Players and coaches from each NFL team are solely focused on the looming 2018 season.
But front offices around the league always seem to have an eye on the future.
ESPN experts Louis Riddick, Mike Sando and Field Yates recently took a peek at what they expect the NFL landscape to look like down the road, and put a twist on their usual power rankings.
Instead of slotting teams based on their current state, ESPN rolled out future power rankings, a look ahead at the next three seasons. The panel of three writers think highly of the Vikings, ranking the defending NFC North champions fourth.
Each team was graded from 1-100 in five categories: the roster minus the quarterback, the quarterback, drafting skills, front office and coaching. A grade of 100 was an ‘A+’ while a 90 was an ‘A’ while an 80 was a ‘B.’
Minnesota received a total grade of 84.7 based on the five categories. The panelists said the Vikings have the No. 2 roster (minus the quarterback) with a grade of 88.7. Minnesota also placed third in drafting (82.3) and fifth in both the front office (83.0) and coaching (87.7).
Yates explained how the Vikings placed in the top five in four different categories.
There are elusive positions on an NFL defense, led by pass-rushers and cornerbacks. The Vikings —guided by GM Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer — have done an impressive job of identifying those positions through both the draft and free agency. Cornerstone players are in place on all levels of the defense, with a homegrown nucleus that includes Xavier Rhodes, Harrison Smith, Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen.
Minnesota was 17th in quarterback rankings, which was explained by Riddick:
This one is easy. Kirk Cousins. Is he or isn't he worth the investment that the Vikings made in him, because as I see it, he must be the difference between being a contender and winning it all. I'm not a believer, and maybe I am not giving him enough credit for his play in Washington, but we will know very soon on this one.
If Cousins does produce in Minnesota, however, ESPN’s Mike Sando thinks the Vikings are set up extremely well for the next few years.
Some think Cousins is an average or slightly better-than-average starting quarterback. While Minnesota has the talent to contend even if Cousins is near average, the Vikings need their $84 million man to be an upper-tier quarterback to beat our projection for the future.
The Vikings were the highest-ranked NFC North team in the rankings. Green Bay was eighth, Detroit was 18th and Chicago was 25th.
Philadelphia claimed the top spot, followed by New England and New Orleans.
Rhodes snags second spot in The MMQB's top 10 cornerbacks list
Xavier Rhodes made a pair of All-Pro teams and was a Pro Bowl selection after a stellar 2017 season.
The Vikings cornerback’s play over the past few years has certainly drawn attention around the league, including from the folks over at The MMQB: 10 Things Podcast.
Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling run the podcast and recently released their top 10 cornerbacks in the NFL. Rhodes snagged the second spot behind Jacksonville’s Jalen Ramsey and was in front of Arizona’s Patrick Peterson.
Benoit and Gramling said the choice was tough between the three elite players.
“Those guys are 1A, 1B and 1C as far as I’m concerned,” Gramling said.
Added Benoit: “I had Rhodes ahead of Ramsey but I’m not going to put up a fight about that conversation.”
Rhodes and Ramsey will see each other for joint practices between the Vikings and Jaguars on Aug. 15 and 16 at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. The teams meet in a preseason game at noon on Aug. 18 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Rhodes made his second straight Pro Bowl in 2017 after recording two interceptions, 11 passes defensed and a tackle for loss.
Tickets are still available for 2018 Verizon Vikings Training Camp at the TCO Performance Center for select dates. Click here to access more information.