Angeles Rams (Nov. 19) and Carolina (Dec. 10) in the regular season in addition to Seattle (Aug. 18) and Miami (Aug. 31) in the preseason.
Vensel: 2017 is crucial season for Diggs
As a lead up to Vikings training camp kicking off in two weeks, *Star Tribune *reporters Matt Vensel and Andrew Krammer have delved into an ongoing series that ranks the 17 "most important Vikings players" heading into 2017.
Their disclaimer specifies that the ranking lists "players whose upcoming season will have the biggest impact on the franchise, whether it's in 2017 or beyond."
Vensel on Thursday assessed Stefon Diggs, tabbed at No. 8 on their list. He wrote:
With excellent short-distance burst and separation ability, wide receiver Stefon Diggs in his first two NFL seasons proved that he was a steal as a 2015 fifth-round pick. But he has yet to establish himself as a star despite teasing the Vikings by occasionally terrorizing defensive backs.
Vensel opined that injuries have been a factor for Diggs, who missed three games last season. Diggs has emphasized to media members throughout this offseason that he is dedicated to staying healthy and protecting his body from preventable injuries.
According to Vensel, Diggs "has at times looked like the next Antonio Brown" when healthy.
For Diggs to become the star wide receiver the Vikings have lacked since trading Randy Moss away the first time, he has to be able to bring it most weeks. And to do that, he needs to be relatively healthy most weeks.
If that happens in 2017, the 23-year-old is a good bet to become the first Vikings player to top 1,000 receiving yards since Sidney Rice in 2009.
Long-term Rhodes closure
Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes received his first career Pro Bowl nod following his 2016 performance in which he snagged five interceptions, one of which he returned 100 yards for a touchdown against Arizona.
Last season was a standout one, to be sure, but Rhodes has been an effective defender for much longer than one year.
Pro Football Focus recently posted the below graphic to Twitter, in it showing the yards allowed per coverage snap over each of Rhodes' four seasons in Purple. Rhodes allowed just 0.94 yards in both 2014 and 2016, and he allowed 1.03 and 1.18 in 2013 and 2015, respectively.
The four-year average for NFL cornerbacks is 1.24 yards per snap.